Product Reviews
Updated on February 2, 2023
6 min read

Hawley Retainers

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What is a Hawley Retainer?

A Hawley retainer is an oral appliance made of wire and hard plastic or acrylic. The wire extends across the teeth to keep them aligned after braces are removed. The acrylic rests on the roof of the mouth.

Hawley retainers are removable. They’re often an affordable option if you don’t lose them or need replacements often.

While everyone is different, you’ll likely need to wear your Hawley retainer for 22+ hours a day for 3 to 6 months. When your orthodontist is confident that your teeth are stable, you can wear the retainer just while you sleep. 

If you’re unsure about how often you should wear your retainer, ask your orthodontist. For example, if your retainer feels tight, you’ll need to wear it more often. 

Retainers need to be worn indefinitely to prevent tooth movement. They should also be replaced every 5 to 8 years. 

How Much Does a Hawley Retainer Cost?

Hawley retainers usually cost between $150 and $300. This makes them an affordable option.

The total cost also depends on how well you take care of your Hawley retainers. If you lose or break them, it may be more cost-effective to have a permanent retainer fixed to the back of your teeth instead.

Pros and Cons of Hawley Retainers

There are various pros and cons of Hawley retainers:


  • Easy to mold to the mouth
  • Adjustable over time
  • Custom plate color
  • Materials are sturdy, durable, and difficult to damage
  • Easy to clean
  • Removable for easy care
  • No food restrictions


  • More noticeable than other retainers, as the wire sits in the front
  • Uncomfortable plastic plate
  • May lead to difficulty speaking
  • Bulkier, which may irritate lips, gums, or tongue
  • Bacteria may grow if not cleaned properly and regularly
  • Teeth may shift if not working properly
  • Requires dedicated wearing
  • Because it’s removable, it can be broken, lost, or damaged

Other Types of Retainers 

There are two basic types of retainers: permanent and removable. Hawley retainers are removable.

Your orthodontist will help you select the best type of retainer based on your needs and any conditions you may have.

You may receive just one type of retainer. Or, you may be given a removable retainer for your top teeth and a permanent one for your bottom.

Other types of retainers include:

Clear Plastic Retainers 

Clear plastic retainers are also removable. They’re molded to fit the new position of your teeth. 

These retainers are also called: 

  • Molded retainers
  • Thermoplastic retainers
  • Vacuum-formed retainers

To make clear plastic retainers, your orthodontist will create a mold of your teeth. Then, thin plastic or polyurethane heats and sucks down around the mold.


  • Virtually invisible, so you’re more likely to wear it
  • Less bulky and may be more comfortable than a Hawley retainer
  • Less likely to affect speech than a Hawley retainer 


  • Can’t be adjusted if you require realignment, it would need to be replaced 
  • If it cracks or breaks, it can’t be repaired 
  • May affect your speech more than permanent retainers 
  • Can warp if exposed to heat
  • Tends to become discolored and more visible over time
  • Top and bottom teeth don’t touch naturally with this retainer 
  • Can trap liquids against your teeth and cause cavities

The average price varies from $100 to $285 for one tray, upper or lower.

Permanent retainers

Permanent retainers have a solid or braided wire curved to fit the shape of your new, straightened smile. The wire bonds to the inside of your front teeth to prevent them from moving.

These types of retainers are most often used on lower teeth. They can only be removed by your orthodontist or dentist. 

Permanent retainers are also called:

  • Fixed retainers
  • Lingual wire retainers
  • Bonded retainers

Orthodontists often recommend permanent retainers if they think the teeth are likely to relapse. They might also recommend a permanent retainer to someone, like a child, who won’t follow the instructions for using a removable retainer properly.

Permanent retainers can be removed if necessary. This is usually due to a buildup of excess plaque and tartar or gum irritation. However, most are left in place indefinitely.


  • Complying with instructions for when and how long to wear it 
  • Isn’t visible to others
  • Unlikely to affect your speech
  • Can’t be misplaced or lost
  • Can’t be damaged easily 


  • May be difficult to maintain oral hygiene, especially flossing, because you can’t remove it. This causes plaque buildup, possibly leading to cavities and gum disease 
  • The metal wire might irritate your tongue at first

Permanent retainers should be cleaned daily. A threader can help dental floss reach under the wire to remove food, plaque, and tartar.

The average cost of permanent retainers varies from $225 to $550.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Hawley retainers straighten teeth?

Hawley retainers aren’t designed to straighten teeth. This is true unless you need a slight shift after you complete braces treatment.

Their primary purpose is to keep teeth in the correct position.

How do you clean a Hawley retainer?

Hawley retainers require daily cleaning to avoid gum disease, bad breath, and trapped food debris.

Oral hygiene is always essential, but even more so when you’re wearing retainers. If you don’t clean your retainer, it can lead to a buildup of plaque on the acrylic piece. This can impact the health of your teeth.

You should rinse the retainer whenever you remove it, and before placing it back in. Also, brush it once a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Use mild dish soap for a more thorough clean.

You can also soak your retainer weekly in a retainer cleaner.

When should you replace a Hawley retainer?

Some retainers require replacement every few months or years. 

Hawley retainers can last longer than clear plastic retainers, at around 5 to 8 years.3

Is a Hawley or fixed retainer better?

Whether you choose a Hawley or fixed retainer depends on your needs and any conditions you have. For example, if you have trouble following the rules for placing and removing it, a permanent retainer may be more suitable.

Is a Hawley or Essix retainer better?

Essix retainers are less expensive and less durable than other retainers, like Hawleys.

A Hawley retainer is a better choice for people who grind their teeth, play contact sports, or are more careless with their routines.

Does insurance cover Hawley retainers?

The cost of your Hawley retainer may be included in the price of your orthodontic care.

People whose insurance covers their braces treatment may have the retainer covered, too. Always check your policy.

Last updated on February 2, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 2, 2023
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. Ramazanzadeh, Baratali et al. “The retention characteristics of Hawley and vacuum-formed retainers with different retention protocols.” Journal of clinical and experimental dentistry vol. 10,3 e224-e231. 1 Mar. 2018
  2. Taking Care of Retainers, American Association of Orthodontists, October 2017 
  3. Retainer Replacement: How Much Is It and When Do You Need It?, Dentaly, December 2021
  4. Outhaisavanh, Souvannasing et al. “The origin and evolution of the Hawley retainer for the effectiveness to maintain tooth position after fixed orthodontic treatment compare to vacuum-formed retainer: A systematic review of RCTs.” International orthodontics vol. 18,2 : 225-236
  5. Shawesh, M et al. “Hawley retainers full- or part-time? A randomized clinical trial.” European journal of orthodontics vol. 32,2 : 165-70
  6. Al Rahma, Wafa Jaber et al. “Performance of Hawley-type retainers: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.” European journal of orthodontics vol. 40,2 : 115-125
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