What Are The Different Types of Orthodontic Retainers?

Every year at Freedman & Haas Orthodontics, we see countless smiles transformed through orthodontic treatment. But the journey doesn’t end when the braces come off. In fact, one of our young patients, Emma, learned this the exciting day her braces were removed. As she admired her new smile in the mirror, Dr. Freedman introduced her to the next essential step: choosing the right orthodontic retainer. Emma hadn’t realized that her treatment plan included one more crucial phase. Now, she’s discovering which of the different types of orthodontic retainers she’ll be wearing from now on. Whether you’re about to get your braces off or just want to know what to expect before starting orthodontic treatment, you’ll find all the answers you need right here!

Why Do You Need A Retainer?

After you finish Invisalign treatment or Dr. Freedman or Dr. Haas has removed your metal or ceramic braces, you enter the retention period. This phase is super important because it locks in all the work you do in active treatment with your aligners or brackets and wires. If you don’t take the retention phase as seriously as you did your active treatment period, you might have to restart your braces or aligners! 

For the retention phase, you’ll need a retainer. A retainer is like a freeze gun that holds your teeth in place. Without it, your teeth might try to sneak back to their old positions—a party pooper move after all that time in braces or Invisalign. An orthodontic retainer prevents this by restricting teeth movement, providing the time your mouth needs to adjust and make the changes we made permanent. By wearing your retainer as directed, you help ensure that all the time, effort, and, let’s be honest, the discomfort you went through with braces doesn’t go to waste.

What Are The Different Types of Orthodontic Retainers?

What Are The Types Of Retainers?

There are various types of custom-made retainers that can help you preserve your smile and investment. The three most popular are fixed, essix, and Hawley. Let’s check them out:


Fixed retainers, also known as lingual retainers, are the set it and forget it retainer. They have a thin metal line that is safely glued to the back of your upper or lower front teeth using special dental glue. This wire perfectly follows the shape of your newly straightened teeth, keeping them in line without you having to do a thing. Since it’s always there, you don’t have to stress about remembering to wear it. Although they’re super low-maintenance in terms of daily hassle (you can eat, drink, and brush your teeth as if you didn’t have an orthodontic appliance), you’ll need to up your flossing game to keep that wire clean and plaque-free.

If you’ve been shopping around for an orthodontic provider and noticed that fixed retainers aren’t always an option, there’s a very good reason for it. They’re a little complicated to place properly, which is why many don’t offer them, but Dr. Freedman and Dr. Haas are both highly skilled lingual technicians, so you’re in good hands here. We always use fixed retainers on the bottom row of teeth and sometimes on the top row of teeth, giving our team plenty of fixed retainer experience. Whether you get one or both all depends on your unique situation! 


If you only get one fixed retainer on the bottom row of teeth, you’ll likely get an essix retainer to keep the top row in place! Essix retainers are the modern, stealthy kind for patients who have all their adult teeth. Made from clear plastic, they look a lot like transparent Invisalign trays and are pretty much invisible. Unlike fixed retainers, however, Essix retainers are removable for eating, drinking, and oral hygiene. That means that wearers of the Essix retainer have to keep up with them when they’re wearing them, protect them from damage, and clean them daily. 


The Hawley is the classic, old-school metal retainer that’s been around the block. It’s got a metal wire that locks onto your front teeth, plus a sturdy acrylic arch that fits snugly in the roof of your mouth. Like the essix retainer, the Hawley retainer is also removable for eating, drinking, performing oral hygiene, and retainer maintenance. Unlike essix retainers, though, Hawley patients can customize their orthodontic appliances with fun colors and decals to make them fun to wear every night. Another super cool and unique feature of Hawley retainers is that they’re adjustable. This means your orthodontist can fine-tune them as needed over time so your teeth stay right where they need to be. Since we most commonly use Hawley retainers after Phase 1 or interceptive treatment, the adjustability of these retainers makes them perfect for our growing patients. 

At Freedman & Haas, we offer all three of the most common retainer types. When it comes time for you or your child to receive a retainer, your orthodontic needs will determine which retainer(s) you qualify for. You’ll also receive two sets of retainers to minimize the chances that a broken or lost retainer will disrupt your treatment. We promise our team will make the process easy, stress-free, and convenient, just like when you had to choose your braces type!

How Long Will You Need Your Retainer?

Most people need to wear their retainers for the rest of their lives. As we said earlier, your teeth are victims of wanderlust—they’re always looking for an excuse to move to a new place.

But don’t get discouraged! You won’t have to wear your removable retainer 24/7 forever, and your permanent fixed retainer will likely be removed in three to five years (though, if necessary, they can last for a lifetime if properly taken care of). You won’t feel like your teeth are always hidden away, especially after we put in all that work to make them beautiful and healthy. 

Dr. Freedman or Dr. Haas will provide more detailed information based on your unique circumstances when you receive your retainer(s). It’s important to remember that you must wear your retainer and attend all the follow-up appointments suggested by Freedman & Haas Orthodontics in order to enjoy all the benefits of your investment for many years to come. We are so serious about the importance of your retainer and these follow-up visits that we don’t even charge extra for the first year of retention. It’s already included in the cost of your care!

What Are The Different Types of Orthodontic Retainers?

Smile Confidently For Life With Freedman & Haas Orthodontics!

Our teams in Wellington and West Palm Beach are here for you every step of the way. We understand that your smile impacts essentially every aspect of your life, including but not limited to your friendships, dating, job interviews, work performance, health, finances, and self-esteem. Our mission is to make your smile healthy and something you’re proud to show off.

From the free consultation to treatment to retention, to even offering replacement retainers years down the line (should you ever need one), we’ve got your whole family covered.

If you have questions about the orthodontic process, are ready to schedule a free consultation, or need a first retainer or a replacement, please give us a call! Freedman & Haas Orthodontics is always here to help.