Straight talk: retainers are designed to maintain the alignment of teeth after orthodontic treatment by preventing them from shifting.


What are retainers?

Retainers, available in metal or plastic, are personalized oral devices that orthodontists provide after braces. They help maintain the newly achieved alignment of teeth by holding them in place. Retainers are usually worn regularly initially and then mainly during sleep to ensure long-lasting results.

Hands holding a retainer and clear aligners

The Benefits of Retainers


Retainers play a crucial role in maintaining the results of orthodontic treatment. They hold the teeth in their newly aligned positions to prevent teeth from shifting back.


Keep Your Smile Straight

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Protect Your Investment After Braces

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Protection from Teeth Grinding

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Redhead woman smiling with eyes closed

How Retainers Work to Maintain Your Smile

Retainers work by keeping your teeth in their corrected positions after orthodontic treatment. By consistently wearing your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist, you ensure that the newly aligned teeth settle into their proper places, preventing any undesirable shifting. They typically require diligent usage, especially in the initial months after braces are removed, and may eventually transition to nighttime wear only.

Woman putting on clear aligners

Different Types of Retainers

Retainers fall into two categories: removable and permanent. Based on your specific needs, your orthodontist will suggest the most suitable option or a combination of both. Understanding the characteristics of each type of retainer can assist you in making a decision. 

Clear Plastic Retainers

Clear plastic retainers are easily removable and fit securely over your teeth, allowing your natural teeth to remain visible.

Traditional Wire Retainers

Traditional wire retainers, also known as Hawley retainers, are removable. They consist of a single metal wire that spans the front of your teeth and a well-fitted plastic of acrylic component that sits on the root of your mouth.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent, or fixed retainers, are attached to the inner surface or back of your teeth to maintain their proper alignment. With diligent daily cleaning, a fixed retainer can last for years and remain hidden when you smile.


How often should you wear retainers?

You should wear your retainers as directed by your orthodontist, which is typically around 12-22 hours a day, including during sleep. During the first few months after getting your braces off, wearing them full-time is important to ensure your teeth stabilize in their new positions. After that, you’ll likely transition to wearing them primarily at night to maintain the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment.

Clear aligners under spotlight
individual with beautiful teeth flossing in front of the mirror

Book an Appointment Today


Without question, the safest and most effective path to achieving a healthier, happier smile is with the help of an experienced orthodontist. A Smile Generation-trusted dentist is here to help.


The Importance of Proper Care for Your Retainers

While wearing a retainer can really help your teeth stay beautifully straight, it comes with the added responsibility of taking good care of your retainer.


Storing your retainer

To keep your retainers safe and clean, it’s advised to store them in their designated case whenever you’re not wearing them. This helps prevent damage, loss, or exposure to harmful bacteria. Regularly cleaning your retainer case is also important to maintain good oral hygiene.


Cleaning your retainer

To clean your retainers, use a soft toothbrush and mild soap or non-abrasive toothpaste. Gently brush all surfaces to remove plaque and debris, then rinse thoroughly with cold water. Avoid using hot water, as it can warp the retainer material – and never use bleach or harsh chemicals.


Fixed retainers

To clean a fixed retainer, use a floss threader or interdental brush to remove food particles and plaque from between the wires and teeth. Regularly brushing and using an antibacterial mouthwash can also help maintain oral hygiene. It’s important to maintain routine dental visits for professional cleaning and check-ups.

Red retainer with cup and toothbrush

Got questions?


Have questions about retainers? We’re here to help.

Retainers help keep your teeth in their ideal positions after your orthodontic treatment ends. Your orthodontist may bond a thin wire to the back of your teeth to hold them in place. Or, they may recommend a removable retainer that you can put in and take out on your own. Removable retainers may be made of wire and plastic, or they may be clear trays that fit over your teeth.


No matter the type of retainer you have, you need to make sure you keep it clean, just as you do your teeth. Otherwise, debris can build up inside of your retainer and cause things such as bad breath. It also allows bacteria to form in the mouth, which can cause other dental issues.


Learn more in our blog article, "Should I Wear My Retainer & Do Retainers Hurt?"

When it comes to retainers, which must sometimes be worn for years, insurance is a wonderful method to transfer financial risk, and there’s a good chance you’ll need an expensive replacement retainer at some point in the future.


But how much does it cost to replace a retainer? The cost of replacing a retainer depends on several factors, including the type of retainer, your geographic location, and whether you have retainer insurance. Due to the high expense of a retainer without insurance, it is prudent to purchase retainer insurance from the start to avoid additional financial obligations in the future.


Learn more in our blog article, "Retainers FAQs."

If you wear a retainer, you must ensure it is cleaned just as you clean your teeth, especially if it is permanent or you are wearing a retainer at night. Proper oral hygiene means regularly cleaning your retainer so that it does not buildup harmful bacteria or lead to plaque buildup.


If you are unsure where to start, ask your orthodontist to recommend a mouth rinse and toothpaste. Like caring for your teeth, these are needed to clean your retainer. For instance, your orthodontist may tell you to brush your retainer with toothpaste before wearing it, particularly if you are going to wear it at night.


Learn more in our blog article, "Retainers FAQs."

For the first few days after getting a retainer, it’s typical for it to be uncomfortable, tight, or painful. Even if the soreness lasts for a week, it’s usually not a cause for concern. However, if retainer pain persists for longer than a week, you should see your orthodontist. A retainer should not cause you to have persistent, ongoing pain that makes it difficult for you to function normally regularly.


Learn more in our blog article, "Retainer Too Tight."


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Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Teeth Retainer: Types, Uses, and Care.

Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Teeth Retainer: Types, Uses, and Care.