Fixed Retainer vs Removable Retainer – Which Is Best For You

Published Date:
April 15, 2022
Updated Date:
April 15, 2022
Reading Time: 7:min
Published Date:
April 15, 2022
Updated Date:
April 15, 2022
Reading Time: 7:min

Whether you opt for clear aligners or fixed braces, you’ll no doubt be glad to have finished treatment and are now sporting a straighter smile you can be proud of. However, this isn’t the end of the story. You will still need to wear a device known as a retainer. Like orthodontic braces or clear aligners, dental retainers are custom-made devices that can be either fixed or removable.

In this article, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of fixed retainers vs removable retainers to see which is best for you.

Firstly, when do you need a retainer?

Retainers typically need to be worn in the following circumstances

  • To prevent relapse. Following teeth straightening treatments, teeth typically want to shift back to their original positions. If you don’t follow orthodontic treatment with a retainer, you will end up undoing all of the time, effort, and money spent on getting straighter teeth in the first place.
  • To prevent teeth shifting due to age-related changes, which can happen over time.

Fixed retainers

The most common type of fixed retainer consists of a wire bonded to the back of the teeth. In most cases, a retainer is worn full-time for the first 6-12 months following the end of orthodontic treatment, then nights only for as long as needed.

The pros of fixed retainers

You can’t lose a fixed retainer – Unlike removable retainers, you cannot misplace or forget to wear your fixed retainer.

Fixed retainers ensure compliance – One of the benefits of fixed retainers is that they cannot be removed. If you have difficulty adhering to their guidelines for removable retainers, a fixed retainer may well be a better option.

The cons of fixed retainers

Requires regular visits to the dentist – Fixed retainers are attached to the teeth by a dentist in a procedure that may take up to an hour to bond the retainer to the teeth and could be uncomfortable. Furthermore, you will need to visit the dentist regularly so they can check your retainer and examine your teeth and gums for signs of dental health problems.

Discomfort – Fixed retainers are typically made with a metal wire that can be uncomfortable if the tongue rubs against it. Furthermore, if the wire breaks, it can scratch the tongue and irritate.

Change of diet – Eating some foods may damage the wire by bending it out of shape. You may have to consider changing your diet to ensure that your retainer is not harmed. Likewise, consuming sticky, sugary food and drinks can stick to the retainer, making it difficult to clean. This may have a detrimental effect on keeping the mouth hygienic and increase the possibility of tooth decay (dental caries) and gum disease (periodontitis).

Longer oral hygiene routine – Fixed retainers may require changes to your teeth cleaning routine. Regular flossing is not possible, and you may have to invest in interdental brushes or floss (water) picks that can get behind the wire of the retainer and in between the gaps in the teeth at the gum line. The likelihood is that your cleaning routine is going to take longer.

What about removable retainers?

Removable retainers are similar to clear aligners. They are custom-made from a transparent plastic-like material moulded to fit over the teeth, rather like a mouthguard.

The pros of removable retainers

Virtually Invisible – Removable retainers are clear and undetectable in the mouth—so there is no need to be embarrassed about wearing a dental appliance as only you will know.

Comfort – The smooth, clear plastic of removable retainers is comfortable compared to the stainless steel wire and brackets that fixed retainers are made from. Moreover, removable clear retainers won’t irritate the cheek or tongue.

Easy to keep clean – As you can take removable retainers out of your mouth, they are easy to keep clean. Simply remove them when eating or drinking anything besides water and be sure to at least rinse your mouth with water before you put the retainer back in your mouth if you cannot clean your teeth.

There is no need to change your diet – Because you can remove your retainer, there is no need to change your diet to prevent damage to your appliance.

Easy to maintain your oral hygiene routine – With removable retainers, you can continue with your regular brushing and flossing routine. Brush and floss your teeth before you put your retainer in and when you take it out for the day. This typically corresponds with twice-daily brushing and flossing every morning and night before you go to bed.

Fewer visits to the dentist – You don’t have to go to the dentist to fit a removable retainer. In fact, with some at-home clear aligner brands like Caspersmile, you can receive your retainer when you purchase a teeth straightening kit.

Protect dental restorations or prevent teeth grinding – If you suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding or jaw clenching) when you sleep, a removable retainer can also help prevent damage to your teeth or dental restorations as it prevents the surfaces of your teeth from grinding together.

The cons of removable retainers

Compliance can be an issue – If you are not likely to wear your retainers as instructed, are likely to forget to wear them, or are prone to losing items, removable retainers may not be the best option for you. If you have had orthodontic treatment, you don’t want to undo years of work by not completing the treatment by wearing removable retainers.

You must care for your retainers properly – Clear retainers must be cared for properly. They can become warped if exposed to heat—so do not clean them by placing them in hot water. Additionally, they may become stained if you smoke or if you eat or drink some foods and beverages (the general rule is that anything that stains your clothes can stain your retainer). To be on the safe side, it is best to stick to water when you are wearing removable retainers.

Fixed retainer vs removal retainer: The takeaway

In summary, removable retainers have many benefits over traditional fixed retainers. If you go to a dentist, removable retainers tend to be more expensive than fixed retainers, but the convenience and ease of use typically outweigh the cost for most people.

However, there are a lot of direct-to-consumer brands that offer a revolutionary new way to straighten your teeth at a fraction of the price a dentist charges. Furthermore, some of them give you the option to receive a set of free retainers at the end of your treatment, to ensure your teeth stay in their new, straight position.


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