Retainers: What are your options for straighter teeth?


Retainers follow the same natural process as Invisalign, called ‘bone remodelling’ to shift your teeth back into place, or gradually put them into place.

Retainers are named such as that is generally their purpose, to retain teeth in shape – particularly after treatments such as dental braces or invisalign which are generally not permanent solutions. Generally speaking retainers are worn at nighttime, this overcomes many of the problems surrounding retainers such as obstructing the mouth during speech or eating. Retainers generally are not considered aesthetically pleasing, so users may avoid wearing these when they are out in public if not necessary.

Essix, Hawley or Permanent?
Retainers can be made of either metal or plastic, the plastic retainers are made of varying durabilities due to their tendency to break.

Plastic retainers are sometimes called ‘Essix retainers’ – their popularity comes from the fact that they are less prominent than the typical, metal wire retainers we picture called ‘Hawley retainers’.

The third option for retainers is permanent retainers, similarly to Essix retainers they are difficult to see though they are also made with metal. Each of these retainers have a good success rate of straightening teeth and have their own pros and cons which may make them more attractive to clients.

Shortcomings of clear retainers?
One of the greatest criticisms of retainers, and why so many people seem to slip out of the habit of wearing them, is that they can be quite painful to wear. This is particularly at the beginning of wearing them as the mouth adjusts to the mould of the retainer, reducing as the mouth fits the shape better.

Obviously, with permanent retainers this is a different matter as the mouth will adjust faster and teeth won’t unalign whilst they aren’t in (obviously). Permanent dental retainers also may obstruct the teeth in terms of hygiene, sharing the same issues as most dental procedures. Seeing a dental hygienist regularly is always a good idea to mitigate this. Permanent retainers also make some foods challenging to eat, a tough steak or a hard apple for exactly may all of a sudden be daunting when you have a metal wire at the back of your teeth.

What do they cost?
Clear retainers, like all dental procedures, have varying costs depending on whether the service is done privately or through the NHS. Private dentists prices can scale drastically depending on the quality of service, or even just on the geography of the service provider.

If treatment is done with the NHS then orthodontist care is provided for 12 months after usual care is provided. Beyond this additional care, new retainers, repeated treatment etc must be paid for privately. Therefore retainers are typically free under the NHS, assuming there are no issues with your retainer after 12 months. Private retainers can cost between £60-400, with permanent dentures generally costing more, whilst Essix and Hawley retainers are more similarly and modestly priced at around £60-150.

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