Retainers After Braces – Which Is Best?

Baffled by retainers after braces?

After months of orthodontic treatment and perfectly straight teeth, it’d be devastating for your teeth to move back. Your dentist has said you need a retainer but you’re unsure which fits into your lifestyle and is most effective.

You’re about to discover the different types of retainers to use after braces as we weigh up their pros and cons.  I’ll even give you my golden combination…

So let’s discover more about retainers after braces

How does a retainer work?

After your braces are removed your teeth will want to move back to their original position. It takes time to tame them and stop them doing this.

Teeth also drift with age. They cross and crowd with time.

Think of retainers for teeth like a ship’s anchor. They work by fixing the teeth in their final position and stop unwanted drifting.

What are your optionss for retainers after braces?

  1. Fixed retainer
retainers after braces

This is a small thin wire bonded to the back of your front 6 teeth.

The wire is not visible, easy to get used to and you’ll quickly forget that it’s there.

On your ‘braces off’ appointment, your orthodontic gear will be removed and replaced with the wire.


  • You don’t have to think about it. You can go about your daily business and forget it’s there.


  • It’s harder to clean around. Floss is a no-go as it can’t thread down. You’ll have to use interdental brushes between the spaces.
  • It only binds canine to canine. So, if you’ve moved other teeth there’s a risk these can still move.
  1. Clear retainer
clear removable retainers

These are similar to Invisalign aligners and are also called ‘Essix’ retainers.

Once your teeth are in their perfect position an impression will be taken to make your retainers after your brace. This will be sent away and the following day you’ll have your retainers.

Clear retainers should be worn day and night straight after your orthodontic treatment is finished. It’s usually possible to go onto nighttime wear after 3 months but that would be reviewed at a later date.

Invisalign also produce a high quality, more durable clear retainer after braces called ‘Vivera‘.


  • Covers all teeth so gives maximum retention.
  • Invisalign patients find it easy as they’ve already been wearing something similar for months.


  • You need to be compliant with your dentists’ instructions and get in the routine of wearing it.
  • If you don’t wear them then your teeth may move back.
  • Your speech may be affected for a few days. You may have a slight lisp.
  • Less durable – will need replacing as they wear.
  1. Hawley retainer
hawley retainer after braces

These are removable retainers and consist of wires covering the front surfaces of your teeth, clasps on the back teeth and plastic over the roof of your mouth.


  • Durable and adjustable.


  • Metal wires.
  • Hard to get used to plastic on the roof of your mouth and touching your tongue.
  • Not cosmetic.

I’ve added this for completeness, but I don’t know why you’d go the trouble of straightening your teeth to then place this retainer after braces.

How long will I need a retainer for?

You’re most at risk immediately after the braces are removed and this is the time you’re likely to see some relapse if you don’t wear your retainers.

But, there is a risk that they could move a little at any point.

You should look at wearing retainers after braces as a lifelong commitment.

So what do I recommend? The Golden Combination!

Fixed retainer + clear retainer every night = the Golden Combination.

This is the best way to ensure there is no relapse and keep your smile in shape!

Retainers are worn out? Broken? Lost?

If you’re in the Bournemouth, Poole or Dorset area and would like new orthodontic retainers after braces then contact me.


Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) is a Poole and Bournemouth-based dentist who qualified with honours. He has a keen interest in orthodontics and aesthetic dentistry and is a certified Invisalign provider.