Updated on February 22, 2024
5 min read

Essix Retainers: How They Work, Costs, and Alternatives

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What is an Essix Retainer? 

An Essix retainer is a removable orthodontic retainer made of clear plastic. They protect the results of clear aligner or braces treatment and prevent unnecessary tooth movement.

Many people choose Essix retainers because they prefer the aesthetics of clear plastic. They’re also typically only worn at night, unlike permanent retainers.

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How Do Essix Retainers Work?

Like other orthodontic retainers, Essix retainers work by holding your teeth in alignment. They maintain the results of braces or clear aligners by keeping your teeth or jaw from shifting.

Your dentist will have your Essix retainers custom-made to fit your teeth. They’ll take impressions of your mouth and send them to a lab for manufacturing.

Essix retainers only work if you wear them as instructed by your dentist. Most of the time, they only need to be worn at night.

How Much Do Essix Retainers Cost?

An Essix retainer costs around $150 to $500 for a full set. Compared to other options, Essix retainers are on the lower end of the price range, making them more affordable.

Essix retainers are built to last for up to a few years, which can make their price even more appealing.

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How Long Do You Wear Essix Retainers?

You will likely need to wear your Essix retainer around the clock for the first 3 to 6 months after treatment and indefinitely at night. 

Your orthodontist will tell you how long you should wear Essix retainers, but the typical timeline is as follows:

3 to 6 Months After Braces

For the first 3 to 6 months after getting your braces or aligners off, you’ll have to wear the retainers all day and all night.

After One 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. You’ll need to replace them if they get damaged, typically every few years.

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

Essix Retainers vs. Other Types of Retainers

There are two major types of retainers: permanent and removable. It’s worthwhile to compare Essix retainers to the alternatives before you decide which is best for you.

Essix Retainers vs. Hawley Retainers

The other major type of removable retainer is Hawley. Hawley retainers have a hard plastic or acrylic plate and a metal wire that crosses your teeth. 

Hawley retainers are just as effective as Essix retainers, though they are more noticeable. People who are concerned about the aesthetics of their smile may prefer a clear plastic retainer like Essix.

Essix Retainers vs. Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers, also called fixed or bonded retainers, are cemented on the inside of your front teeth. A permanent bonded retainer is typically made of copper, nickel, or titanium wire. 

If you don’t think you’ll remember to wear your removable retainers, permanent retainers can be a great option. If you don’t want your retainers fixed to your teeth, Essix retainers may be a better choice.

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Pros and Cons of Essix Retainers 

Essix retainers aren’t the only type of retainer you can wear after braces. Knowing their pros and cons can help you understand if they’re the right choice for you.


Essix retainers have many advantages, including:

  • Low-profile design — Essix retainers are made of transparent plastic. Unless someone is up close, they can’t tell you’re wearing retainers. 
  • Easier to clean — Brush your retainer under warm, not hot, running water to remove any food or bacteria. You can also deep clean your Essix retainers using deep-cleaning solutions like this one
  • Optimal oral hygiene — Because Essix retainers are removable, you’ll have no issue maintaining good oral hygiene. It’s more difficult to brush your teeth with permanent retainers.
  • Easier to eat and drink — You can remove your Essix retainer when you’re eating or drinking, which makes mealtimes much easier. Just put them back in once you’ve finished eating.
  • Durability — If you care for your retainer properly, it can last for up to 5 years.
  • Affordable — Compared to other retainers on the market, Essix retainers are relatively inexpensive.


Here are some disadvantages of Essix retainers: 

  • Less sturdy than other brands — Compared to more expensive brands such as Vivera, Essix is less sturdy.
  • Difficult to repair — If your Essix retainer gets damaged, the only solution is to replace them.
  • Plastic can warp — Because they are made of plastic, Essix retainers can warp or melt if exposed to too much heat.
  • May become discolored — It’s not uncommon for an Essix retainer to discolor or stain over time.

Taking Care of Essix Retainers

If you take good care of your Essix retainers, they will last up to 5 years. 

Follow these tips to keep your Essix retainers in the best possible shape:

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


Essix retainers are clear plastic retainers that hold your teeth in alignment after braces. They’re removable, easy to clean, and hard to notice by other people.

You might choose an Essix retainer if you’re interested in a retainer that doesn’t affect your smile. Essix retainers are an affordable option, at between $150 and $500 a set. They’re easy to clean and take care of, but they’re less sturdy than other brands.

Another removable retainer to consider is the Hawley retainer, which uses a visible wire. You can also get a permanent retainer fixed to the inside of your front teeth. Always talk to your orthodontist about which type of retainer is right for you.

What’s Next?

Discover the best fit for your smile.

Explore top at-home clear aligner brands.

Last updated on February 22, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
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, A., et all. “Effectiveness and acceptability of Essix and Begg retainers: a prospective study.” Australian Orthodontic Journal, National Library of Medicine, 2011.
  2. Jäderberg, S., et al. “Removable thermoplastic appliances as orthodontic retainers—a prospective study of different wear regimens.” European Journal of Orthodontics, Oxford Academic, 2012.
  3. Manzon, L., et al. “Periodontal health and compliance: A comparison between Essix and Hawley retainers.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Elsevier Inc., 2018.
  4. Chaimongkol, P., et al. “Clear Retainer.” Asian Pacific Orthodontic Society, Scientific Scholar, 2017.
  5. Sheridan, J., et al. “The Essix appliance technology: applications, fabrication and rationale.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Elsevier Inc., 2003.
  6. Kaya, Y., et al. “Comparison of Two Retention Appliances with Respect to Clinical Effectiveness.” Turkish Journal of Orthodontics, 2019.
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