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Retainer Types and Cleaning

After orthodontic treatment, maintaining your teeth in the jaws in the correct position with retainers is critical.  After the first few months of full time retainer wear, most patients will move to night time wear only on their retainers.  At Braces San Diego, we offer many different retainer options and often adapt these retainers to your individiual needs.  The three most common types of retainers you will be able to choose from are: 

1. Removable Hawley Wire Retainers


  1. Last a long time
  2. Can be tightened or repaired
  3. Allow the bite to "settle" into a more comfortable position over time
  4. Can be custom designed with many colors, logos, etc.


  1. Do not cover the biting surface of the teeth, so do not protect against grinding
  2. Allow slight movement of the teeth
  3. Are more expensive to replace
  4. More noticeable visually as the the metal wire can be seen
  5. Bulky coverage of the palate is bothersome to some patients
  6. Can be lost or broken

2. Removable Clear Plastic Retainers



  1. Hold the teeth in the exact position there were moved to
  2. Protects the teeth against wear from grinding
  3. Almost invisible
  4. Are less expensive to replace than other retainer options
  5. If slight movement occurs, wearing them full time can help move the teeth back into the proper position.


  1. Don't last as long at the other retainers
  2. Are easy to lose because they are so clear

3. Bonded Permanent Retainers


  1. Can last for many years if properly maintained
  2. Can't be lost as they are permanently glued in


  1. Are much more difficult to clean, brush and floss
  2. Care must be taken not to eat things that are too hard


Important information on wearing retainers:

  • Wear your retainer at all times, until the doctor instructs otherwise.
  • Take your retainer out when eating, and always put it back in its case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunchrooms or restaurants.)
  • Clean the retainer thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush water. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. Efferdent® or other orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used but do not take the place of brushing for the clear retainers, but should not be used with metal retainers.  
  • When your retainer is not in your mouth, it should ALWAYS be in its case. Pets love to chew on them!
  • Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing out loud to get used to it faster.
  • Retainers are breakable, so treat yours with care. If your retainer gets lost or broken, call us immediately.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your retainer, or you believe it needs adjusting, call us. Do not try to adjust it yourself.
  • Always bring your retainer to your appointments.
  • Retainer replacements are expensive, but with proper care they can last for years!
  • Remove your retainer when you go swimming.
  • Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.