November 4, 2022

What is the best type of retainer for your smile? (fixed retainers vs removable)

Congratulations! The time has come when you have finished your braces or Invisalign treatment, and you finally have the smile you have always wanted! 

So what happens next…? Your retention phase!

Retainers play a vital role in your orthodontic treatment. They hold the teeth in the position where we placed them during treatment. Teeth have a natural tendency to move after treatment, particularly in the direction of their original position. This is called a relapse. Retainers function is to keep a relapse from occurring, so that your hard work, time, and money spent on orthodontics wasn’t wasted.

Many of us know someone whose teeth have shifted as a result of not wearing their retainers. Most patients who don’t follow through with retainer wear end up back in braces or Invisalign to correct the relapse that has taken place.

When talking about retainers, our patients tend to have a few questions. Some of the frequently asked questions are as follows:

  • What will my retainer look like?
  • Will I have that metal bar behind my teeth like my friend has?
  • Can’t you just put in a permanent retainer?
  • Do I have to wear my retainer all the time?

At Just for Grins Orthodontics, our preferred choice of retainer is the essix clear removable retainer. But you may be curious as to why our orthodontists choose this retainer, so let’s discuss the pros and cons of each type of retainer.


Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are created using your digital smile file – which we get from a quick scan using our iTero intraoral scanner. These retainers have an exact fit and hold all of your teeth in position. Dr. Dunn or Dr. Schreiber will instruct you to wear these all night long after treatment completion. Retainers are a lifelong commitment. 

If you’re wondering “how long do retainers last”, you may be surprised that many of our patients, with proper care, can get up to 10 years of wear with a set of retainers before needing to replace them!


  • Clear, almost invisible, and easy to wear.
  • Fit your teeth “like a glove” and protect the teeth from shifting.
  • Easy to clean since you can remove retainers to brush and floss.
  • Can help protect dental restorations (fillings, crowns, and implants) if you grind or clench your teeth.
  • Can be used as a bleaching tray. (You can purchase safe and effective bleaching gel from your general dentist to use inside your retainers for easy teeth whitening after treatment!)
  • Give you the ability to wear full-time to move teeth back into finished position if you went a couple of days without retainers and teeth shifted slightly.


  • You have to be responsible and remember to wear retainers as instructed.
  • If you lose your retainers, there will be a cost to have replacement retainers made. If this happens, please call our office as soon as possible to have a new set of retainers made to keep any shifting from occurring.


Fixed or Permanent Retainers

On occasion, we have our patients ask about “permanent retainers.” They may have had one before, or either know someone who has one currently. A fixed retainer consists of a wire that is bonded behind your lower front six teeth to help hold teeth in place. This area is where relapse is most likely to occur. 


  • Help prevent shifting of the front teeth, where relapse is likely to occur. 


  • Only protects the front teeth. 
  • Nothing is permanent. Simply having a bonded retainer alone provides you with a false sense of protection. A bonded retainer can come loose or break!  Most people don’t realize it is loose or broken until a tooth has shifted. 
  • You must be careful about what you eat. Hard, crunchy, sticky or gummy foods may cause your retainer to break.
  • You must be diligent in keeping your retainer clean! Flossing regularly with a floss threader to prevent tartar buildup.
  • Bonded retainers don’t provide any protection from relapse for the back teeth.


Still have questions about permanent or removable retainers?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit, to your last appointment. 

If you’re looking for a top orthodontist in Montgomery, Millbrook, Wetumpka, we’d love to meet you! Request a complimentary exam for you or your child today.

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