If you want your teeth to remain straight after completion of orthodontic treatment, you are going to need to think about lifelong retention #holdthatsmile

Fixed and removable retainers

If you are thinking about getting braces as an adult, you need to also consider whether you would be prepared to wear retainers upon completion of your treatment. Once your braces are removed, there is a possibility that your teeth will relapse and all the hard work you and your orthodontist have done to achieve a great smile will be lost.

To prevent this happening, you will need to wear retainers. There is a great saying ‘only wear your retainers for as long as you want to keep your teeth straight’ and this is something you need to think about and discuss with your orthodontist at the beginning of your treatment.

Image ©

There are three main types of retainers, fixed, removable clear trays (Essix retainers) and the more traditional acrylic plate and wire retainers (Hawley retainers). The choice of retainer is something you will need to discuss carefully with your orthodontist as depending on the nature of your treatment, one or more retainer types may be the preferred option.

Fixed retainers are permanently glued behind your fron teeth and are made of a thin wire which is barely noticable. They can become broken or distorted and a trip to your orthodontist will be required to repair them if this happens. Clear Essix retainers are similar in appearance to aligners such as Invisalign and are quite discreet and frequently only worn at night. Hawley retainers have been used for many years and are quite robust but a little more bulky than the other options.



Retainers are usually included in your treatment fees. Ask how much it will be to have a second ‘backup’ set made just in case you lose or break your primary ones.

Wear schedule

Your orthodontist will advise you on when you need to wear your retainers but this frequently involves a period of full time wear before being reduced to night time then occasional night time wear


Retainers are very effective in keeping your teeth in place as long as you wear them as directed


After initially adapting to wearing them, most people describe them as comfortable to wear


If you break or lose your retainers, you can get replacements made at most practices


You will barely notice your fixed retainers but it will take a few days to get used to speaking with removable retainers


It can take a few days to get used to your retainers so don’t give up


It is important that you keep your retainers clean and your orthodontist will show you how to do this. You can also use cleaning solutions such as ‘retainer brite’ to keep them clean and odour free

Losing retainers

Clear Essix retainers are incredibly easy to lose. Keep them in their case when you are not wearing them

Blog posts

Retainer appointments

What happens at a retainer check appointment and why do I need to take my retainers with me?

Orthodontic Hygiene

A common complication of orthodontics is tooth decay, although this can be prevented by appropriate cleaning and maintenance of the teeth and appliances. In this article, Dr. Bethany Rushworth offers advice on how to look after your teeth during orthodontic treatment.

A new study on retention

Does this new study on the longer-term effects of retention provide the patient with a better insight into which retainer to use after treatment?

Top ten retainer tips

If you are going to get your teeth straightened, you are going to need to seriously think about retention post-treatment. Teeth are liable to move after you finish active treatment and retainers are provided by your orthodontist to help stop this from happening. Here...

Bonded wire retainers

In a recent post by Prof. Kevin O'Brien, the issue of a possible long term problems with bonded wire (fixed) retainers is examined. In the examples shown, it is suggested that the wire retainer has exerted an unfavourable force on one or more teeth possibly as a...

Promoting lifelong retainer wear

The British Orthodontic Society have recently launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging patients to think about lifelong wearing of retainers. Using the hashtag #HoldthatSmile, the Society aims to increase awareness of the need to continue wearing retainers long...

Retention video from the British Orthodontic Society

I've often written about the importance of retention and I'm delighted to see that the British Orthodontic Society have produced an excellent video to support their new retention campaign #HoldthatSmile.  It's only a couple of minutes long and well worth watching....

Why do patients stop wearing their retainers?

Given the time and money adults invest in getting treatment and the ease of fitting retainer wear schedules into a busy life, you would think that adult patients would be incredibly compliant but is this the case?

Twitter #retainers

Social media provides a great insight into many topics and orthodontics is no exception. It always amazes me how many tweets about braces are posted every day so I thought I would do a series of posts about what I have discovered so far. This post is all about...

Essix retainers – a six month review

Following my post on my fixed retainers, I thought I would write an update on how I'm getting on with my Essix retainers. It's been around six months since my braces were removed and as well as fixed retainers, I also received Essix retainers.  Impressions were taken...

Are fixed retainers better than Essix retainers?

Prof. Kevin O'Brien has published a review of a retention trial conducted to find out whether fixed retainers are any better than removable vacuum formed retainers.  The trial involved 82 patients who had completed treatment with fixed braces and randomly assigned...

Fixed retainers – a six month review

Prior to completing active treatment I conducted a fair amount of research into long term retention and different types of retainers. From this I concluded that the regular, life long, use of a retainer is essential to prevent relapse and to maintain the result I and...

How to talk with retainers

Whether you receive clear aligner type retainers such as Essix or Invisalign Vivera or traditional wire retainers, one of the first things you will notice is that it is a little difficult to speak clearly with them. The first thing to note is that you will always...

How to keep your removable retainers clean

Once finished with orthodontic treatment, you will get retainers to keep everything where it should be and to prevent your teeth from relapsing.  These retainers will either be fixed in place behind your teeth or removable for wearing as directed by your orthodontist....

How to avoid losing your retainers

I read an interesting tweet yesterday in which someone described how a patient had reported that they had lost their retainers on a picnic as, and are you ready for this, a sheep had eaten it!  Looking through other tweets this clearly isn't a one off occurrence, well...

Whose responsibility is retention?

At the Scottish Dental show, I attended a lecture on orthodontics delivered by Robbie Lawson, a specialist orthodontist from Edinburgh Orthodontics. Towards the end of his presentation, he asked the question 'who's responsibility is retention?' and this is a very good...

How to make an Essix retainer

Essix retainers seem to be the retainer of choice for many patients (and orthodontists) and this clip shows how one is made.  It seems a simple process that both relies on the accuracy of the impressions taken at the surgery and the skill of the technician making the...