Choosing Between a Removable Retainer and a Permanent Retainer

Before we get into the crux of this conversation, we want to give you a big “congratulations”! If you are at the stage where your Orthodontist is discussing retainer options with you, then you are close to completion of your braces or Invisalign treatment and that much closer to having the smile you want. Just because we are through the woods on that, doesn’t mean treatment is over. Now it’s time to discuss how we are going to maintain that beautiful smile by choosing what type of retainer. Read on for the Pros and Cons of each type.

There are two types of removable retainers: the Hawley and the Invisible (Essix).



  • Easier to clean your teeth and the appliance
  • Easy to put on since they are molded specifically for your teeth
  • Virtually invisible
  • Comes in lots of fun colors


  • Size is small and easy to misplace or break
  • Teeth may shift if you don’t wear them as directed
  • Visible wire on outside of teeth
  • May cause slight speech impediment while wearing
  • Must be taken out to eat (this could also be considered a pro since you don’t have to worry about what to eat)
  • Household pets will love to chew on these




  • Clear and virtually invisible
  • Easy to clean
  • Can be used as a bleaching tray
  • Covers the teeth completely which can help protect other dental restorations (fillings, crowns, etc.)
  • Can protect teeth if you are someone who likes to grind


  • Doesn’t allow the teeth to breathe and holds liquid on your teeth
  • May be more susceptible to damage if left in extreme hot or cold weather
  • Must be replaced if damaged, whereas a Hawley can be repaired




  • Less chance of teeth migrating since retainer is in 100% of the time
  • No need to worry about compliance
  • No cosmetic issue since you can’t see the small wire hidden behind the teeth


  • Need to watch what you eat so you don’t break it
  • Takes extra time to floss and clean teeth
  • You can feel the wire with your tongue and it takes some getting used to

Depending on type of treatment and future concerns with teeth shifting, your Orthodontist may already have one in mind or a combination of both. If you are given a choice, it’s worth having a discussion and letting your Doctor know your concerns and preferences. Personally, I chose a permanent retainer because I couldn’t be trusted to bring my case with me everywhere or to pack it on long trips.

Congratulations again on the completion of your journey to the smile you’ve always wanted!