Care following orthodontics. Retainers ensure continuous success following the removal of braces.

When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins. The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position.  A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth.

A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance that has been custom-made by the orthodontist to fit the teeth.  Retainers are generally made from transparent plastic and thin wires to optimise the comfort for the patient.

Retainers are worn for varying amounts of time, depending on the type of orthodontic treatment and the age of the patient.  Perseverance and commitment are required to make this final stage of treatment successful.

If the retainer is not worn as directed by the orthodontist, treatment can fail or take much longer than anticipated.

girl having her braces tightened

What types of retainer are available?


There are a variety of retainers available; each one geared towards treating a different kind of dental problem.


The orthodontist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.


The three most common types of retainers are the Hawley Retainer, the Essix Retainer and a Fixed Retainer.

clear essix Invisalign retainer on a yellow background

Essix retainer

The Essix retainer is the most commonly used vacuum formed retainer (VFR). 

A mold is initially made of the teeth in their new alignment, and then clear PVC trays are created to fit over the arch in its entirety. 

VFR’s do not affect the aesthetic appearance of the smile in the same way as the Hawley retainer.

These are the most commonly used form of retainers and provide your main source of retention once braces are removed.

It is widely recommended that Essix retainers are worn 24 hours a day, apart from when you are eating, drinking or playing sports, for the 1st year following treatment. After this time your Orthodontist may recommend reducing wear to night time only.

Fixed Retainer

These are used as a temporary measure in conjunction with the Essix or Hawley retainers.

They provide extra support in helping to keep your teeth in their new position during the initial retention phase

Usually, a fixed retainer is used in cases where there has been either rapid or substantial movement of the teeth. 

It usually consists of a single wire. 

adult lingual wire braces on back of teeth

Hawley Retainer

The Hawley retainer consists of a metal wire on an acrylic arch. 

The metal wire may be periodically adjusted by the orthodontist to ensure the teeth stay in the desired position. 

The acrylic arch is designed to fit comfortably on the lingual walls or palate of the mouth.

The Hawley retainer is initially worn 16-18 hours daily. The wearing time is usually reduced after a few months to night time only.

two essix retainers on a black background