Removable Retainers vs. Permanent Retainers: Which One is Right for You?

Retention is the most important part of any orthodontic treatment plan. After you get your braces off, your teeth will stay straight, but only when you wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist. Studies have shown, over and over, that teeth will relapse and move back to where they were before the braces with just the passing of time. The body is dynamic and constantly going through changes. This is also true for the teeth. Your teeth, whether you’ve had orthodontic treatment or not, will continue to move.

Your braces or Invisalign treatment will straighten your teeth and correct any bite issues, but after your treatment is finished, your teeth will start moving back to where they started if there’s nothing helping them stay in their corrected positions. This is where the importance of retainers comes in. Retainers help your teeth stay in their final corrected positions, maintain your corrected bite/occlusion, and help prevent potential orthodontic retreatment.

Although many patients might view getting their braces off or finishing their last Invisalign aligner as the end of their orthodontic treatment, retention is actually the final step. This blog post reviews the different types of retainers out there and what we typically recommend at OoLi Orthodontics.


Types of Retainers

The protocol for wearing your retainer will depend on the orthodontist installing them and the type of retainer you receive. Following the removal of your braces or the end of your Invisalign treatment, your orthodontist will give you a detailed retainer protocol to follow. 

In general, full-time retainers means wearing the retainers about 22 hours a day and taking the retainers off for meals only. After a certain length of time, the removable retainers are worn only during sleep.

There are a couple types of retainers out there that patients can choose from. At OoLi Orthodontics, we will typically prescribe a combination of permanent and clear retainers. Also keep in mind that the cost of your retainer is included in the overall cost of your orthodontic treatment, so there is nothing additional at the end you’ll have to figure out financially for your retainers.

Preventative / Maintenance Retainers

This kind of retainer is what you’ll receive right after getting your braces removed. The goal of this retainer is to maintain what you’ve achieved during your orthodontic treatment and keep your teeth in their corrected positions.

Corrective / Active Retainers

Active retainers will correct/re-align your teeth that have relapsed after a successful orthodontic treatment. There are limitations to how much this kind of retainer can correct. In severe relapse cases, braces might be the necessary choice to fully re-align your teeth.

Metal Hawley “Traditional” Retainers

While every retainer has its place, this kind is being used less and less today, primarily because of the noticeable hardware that comes with it. Dr. Park is a firm believer that retainers are only good if you wear them, and many patients are reluctant to have a wire around their teeth right after finishing braces.


Clear Retainers

As the name states, this kind of retainer is clear and virtually invisible. The material is much like Invisalign, but much more durable due to the long-term use it’ll undergo as a retainer.

Permanent Retainers

Also called bonded or fixed retainers, this type of retainer uses a small piece of wire bonded on the lingual (back) side of the upper and lower front teeth. Permanent retainers, in addition to clear retainers to keep the back (posterior) teeth in place, are what we typically recommend at OoLi Orthodontics.

Pros and Cons of Permanent Retainers

The word permanent might make some patients nervous about this type of retainer, but it comes with many benefits that make it one of our top choices for retainers at OoLi Orthodontics. For starters, permanent retainers can give you more freedom than removable ones. After the permanent retainers are bonded to the back side of your teeth, you don’t have to think about them anymore. There’s no need to worry about losing them, remembering to wear them for long enough, or forgetting to put them back in after a meal.

Having the permanent retainers on the backside of your upper and lower front teeth will provide a kind of insurance against relapse, which could help you save money in the long run by avoiding corrective retainers or needing orthodontic retreatment again. The placement of the metal on the lingual side of your teeth also makes this option invisible.

The biggest con to permanent retainers that our patients will sometimes voice is that it takes a little bit longer to floss your teeth since you’ll have to work around the metal that’s bonded to your teeth. But with a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to clean nearly as fast as you would without the metal retainer.

3d render of dental bonded retainer on upper jaw

Pros and Cons of Removable Retainers

As stated in the name, patients have the ability to remove this kind of retainer, rather than have it permanently fixed to their teeth. Since removable retainers are removable, it might be tempting to not wear them as often as prescribed. However, patients need to wear any removable retainer as long as directed by their orthodontist in order to maintain their smile.

By not following the retainer protocol your orthodontist prescribes, you run the risk of your teeth relapsing. This is more common with removable retainers due to the element of human error. Be sure to wear your retainers as much as prescribed, though, and you’ll be able to avoid this.

At OoLi Orthodontics, we prescribe clear removable retainers to keep the posterior teeth aligned. With this option, you’ll also benefit from a nearly-invisible retainer. The removable nature also makes flossing these back teeth a bit easier than flossing with a permanent retainer bonded to your teeth.

OoLi Recommends Permanent and Clear Retainers

At OoLi Orthodontics, our general protocol is upper and lower permanent retainers to keep the front teeth aligned, with upper and lower clear retainers to keep the back teeth aligned. In general, the upper clear retainer is worn for about 9-12 months after the braces come off, and then worn during sleep. The lower clear retainer is worn only during sleep after braces come off.

Of course, the decision is ultimately up to you, and Dr. Park is happy to discuss some of the other variants up above and explain the pros and cons of going against his primary recommendation.

If you need a replacement retainer or are curious about what your options are for retainers after braces or Invisalign treatment, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Park. He’ll walk you through your options and recommend a treatment plan for your unique situation. 

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search