How are wire dental retainers different than other dental retainers?

Dustin S. Burleson, DDS
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Dental Retainers. Wire retainers have been used successfully for many years and are probably the most common type of retainer. Patients identify immediately with the wire that runs across the front teeth to help maintain tooth alignment and symmetry. The Hawley retainer is probably the most popular type of removable retainer. It is made of plastic and stainless steel wire and is custom-made for your mouth and teeth. Variations of this type of retainer are too numerous to list, but they all achieve the same result -- maintenance of tooth alignment.

Clear or Invisible Retainers. With the advent of new, clear plastic materials in orthodontics, patients can benefit from more esthetic options during the retention phase of orthodontic treatment. Clear retainers are comfortable, esthetic, and require no adjustment. However, they can be severely worn or broken if subjected to heavy biting forces. You might consider a clear retainers as a back-up retainer and for social convenience during the first 3-6 months. If the Hawley retainer is lost or broken, the clear retainer can be used as a back-up, while your dentist makes a new Hawley retainer.

  1. Little RM, Riedel RA, Artun J. An evaluation of changes in mandibular anterior alignment from 10 to 20 years postretention. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics; 1988 (93): 423-428.
  2. Nanda RS, Nanda SK. Considerations of dentofacial growth in long-term retention and stability: is active retention needed? American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 1992 (101): 297-302.
The most common retainer is the Hawley-type retainer, a piece of plastic usually molded to the roof of the mouth. It has wires attached to the plastic, and it stays in place with wires going over the front of your teeth. This type of retainer is removable, is typically worn 12 to 24 hours a day, and is taken out when eating. Another option is a clear plastic retainer that covers the teeth, called a “vacuform” or Essix-type retainer, which is also removable and worn at night. The wire dental retainer, however, is permanently attached to the back of your teeth with dental glue. The wire retainer can stay on your teeth for years as long as it is well maintained.

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