Updated on February 7, 2024
6 min read

Hawley Retainers

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

What is a Hawley Retainer?

A Hawley retainer is a common type of orthodontic retainer. It consists of two main elements:

  1. A piece of hard plastic or acrylic resting on the roof of the mouth
  2. A wire extended across the teeth

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

How Does a Hawley Retainer Work?

You’ll most likely wear a Hawley retainer after you get your metal braces off. They’re designed to maintain the changes braces have made to your teeth.

The wire of a Hawley retainer keeps the front teeth in alignment. The acrylic or plastic piece on the roof of the mouth simply holds the wire in place.

Your orthodontist can adjust the wire as needed for the best fit.

Listen In Q&A Format

Hawley Retainers
NewMouth Podcast

How Long Do I Have to Wear a Hawley Retainer?

You’ll typically need to wear your Hawley retainer for 22+ hours daily for 3 to 6 months. Once your orthodontist is confident that your teeth are stable, you can wear the retainer while sleeping. 

Retainers need to be worn indefinitely to prevent tooth movement. With proper care, you should only need to replace them every 5 to 8 years. 

What Do Hawley Retainers Look Like?

Hawley retainers have a plastic or acrylic piece shaped to fit the roof of your mouth. This piece attaches to the metal wires that hold your teeth in place.

An orthodontists hand with disposable gloves holds Hawley retainers

You can customize the appearance of your Hawley retainer. The plastic or acrylic piece can come in various color combinations and patterns, such as sparkles, rainbow, holiday designs, or your school colors. 

How Much Does a Hawley Retainer Cost?

Hawley retainers usually cost between $150 and $300. They are typically more affordable than other types of retainers. The cost may be included in the price of your orthodontic care.

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

Does Insurance Cover Hawley Retainers?

Your insurance may cover your Hawley retainer. People whose insurance covers their braces treatment may have the retainer covered, too. Consult your policy for more details.

Pros and Cons of Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are only one option when you’re choosing orthodontic retainers. Like any orthodontic appliance, they have their advantages and disadvantages.

The pros of Hawley retainers include:

  • Highly customizable — Hawley retainers are molded to fit your mouth and can be adjusted over time. You can also choose your color and design.
  • Very durable — Hawley retainers use materials that are sturdy, durable, and difficult to damage.
  • Easy to care for — You can remove and clean your Hawley retainers anytime. They’re easy to store in a case and carry around.
  • No food restrictions — You can eat and drink whatever you want while wearing your Hawley retainers.
  • Affordable — Hawley retainers are one of the least expensive options on the market. Your orthodontist might include their cost in the price of your braces, and you may be able to use insurance to cover them.

The cons of Hawley retainers include:

  • Poor aesthetics — They’re more noticeable than other retainers, as the wire sits in the front. 
  • Discomfort or irritation — You may find the plastic piece uncomfortable. Hawley retainers are bulkier, which can irritate your lips, gums, or tongue. They may also lead to difficulty speaking.
  • Potential hygiene issues — Bacteria may grow if you don’t clean your retainers regularly.
  • Possible errors — Your teeth may shift if the retainer isn’t fitted correctly. Its removable nature also makes it more likely to be damaged or lost.
  • Requires vigilance — You’ll need to wear your retainer constantly until your orthodontist tells you not to. Even then, you’ll likely need to wear it at night indefinitely.

How to Care for a Hawley Retainer

Caring for your Hawley retainer is easy and will extend the appliance’s life. Follow these tips to keep your Halwey in good shape:

  • Clean your retainer regularly — Rinse it and brush it with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste daily. This will help plaque and bacteria from building up on it. You can also soak your retainer weekly in a retainer cleaner.
  • Keep it away from high temperatures — Heat can melt or warp your Hawley retainer’s shape. Always keep it in a cool or room-temperature environment.
  • Store it safely — When you’re not wearing your Hawley retainer, keep it in its dedicated case to protect it. Store it somewhere you won’t lose it or throw it away.

If you take good care of your Hawley retainer, you can use it effectively for many years.

Hawley vs. Other Types of Retainers 

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

You may receive one type for your top teeth and another for the bottom. Your orthodontist will help you select the best type of retainer based on your needs and any conditions you may have.

Here’s an overview of how Hawley retainers compare to other common retainers on the market.

Hawley vs. Clear Retainers 

Clear retainers are also removable. The plastic is molded to fit the new position of your teeth. 

Many people prefer clear retainers because they’re virtually invisible, improving the aesthetics of your smile. They may also be more comfortable and cause fewer speech issues.

However, you can’t adjust a clear retainer, so you’ll need to replace it if you need changes or repairs. They also tend to stain over time, losing their aesthetic value. A clear retainer may trap liquids and bacteria, leading to more cavities.

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

Hawley vs. Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers, also known as fixed retainers, have a solid or braided wire curved to fit the shape of your teeth. The wire bonds to the inside of your front teeth to prevent them from moving.

Permanent or fixed retainers are most often used on lower teeth. They can only be removed by your orthodontist or dentist, though most are left in place indefinitely. 

Orthodontists often recommend permanent retainers if they think the teeth are likely to relapse. They might also recommend a permanent retainer to someone who may not follow the instructions for using a removable retainer properly.

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


Hawley retainers are orthodontic retainers made of wire and plastic or acrylic. They maintain the alignment changes achieved by metal braces.

Highly durable and easy to clean, Hawley retainers can last for 5 to 8 years when cared for properly. You can customize the color and fit of the retainer, adjusting it as needed. 

Hawley retainers are affordable orthodontic retainers, ranging between $150 and $300. They may be included in the cost of your braces or covered by insurance.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
5 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 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. Ramazanzadeh, B., et al. “The retention characteristics of Hawley and vacuum-formed retainers with different retention protocols.” Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2018.
  2. Taking Care of Retainers.” American Association of Orthodontists, 2017.
  3. Outhaisavanh, S., 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, National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  4. Shawesh, M., et al. “Hawley retainers full- or part-time? A randomized clinical trial.” European Journal of Orthodontics, National Library of Medicine, 2010.
  5. Al Rahma, W., et al. “Performance of Hawley-type retainers: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.” European Journal of Orthodontics, National Library of Medicine, 2018.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram