• Dr Zak Kara

Retainers After Teeth Straightening and Invisalign - What's the Best Type? (2020)

Most of our new clients have already heard about how important retainers are, for after tooth straightening treatment. Some have learned how important they are the hard way.

(One of the most popular reasons why our clients find us is because they loved their smile after they finished braces as a teenager... but didn't wear retainers, and their teeth have drifted since! 😰).


Most people have no idea which type is best, and a lot dentists and orthodontists discuss retainers waaaaay too late, as if it's an after-thought!

This Easy-Scroll Guide is all about saving your future hours of hassle, wasted effort and cash. It covers:

  • What's the Point of Retainers?

  • What Options Do You Have?

  • The Pros and Cons, including How Long Do They Last and What Aftercare Is Needed?

Ultimately, No Retainer = No Lifetime Result 😟

... and you'll know from our other blogs what that means for your risk of chipped teeth, broken edges and ongoing wear and tear, too. It's all about protecting your smile and investment.

Are Retainers Needed After Braces (and Invisalign)?

Short answer --> Yes.

Long answer --> Still yes.

I love a life-hack just as much as everybody else, but I have to break this to you. It's not the answer you'd love. But nobody can negotiate with biology.

Your straightening treatment carefully re-positions your teeth, and it takes time for the ligaments around each tooth to re-model themselves to the new shape.

The ligament is a shock-absorber so it's elastic. If you try to swerve retainers, they'll just go ahead and spring back!

"Wear your retainers for as long as you'd like your teeth to stay straight!"

... Forever... Seriously?

Well here's a little hack which most dentists don't tell you. An Inner Circle secret for you:

If you tame your teeth into their new positions by wearing your retainers consistently (that means 18+ hours per day at the start, then every night for years), you may be able to reduce your retainer wear to 5 nights per week. Or even alternate nights. Or even twice a week to check that they fit without any pressure on any teeth.

Teeth Become Gappy / Crowded / Drift Back after Teeth Straightening

... BUT

(Yep, there's always a "but"!)

If you leave it too long (or fall out of the habit of wearing them!), putting your retainers in won't re-position any subtle drifting. They simply won't fit any more! 😭 And the only fix for that is even more tooth straightening treatment.

What Are My Options for Retainers?

1. Basic Clear Retainer

These are sometimes known as 'Essix' Retainers and look similar to the kind of aligners made by At-Home Braces companies. A thin plastic shell 'clicks in' over your teeth. They're OK.

❓ You'll find them easy to clean with a toothbrush and they may last several months. They're cheap to re-make but if you grind your teeth or don't take good care of them you may find yourself needing a replacements quite often.

And if they're not made by a laboratory who care about attention to detail, they can make the inner lining of your mouth sore ⚠️ or cut into the inside of your lips... so it's kind of unsurprising when people fall out of the habit of wearing them! At Bournemouth Straight Teeth we only recommend these as a temporary 'holding option' for a couple of weeks, for example after we have finished Tooth Straightening and are planning for Composite Bonding or Cosmetic Dentistry soon.

⚠️ BEWARE: Must be made to properly cover all of your teeth, including your last molar.

2. Vivera Retainer

Vivera retainers are Invisalign's branded version of the Essix retainer. They fit precisely because they're made from an easy digital scan of your teeth. Invisalign uses the same 3D printing technology as it uses to custom-make its clear braces for you.

Are they better than Essix retainers? They're much more hard-wearing because the Vivera material is so durable, and the super-accurate fit means that even teeth which are prone to twisting don't 'slip' around within them. We find that they last for years.

Even better, when we talk about Vivera Retainers, it isn't just one pair. It's 3 Upper 3 Lower Retainers, all from the same scan and moulds, and all delivered at the same time:

  1. One set for 18+ hours of wear, then all-night every-night without fail.

  2. One set in your sock drawer (where it's dry and safe from pets!) as a backup.

  3. One set in your suitcase or weekend bag "just incase you forget."

The other reason we love Vivera retainers is that it's easy to get new ones shipped directly to you because we save the digital scan securely. It means deliveries are quick in an emergency -- the less time for your teeth to drift, the better!

3. Hawley Retainer

The old-school 'traditional' style retainer which makes you think of 'childhood removable braces'.

Especially useful in younger kids after they have expanders in the palate to help the shape of their mouth grow to accommodate all their teeth!

But if you're an adult who comes to us at Bournemouth Straight Teeth, it's extremely unlikely that we'll recommend a Hawley retainer. They're strong and can be adjusted/ repaired, but the bulky plastic is cumbersome. It also won't stop an individual tooth from twisting around.

4. Fixed Hidden Retainer

Fixed Hidden Retainers Can Work Amazingly Well

The retainer which all dentists LOVE 😍 and HATE 😡 in equal measure. Read on for these final gems of info and we'll explain why.

Fixed Hidden Retainers (aka. Lingual Retainer) are a discreet wire glued to the tongue-side of your front 4 or front 6 teeth. They're easy to get used to and most people forget they're there within a couple of weeks.

But there's an issue. Every dentist comes out in a cold sweat when they hear it called a "PERMANENT" retainer 🙈

  1. It absolutely definitely certainly IS NOT PERMANENT, I promise you!

  2. It needs to be worn IN COMBINATION with another type of removable retainer, or your teeth will drift regardless. Why? Because the shape and position of your back teeth can still move, causing them to overcrowd and jumble up again.

Teeth Can Overlap Even With A Fixed Hidden Retainer

Fixed Hidden Retainers also collect staining and tartar around them if they're not thoroughly cared for, which can cause bad breath. They work great, so long as you use daily Interdental (TePe) brushes and have 3-6 monthly Professional Hygiene Visits without fail.

(You can probably see, they're far from the Holy Grail in the world of retainers!)

So... Do We Have a Winner?

My Recommendation DEPENDS ON YOU... there's no 'one size fits all'.

If you've had Invisalign in Bournemouth with us, you will know your preferences by a few months into your tooth straightening treatment. If you're wearing your aligners with comfort, no doubt you'll find removable retainers a breeze.

Vivera Retainers are included with ALL of our Tooth Straightening Packages regardless, because we find so few problems with drifting teeth afterwards. We believe in them!

If you prefer an option where after a couple of years, you need to wear your Vivera Retainers for fewer nights every week, a Fixed Hidden Retainer + Vivera Retainers is ideal. So long as your self-performed home hygiene is tip top!

Then again, if you're a forgetful person or know you will fall out of the habit of wearing the Vivera Retainers, it's better to keep in a good routine of nightly wear. So a Fixed Hidden Retainer might not be that worthwhile.

#doitonce #doitproperly changingperceptions #beyourself #laughter #dowhatyoulove #lovewhatyoudo #bournemouth #bournemouthbeach #bournemouthuni

Bournemouth Straight Teeth are the most sought after team for Invisalign, Teeth Straightening in Bournemouth and Cosmetic Dentistry on the South Coast, provided during convenient evening/ weekend hours.

They are renowned for helping their Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, Wimborne and Ringwood clients achieve a lifetime supply of self-confidence by designing head-turning smiles... all without any old-fashioned over-formal white tunic weirdness. Learn More