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Updated on July 25, 2022

Essix Retainer

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What is an Essix Retainer? 

Essix retainers are a type of orthodontic maintenance device. They protect the results of clear aligner or braces treatment. They also prevent unnecessary tooth movement.

These retainers are removable and are made of clear plastic. You need to wear them right after you finish orthodontic treatment. 

An Essix retainer is not a permanent retainer; it is typically worn just at night. Other clear, removable retainer options include Vivera and Zendura. 

close up portrait of a woman putting on a transparent plastic retainer a girl corrects a bite with an orthodontic device

Fix your teeth from home for cheaper than Invisalign. Learn about the best Invisalign alternatives.

How Do Essix Retainers Work?

To understand how an Essix removable retainer works, it’s essential to understand the entire orthodontic treatment process:

Phases of Orthodontic Treatment

Generally speaking, there are three phases of orthodontic treatment:

  1. Diagnostic — this is where the orthodontist examines your teeth and develops the treatment plan. 
  2. Treatment — depending on the treatment plan the orthodontist chooses, you will undergo one or more procedures.
  3. Retention — the orthodontist will fit your teeth for retainers during this phase. This keeps your teeth in place and prevents them from shifting.

Who Needs an Essix Retainer? 

Teeth have “memory.” If you don’t follow aftercare protocols, your teeth will relapse or move back into their original positions. 

For this reason, anyone who has undergone orthodontic treatment should wear an Essix (or similar) retainer. This ensures the teeth stay in place for years to come. 

Your dentist or orthodontist will determine if you should wear an Essix retainer or an alternative. 

Interested in straightening your teeth at home? Here are the best clear aligner companies.

How Long Do You Wear Essix Retainers?

Your orthodontist will tell you how long you should wear Essix retainers. The typical timeline is as follows:

First few months after treatment

For the first 3 to 6 months after treatment, you have to wear the retainers all day. You should also wear them at night indefnitely.

After a year

Your orthodontist will examine your teeth alignment after a year of wearing Essix retainers. Once they approve the results, you can start wearing the retainers only at night

Essix retainers can last for several years if you take proper care of them. Do not use damaged or cracked retainers. Buy a new pair if the retainers are damaged. 

Orthodontists usually offer packages where they include multiple sets of retainers. With this, you’ll have a backup retainer in case of loss or damage. 

If you don’t have a spare, set up an appointment with your orthodontist to get fitted for a new set. 

Pros of Essix Retainers 

Essix retainers have many advantages, including:

Design is less noticeable

Essix retainers are made of transparent plastic. Many people prefer the Essix clear design instead of the Hawley retainers for this reason. Unless someone is up close, they cannot see that you are wearing the retainers. 

Easier cleaning

Because Essix retainers are removable, maintaining good oral hygiene is easy. Compared to wire retainers, you can brush your teeth easily. Remove the plastic retainers and proceed with normal brushing. 

The retainers are easier to clean as well. Simply brush them under warm, not hot, running water to remove any food or bacteria. You can also deep clean your Essix retainers by using deep-cleaning solutions like this one

Easier to eat and drink

Essix retainers are removable. You can remove them when you're eating or drinking, which makes mealtimes much easier. Just put them back in once you’ve finished eating.

Durability

These retainers might be costly at first, but you can use them for several years. You’ll get your money’s worth if you take care of your retainers, too. A pair can last up to 5 years. 

Cons of Essix Retainers 

Here are some disadvantages of Essix retainers: 

  • Compared to more expensive brands such as Vivera, Essix is less sturdy
  • Repairs are not easy; replacement is usually the only solution 
  • Because they are made of plastic, Essix retainers can warp or melt if exposed to heat
  • Discoloration and stains are typical occurrences over time
  • They must be worn indefinitely to maintain results

How Much Do Essix Retainers Cost?

An Essix retainer costs around $150 to $500 for a full set. Compared to other options, Essix is cheaper. They are built to last for several years. 

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Taking Care of Essix Retainers

To exceed the value for your money, here’s how to take proper care of Essix retainers:

  1. Rinse the retainers with cold water before and after use
  2. Store them in a hard box or case when not in use
  3. Do not expose them to a too-hot or too-cold water, as this may cause damage
  4. Brush them with a non-abrasive soft toothbrush and toothpaste
  5. Rinse them after each meal

It’s time to replace your Essix retainers when you notice a crack or deformity. Refrain from using damaged retainers. The longest lifespan of an Essix retainer is up to 5 years. 

Other Types of Retainers

There are two major types of retainers: permanent and removable

1. Removable Retainers

Essix retainers belong to the removable group, along with Vivera and Zendura. These retainers are made of plastic.

Hawley retainers also belong to this group, but they differ. They are made of plastic or acrylic and have a metal wire. 

2. Permanent Bonded Retainers

A permanent bonded retainer is made of one of these types of wire: 

  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Titanium

A permanent retainer is cemented to the inside of the front teeth. They are also called fixed or bonded retainers.

When it comes to retainers, orthodontists are the best people to consult. After creating your treatment plan, they will tell you which type of retainers are best for you. 

Essix retainers are made just for you, according to your needs. If pricing is an issue, talk with your orthodontist about financing options. 

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 25, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Kumar, Arun G, and Anchal Bansal. “Effectiveness and acceptability of Essix and Begg retainers: a prospective study.” Australian orthodontic journal vol. 27,1 : 52-6.
  2. Jäderberg, S et al. “Removable thermoplastic appliances as orthodontic retainers—a prospective study of different wear regimens.” European Journal of Orthodontics, Volume 34, Issue 4, August 2012, Pages 475–479.
  3. Manzon, L et al. “Periodontal health and compliance: A comparison between Essix and Hawley retainers.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
  4. Chaimongkol, P et al. "Clear Retainer." Asian Pacific Orthodontic Society.
  5. Sheridan, JJ et al. "The Essix appliance technology: applications, fabrication and rationale." American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
  6. Kaya, Y et al. “Comparison of Two Retention Appliances with Respect to Clinical Effectiveness.” Turkish journal of orthodontics vol. 32,2 : 72-78.
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