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What Are the Main Types of Orthodontic Retainers?

Hawley retainers in different colours

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently only seeing patients on an
emergency basis. If you are having an emergency, please call the office at (604) 591-8621.

There are three main types of retainers, and technology is changing and improving all the time.
After your braces come off, you will likely have one or more types of retainers to wear for a
period of time.

What’s a retainer?

A retainer is a dental appliance that you wear in your mouth. Some retainers are worn all the
time. Some retainers are worn some of the time (like at night). Some are permanently fixed in
your mouth, and others can be put in or taken out as you choose.

Here are the three main types:

Wire and acrylic (or other plastic)

This type of retainer is commonly called a Hawley retainer.

It’s some wire embedded in some plastic. The plastic fits perfectly against the roof (or floor) of
your mouth, and the wire leans against your teeth.

This kind of retainer has been around for years, and individuals in their fifties and sixties will
recognize it. They likely wore a retainer like this when their braces came off.

A Hawley retainer is generally well tolerated, and you can take it out, so, it doesn’t interfere with
brushing or flossing your teeth. Talking with it in your mouth takes some getting used to.

Its biggest disadvantage is the same as its biggest advantage—it comes out. That means that it’s
easy to lose. And it’s no fun having to keep buying a new one, as it is custom-fitted to your

Clear retainer

These retainers fit snugly over all your teeth and resemble the Invisalign system, which you are
probably familiar with. They are also called vacuum-formed-retainers or VFR’s.

They are typically comfortable, clear, and can be removed for eating, brushing, and flossing.

Permanent retainer

Sometimes your orthodontist will use a permanent retainer or one that is wire like the Hawley
retainer but without the plastic.

A permanent retainer is glued to your teeth and stays there. It biggest disadvantage is also it’s
biggest advantage—it stays in your mouth. That means that flossing is difficult, and you need a
special tool to floss effectively.

Permanent retainers are very effective at keeping your teeth straight, and patient compliance is a
non-issue because you can’t take them out. Your orthodontist takes it out eventually, sometimes
years after the fact.

Your orthodontist will choose the best retainer for your individual mouth based on a number of
factors. Retainers are important, and they are worn for a long time.

Orthodontic Services in BC

Maduke-Bulat is a long-established orthodontics practice in Surrey, BC. Dr. Sandra Maduke
and Dr. Ryan Bulat are both certified specialists offering cutting-edge orthodontics in a warm
and compassionate environment.

If you have any questions about this article or orthodontics in general, or if you want to make an
appointment with Maduke-Bulat, please contact us at (604) 591-8621.

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