Retainers after Braces: The Complete Guide

A visual representation of clear, plastic retainers (the ideal next step after braces treatment).

So, here you are, at the thrilling end of your braces (or aligners) adventure, eagerly anticipating the chance to flaunt your brand-new, dazzling smile. But before you start celebrating, there’s a crucial step that might not have been front and center during your orthodontic journey, unless your dentist hasn’t already explained it to you.

You’ll need to start wearing retainers.

Now, at this point, it’s fair to ask yourself the most common question, “Do I really need to wear a retainer?”

The answer, my friend, is an emphatic ‘YES’!


Because retainers are not just an afterthought, they stop your teeth from moving back to their original position after your braces/clear aligners orthodontic treatment, which can happen because of natural changes and habits like chewing, biting, and grinding. 

Let’s explore all of this – and more – in some brief detail; make you an expert in this affair (or kind of 😉).

Types of Retainers After Braces

Different types of dental retainers after braces
A snap of the different kinds of dental retainers commonly used

Now that you’re entering the world of retainers post-braces (what happens after clear alignment treatment), you’ll encounter two main types: removable and fixed.

Let’s break them down for you:

  • Removable Retainers (Hawley Retainers or Clear Plastic)
    These are the ones that you can easily pop in and out all by yourself and are simple to clean. Convenience is the name of the game here!
  • Fixed Retainers
    These are securely attached to your teeth by your trusty orthodontist and can only be removed by a professional – they’re like your smile’s bodyguards.

Now, both these retainers come with their own set of perks and quirks. Let’s dive into how they work their magic! 💫

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers (Bonded or Permanent Retainers) are thin metal wires that are glued to the back of your teeth. They are usually placed on the lower front teeth, but sometimes also on the upper front set. As you might have guessed, these are meant to stay inside for the entire treatment duration.

This is why people prefer them

These retainers are masters of subtlety, concealed from plain sight, and they maintain a low profile during your everyday activities, including speaking and dining. These are ideal for people who have a high risk of relapse, such as those who had severe crowding or gaps before braces. 

However, fixed retainers require more maintenance and regular dental visits to check their condition and alignment.

Things to look out for

You’ll have to brush and floss carefully around your fixed retainer to avoid any plaque buildup and gum inflammation, avoid biting too hard, and try to keep away from sticky foods that can damage or dislodge them. 

Your retainer might even break or come off due to wear and tear or trauma. If this happens, you should contact your orthodontist to have them repaired or replaced.

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers, as the name suggests, can be taken out of your mouth for cleaning and eating. They work by applying gentle pressure on your teeth to keep them in their new positions. You will need to wear them for a certain period of time, this can range from a few hours to 24 hours every day (depending on your earlier malocclusion).

These are more often suitable for patients who have mild to moderate relapse risk, such as those who had minor crowding or gaps before braces.

In this sense, removable retainers are your versatile allies, offering a balance between effective alignment retention and the freedom to savor all of life’s delightful moments. 🌟

Now, there are two types of retainers that are removable: Clear Plastic and Hawley Retainers

Clear Plastic Retainers (Essix Retainer)

Clear retainers are also known as ‘Essix Retainers’. These are thin plastic trays that fit over your teeth like a glove. They are so clear and comfy that you can hardly see or feel them. They don’t hinder your speech. and can also protect your teeth from grinding and staining (a real problem for smokers). And of course, you can take them out anytime you want. Just make sure you don’t lose them 😉.

The only downside is, they can get damaged by heat or pressure. So you have to be careful with them and clean them regularly with water or special solutions. Otherwise, they can get smelly and germy.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers have metal wires and acrylic plates that go around your teeth. They are strong and flexible and can fix small shifts in your jaw. You can also choose different colors and designs for them.

A Hawley retainer can be taken out for cleaning, but it is also more visible. It might make you talk funny or drool more at first, or bother your tongue or gums.

You have to watch out for them when you take them out, so you don’t lose them or break them. And you’ll have to wear them all the time for the first few months after your braces are off. This on-time usually depends on how your teeth straightening is faring and what your orthodontist says.

How Long Do You Have to Wear Retainers After Braces?

Straight teeth depend on the duration of time of retainer treatment.
A fun representation of what straightened teeth can look like after a successful aligner and retainer treatment

A general rule of thumb for retainers is to wear them for as long as you had your braces on.

If your braces were your steadfast companions for two years, then your retainers should be by your side for the same duration. You can gradually reduce the wearing time to a few hours a day or a few nights a week.

The initial routine is full-time wear, but gradually, you’ll find yourself transitioning to a more flexible schedule – a few hours a day or a few nights a week. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.

Your Roadmap to Post-Braces Brilliance

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The timeline for retainer wear depends on a multitude of factors:

  • The severity and complexity of your original dental problem
  • The type and duration of your orthodontic treatment
  • The type and fit of your retainer
  • The stability and maturity of your teeth, gums, bones, and muscles 
  • The stability of your bite and jaw alignment after braces
  • Your age and growth stage
  • Your oral habits and hygiene
  • Your compliance and cooperation with wearing your retainer

Some people may reduce or stop wearing their retainers after a certain period of time without compromising their results. The best way to determine how long to wear retainers is to follow your orthodontist’s instructions carefully.

Can You Eat With Retainers On?

Removing retainers before eating
With plastic retainers, you need to remove them before eating and drinking (especially with coffee and tea)

Let’s tackle the big question – what’s on the menu when it comes to eating with your retainers?

Well, you can enjoy your meals with them, but there are some golden rules.

For Fixed Retainers: Be cautious with your choices. Hard, sticky, or chewy foods are a no-go. These can bend or break the wire or even dislodge the bonding.

For Removable Retainers: Always take them out before indulging in anything other than water. This simple step prevents any potential damage or unsightly stains from food particles or acidic beverages.

How Do You Take Care of Your Retainers?

A cleaned retainer following thorough washing
What a thoroughly cleaned transparent retainer looks like!

Taking impeccable care of your retainers isn’t just good practice; it’s paramount for both their longevity and your dental well-being.

Here’s what to do.

Daily Cleaning: Make it a habit to clean your retainers every day. A soft toothbrush and water or a mild soap are your trusty tools. Avoid hot water, toothpaste, bleach, alcohol, or any harsh chemicals – these can do more harm than good.

Pre and Post-Rinse: Give your retainers a rinse with water before and after wearing them.

Safe Shelter: You’ll have to store them in a protective case and avoid makeshift solutions like wrapping them in tissue or napkins – these can be thrown away by accident.

Weekly Deep Clean: For removable retainers, treat them to a weekly soak in a denture cleaner or a vinegar-water solution. This counters lurking bacteria or pesky stains.

Pet and Kid Alert: Keep your retainers out of reach of both pets and children.

Regular Check-Ups: Look out for signs of wear and tear like cracks, bends, or loose wires. At the first hint of damage, reach out to your orthodontist promptly.

Orthodontic Appointments: Don’t skip those follow-up appointments and adjustments with your orthodontist.

Benefits and Challenges of Wearing Retainers

Metal Braces, Clear Aligners/Invisible Braces, and Plastic/Clear Retainers
The teeth-straightening trio: dental aligners, braces, and retainers

Some view retainers as a minor inconvenience, however, the long-term rewards are priceless. Retainers pack a punch in terms of benefits.

Here’s how:

Preserving the Smile of Your Dreams: They lock in the results of your braces, ensuring your smile remains stunning.

Dental Defense: They like warding off dental foes. Tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath stand no chance with retainers in play.

Seamless Biting and Chewing: Retainers work behind the scenes, fine-tuning your bite and chewing function.

Confidence Boost: A radiant smile does wonders for self-esteem.

You might face certain challenges though:

An Adjustment Phase: Initially, you might need to get used to the feel and fit of your retainers.

Remembering the Routine: Consistency is key. Remembering to wear and clean your retainers regularly can seem daunting, but it quickly becomes second nature.

A Bit of Discomfort: You might experience mild discomfort or irritation, but it’s a small price to pay for a dazzling smile that stays.

Financial Considerations: Let’s not forget about the cost of retainers and their maintenance. While it’s an investment, the dividends make them more than worth it.

Don’t let these challenges discourage you though. With some commitment and care, your aligned teeth can brighten your life for years to come.

How Much Do Retainers Cost?

Wondering about the cost of retainers
Wondering about the price of retainers in Pakistan (and elsewhere)?

Some orthodontists may include the cost of retainers in the overall fee of braces treatment, while others may charge separately for them. Fixed retainers tend to be more expensive than removable ones, and clear plastic retainers tend to be more expensive than Hawley ones.

The cost of retainers varies depending on several factors, such as:

  • The type and quality of the retainer
  • The location and reputation of the orthodontist
  • The extent and duration of the treatment
  • The insurance coverage and payment plan

At an average, the cost ranges from $100* to $500* per arch (upper or lower).

The best way to find out the exact cost of retainers is to consult your orthodontist.

Retainers after Braces Cost in Pakistan

The cost of teeth retainers in Pakistan (much like the prices of aligners and braces) can vary depending on the type of retainer, the dentist, and the clinic.

Here’s a rough estimate of the type of retainers locally available and their costs.

  • Hawley retainers are typically more affordable and may cost anywhere from PKR 5,000* to PKR 15,000* or more per arch (upper or lower).
  • Clear plastic retainers are often priced higher than Hawley retainers. You can expect to pay between PKR 10,000* to PKR 30,000* or more per arch for clear plastic retainers.
  • Fixed retainers are generally more expensive, and the cost can range from PKR 15,000* to PKR 30,000* or more per arch.

You may also need to pay extra for adjustments or replacements if required.

If You’re Considering Clear Aligners, Reach Out To Us for Expert Guidance on Suitable Retainers

An orthodontist tending to her clear retainers case
An orthodontist busy fixing a client retainer

As we’ve already explained, you’ll need retainers after every kind of orthodontic treatment with braces and aligners. That’s a given.

But how do you determine the exact best types of retainers to go for based on your unique misalignment condition?

That’s where some specialist assistance comes in.

Simply fill out the form below ✍ – our dedicated customer service reps will connect you with the right ClearPath Ortho-certified practitioner to resolve all your teeth straightening concerns (with clear aligners, the best-fit retainers, treatment expectations…you name it 🤓).

And…that’s it for this piece.

We wish you good luck in the final phase of your orthodontic journey.

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