Why is Wearing a Retainer After Braces Necessary?

Retainers have a very important job. They’re responsible for maintaining the great work orthodontic treatment accomplished with straightening your teeth and brightening your smile.

After treatment is completed, your orthodontist will talk through the different retainer options with you. With the exception of permanent retainers, the effectiveness of your retainer is really up to you and how diligently you wear it.

By wearing retainers, you’re teaching your teeth and jaw that this new alignment is here to stay. They are meant to “retain” your new bite and smile by allowing the bone that holds your teeth to rebuild around their new positions. Teeth are always susceptible to shifting, so if you want to keep your teeth in the perfect position that you achieved with your orthodontic treatment, retainers are a life-long commitment.

Permanent Retainers in Minnetonka, Wayzata & Excelsior, MN

Bonded retainers are one of the options we have at Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics for keeping your teeth in place once your orthodontic treatment is complete. Also known as a fixed or bonded retainer, a permanent retainer is made of a metal wire that’s bonded to the back of your teeth. With this retainer, we can prevent something called orthodontic relapse, or your teeth shifting back to their original positions.

For many patients, an ideal solution is to have a removable retainer for the top teeth and a bonded retainer on the bottom. Bonded retainers may be difficult to clean, which can lead to plaque buildup. With proper care, however, bonded retainers last a long time and do a terrific job of helping maintain your beautiful new smile. Plus, you don’t have to remember to put them in every night! They’re always in your mouth, making sure your teeth stay put.

Permanent Retainers Cost

The price for bonded retainers can vary. However, because these retainers last for so many years, they are an economical solution and often cost less than other types of retainers.

Permanent Retainers: Pros and Cons


  1. You don’t need to remember to put a retainer in and take it out. It’s always keeping your teeth properly aligned.
  2. It’s barely noticeable to you in your mouth, and completely unnoticeable to anyone else because it’s bonded to the back of your teeth.
  3. Permanent retainers usually don’t require any replacements and can last for many years with no problems because of how durable and sturdy they are.
  4. It’s impossible to lose or accidentally throw away.
  5. There’s no impact on speech patterns or sound, so there is little to no effect on how you speak.


  1. Permanent retainers can be difficult to clean around, increasing the possibility of cavities and plaque buildup, even gum disease. Without proper cleaning techniques, your dental hygiene may suffer.
  2. Though permanent retainers are very durable, they’re not indestructible. The wire can break or debond, especially when eating certain tough foods. If this occurs, a repair or replacement fee may be required.
  3. It may temporarily cause irritation or discomfort against your teeth, tongue, or gums.

Removable Retainers in Minnetonka, Wayzata & Excelsior, MN

Removable retainers are made to be removed and inserted at any time, and are most often made of plastic or a combination of plastic and metal. Orthodontists most often recommend patients to put removable retainers in at night after brushing your teeth, and taking them out in the morning before starting your day. After your orthodontic treatment is completed, your orthodontist may instruct you to wear your removable retainer throughout the day. Depending on your progress and how well you follow your orthodontist’s post-treatment recommendations, you may be able to slowly reduce the time you wear it.

There are three types of removable retainers: Hawley retainers, Essix retainers, and Vivera retainers.

Types of Removable Retainers

Hawley Retainers

Although there are newer options available, Hawley retainers have been used to maintain the results of orthodontic treatment for decades. They are also called metal or wire retainers. Made with a plastic or acrylic base which holds a metal wire that fits flush against your teeth, Hawley retainers are effective and one of the most affordable options available.

The wire in a Hawley retainer sits against your front teeth and can even be adjusted to refine the alignment of your teeth, if needed. If cared for properly, Hawley retainers can last for many years.

Clear Retainers

Clear retainers are similar to invisible aligners in that they’re thin, plastic trays molded to fit flush against your teeth, just above your gum line. They help hold your teeth in place and/or make slight refinements to your alignment as the final stage of your orthodontic treatment.

We offer several types of clear retainers, including Vivera retainers (from the makers of Invisalign) and Essix retainers that we create in our office. Patients often enjoy clear aligners because they are discreet, convenient, and can be made from digital scans of your mouth instead of a mold or impression.

Removable Retainers Replacement Cost

For the cost of any of our removable retainer options, please contact one of our offices or schedule an appointment with us.

Removable Retainers: Pros and Cons

Hawley Retainers: Pros
  1. They’re customizable and the acrylic comes in many colors and patterns.
  2. They are easy to remove and clean, which helps reduce the risk of plaque buildup or cavities.
  3. If adjustments are needed, it is very easy and quick to make them.
  4. They are very durable.
Hawley Retainers: Cons
  1. Like other removable retainers, Hawley retainers are easy to lose or misplace.
  2. Because of the durable and rigid nature of the design, Hawley retainers may become uncomfortable or affect speech patterns.
  3. The wire in a Hawley retainer can cause discomfort and pain in some patients.
  4. Hawley retainers are visible to others.
  5. Hawley retainers can be one of the more costly options for retainers.
Clear Retainers: Pros
  1. Clear options, like Essix retainers and Vivera retainers, are typically more affordable.
  2. They’re easy to take out and put in, and they’re the easiest to clean and maintain.
  3. Clear retainers are virtually invisible.
  4. They are made from a durable plastic that is heat-resistant and warp-resistant.
Clear Retainers: Cons
  1. Though they aren’t visible, they do affect speech patterns, and it may be difficult to speak with them, especially at first.
    Like any removable retainer, it’s important to treat your clear retainer with care to avoid damaging or losing it.

How to Clean and Care for Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are considered more difficult to clean, simply because they’re bonded to your teeth and not removable. Because of this, you’ll need to be intentional and careful with cleaning your permanent retainer and ensure you clean any small spaces and gaps under your retainer’s wire and between your teeth.

Here are some of our top tips for cleaning and caring for your permanent retainer:

  1. Dedicate time every day for cleaning your permanent retainer properly so you don’t fall behind on care.
  2. If you have difficulty getting between the wire and your teeth, use a floss threader to reach those spaces. You may have used floss threaders already during your orthodontic treatment. Another alternative to floss threaders is a water flosser, where you can adjust the pressure of the water going through tighter spaces.
  3. Make life easier for you for future cleanings by eating food that won’t get stuck in or around your wires and and choosing drinks that are less likely to cause plaque buildup. Foods that may be difficult to remove include seeds, popcorn kernels, corn, and any sticky foods like caramel and taffy.
  4. If you’re having difficulty cleaning your permanent retainer, it may make sense to visit your general dentist for more regular cleanings.

How to Clean and Care for Removable Retainers

How to Clean and Care for Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are durable and easy to keep clean, use a mild soap and lukewarm water each time you brush your teeth. You can also soak it in a retainer solution once or twice a week as needed. Brush your retainer with a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste. The better you take care of your Hawley retainer, the longer it will last. Hawley retainers can last up to 10 years with proper care and maintenance.

How to Clean and Care for Clear Retainers

Whenever you remove your clear retainers, we recommend brushing them with a soft-bristled toothbrush, on both the inside and outside, with either anti-bacterial soap with water or a non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste. Don’t use hot water to clean your retainer. You can rinse your retainers with lukewarm water and place it in a cup filled with mouthwash for up to 20 minutes to disinfect it. At night, rinse off your clear retainer and fit it against your teeth.

Explore Your Orthodontic Retainer Options at Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics

Whether you went through your orthodontic treatment with us or are looking for a new orthodontist post-treatment, our passionate specialists and staff are here to help. Lake Minnetonka Ortho works with every patient to choose the right type of retainer for them and walk them through how to clean and care for the retainer you choose.

To discuss retainer options and post-treatment care, contact our office to schedule a consultation or appointment today, either in-office or virtual.

Retainers FAQ

If you choose a permanent retainer, those stay with you for life and may require repairs or replacements as the years pass. Ideally, removable retainers are also a lifelong commitment, because teeth will always try and shift back to their original, misaligned positions. In order to maintain the alignment achieved with orthodontic treatment, retainers need to be worn, following the instructions that your orthodontist outlines.

Usually, after a few months have passed since treatment, patients only wear their removable retainers at night. Your orthodontist will discuss the right plan for you and your teeth.

Clear Retainers

With careful cleaning and maintenance, clear retainers (including Essix and Vivera retainers) can last anywhere from one year to several years. It’s important to follow best practices for retainer care to ensure the longest possible lifespan, and you should let your orthodontist know if you are experiencing any teeth grinding or clenching, which can shorten that lifespan.

Hawley Retainers

Because of their durability, Hawley retainers normally last between 5 to 10 years, depending on the level of care and cleaning maintained.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent, bonded retainers last up to 20 years with no issues assuming proper care and cleaning is done.

If your permanent or removable retainer breaks or is lost, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible. They will help arrange any repairs or replacements necessary.

If the break or damage is painful or otherwise an emergency, Lake Minnetonka Ortho provides emergency services for our patients. Call our office closest to you and leave a message if your emergency occurs after hours, and we’ll call you back with the best next steps.

No! Any changes to speech, including lisps, are only temporary for both permanent and removable retainers. It will take some time for your mouth, lips, and tongue to get used to the retainer, much like there was an adjustment period for your braces or Invisalign.

How often you need to replace your retainer depends on how well you clean and care for it. The better you are with maintenance, the longer you’ll last between retainer replacements. Occasionally, some dental procedures like crowns and extractions may affect how your retainer fits, and you’ll need a replacement in those cases.

If you don’t maintain your post-orthodontic treatment by wearing your retainers nightly, your teeth will shift back to their original alignment. Retention is often considered the most important step of your orthodontic treatment because it ensures your proper alignment is maintained throughout the rest of your life. It’s very possible that any pain or discomfort caused by the original alignment will also return without proper retainer use.