What Kind of Retainer After Braces is Better, Clear Plastic or Wire?

I wore braces 18 years ago when I lived in Texas. The orthodontist gave me a retainer afterwards that looks like an invisalign tray. I absolutely loved this retainer and it kept my teeth perfectly straight for years! When I lost it and went to get a new retainer the new orthodontist in Florida gave me a wire one, and I noticed it didn't keep my teeth as perfectly straight even though they insisted it was better. What type of retainer is more effective?

Doctor Answers 7

There are pros and cons to each. Listen to you doctor.

Each type has their pros and cons. For example:

Clear retainers are not noticeable and if worn well hold the teeth very well.  On the other hand, they can be worn through with heavy grinding or become distorted when exposed to heat.  

The wire of typical Hawley retainers wrap around the front surface of the teeth.  They allow the teeth to naturally "settle" into place much better since there is nothing covering the biting surface.  They also allow for easy adjustment to help keep teeth in check.

So in summary, if you are cosmetic conscious and your finished result is near perfect, you don't need any adjustment or settling, and don't grind your teeth, the clear ones are a good way to go.

To really answer this question for YOU  it is imperative that as you talk with your orthodontist and trust his/her judgment.

Atlanta Orthodontist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Clear retainers vs acrylic and wire retainers

I have worked extensively with both types of retainers and I have found that clear retainers retain better. I will always try to use clear retainers but sometimes they are not the best choice for a given patient. Minor tooth movement can also be accomplished with clear retainers to correct minor relapses.

Different Retainers For Different Scenerios

There are two types of retainers typically used in post-orthodontic treatment; Fixed and Removable. Fixed retainers normally are comprised of a wire bonded to the inside of the anterior teeth. These types of retainers require little maintenance by the patient, but can dislodge from teeth based on occlusion, eating habits, or dental habits (bruxism, clenching, etc). Removable retainers come in two forms, acryicl based appliances with wires or clear "Essix" type retainers that look like stiff bleeching trays or a Clear Correct/Invisalign tray. The clear retainers are very effective in keeping all the teeth maintained, but are less rigid and normally don't last as long as the acrylic/wire retainers (known as Hawley retainers). I normally offer both types of removable retainers, but always let those that want the clear retaines know that they will need to be replaced more often due to simple wear.

Stuart J. Hoffman, DMD, MS
Calabasas Orthodontist

Which Retainers are Best

Determining which retainer a patient will receive is done on a case-by-case basis.  Trust that your orthodontist will make the best decision for you.

Metal Retainers: may not be the most accepted by patients because of the metal wire, but this retainer is excellent for holding teeth in place and they allow the upper and lower teeth to settle into a good bite.

Clear Retainers:  are the most accepted by patients because they are virtually invisible.  They hold the teeth in place pretty well and can allow for minor tooth movements if shifting has occurred, however if gum inflammation or "puffy gums" are present at the end of ortho treatment, then the clear retainers may feel loose once the gums shrink back to normal health. 

Permanent Retainers:  are good for front teeth that were severely crowded, however if proper oral hygiene is not maintained, then this is not a good option.  This retainer is only placed in the front, therefore if back teeth were drastically moved, then another retainer must be considered. 

Maya V. Oliver, DDS
Washington Orthodontist
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Clear vs. Wire Retainers

The two types of retainers that you mentioned are the most common types of retainers.  They both have advantages and disadvantages.  Some orthodontists primarily us the wire retainers (Called Hawley retainers, named after Dr Hawley from many years ago) because they have been around the longest.  I typically use Hawley retainers on the upper, mostly nights only, because I do a lot of expansion of narrow upper jaws to ideal.  The Hawley holds the expansion better than the invisible retainers do.  Invisible retainers hold individual tooth alignment better in many cases, especially on the lower front teeth.

To wire or not to wire, that's the question

Clear retainers vs wire retainers...they both have pros and cons! Depending on your particular situation, your orthodontist will recommend the best option for you. Function, stability, esthetics, comfort are some of the considerations. We tend to use clear retainers more often because they look good, less bulky and work well!

Stephen Yao, BDS, DDS, MSD
San Jose Orthodontist
4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Retention after braces can be done equally effectively with wires or clear trays

Ultimately, compliance is the key.  Clear trays allow usage at all times of the day, wires tend to be worn only at night.  Nothing works 100% of the time and you will hear arguements for each style.  Wires do allow some modification that clear aligners do not.

There is no right answer.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.