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Updated on December 2, 2023
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Permanent Retainers

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What is a Permanent Retainer? 

A permanent or fixed retainer is a metal wire that is cemented to your teeth. This wire is typically smooth and solid or has a braided texture. 

3d render of dental bonded retainer on upper jaw

After finishing orthodontic treatment with clear aligners or braces, an orthodontist will often recommend a fixed retainer. The retainer ensures your teeth do not shift or return to their original position.1 

Your orthodontist may also recommend one if you have difficulties wearing removable retainers regularly. However, the bonding material must have a certain amount of natural tooth surface to fix the retainer in place.

How Much Does a Permanent Retainer Cost? 

Permanent retainers cost between $150 and $500 to fix or replace. Fortunately, permanent retainers don’t often need to be replaced.

The placement cost may be included in the total price of your orthodontic treatment. Some dental insurance plans may also cover the cost of permanent retainers.

Permanent vs. Removable Retainers: Which is Right for You?

A permanent retainer can be an excellent alternative to a removable retainer. However, both retainers have their strengths and limitations.

Orthodontists often use permanent and removable retainers to prevent relapse. Recent surveys of practicing orthodontists prove that permanent retainers are becoming particularly popular.2

A removable retainer is usually made for the upper teeth. A permanent retainer is usually placed on the back surfaces of the lower front teeth. 

Watch Our Video Podcast About Permanent Retainers

Pros of Permanent Retainers

3d render of dental bonded retainer on lower jaw

The advantages of permanent retainers include:

  • You do not have to remember to put it on and take it off, making it easier to make sure your teeth don’t shift once your orthodontic treatment is complete.
  • It is discreet because it is bonded behind your teeth. Nobody else will know it is there except for you and your dentist. 
  • It has little to no effect on how you speak, so you do not have to feel self-conscious.
  • You cannot lose it because it is securely fixed to your teeth with dental glue.
  • It is not easily damaged by routine activities. 

Cons of Permanent Retainers

The disadvantages of permanent retainers include:

  • The process of fixing a permanent retainer may take up to one hour.
  • Brushing and flossing around a permanent retainer can be challenging.
  • Your risk of cavities and gum disease increases if you do not properly maintain and clean your bonded retainer.
  • Having a metal object in your mouth can be uncomfortable. Your tongue may rub against the wire, and if the retainer breaks or breaks, your tongue may get scratched or irritated.
  • Eating certain foods might change how effective a permanent retainer is. Biting into hard foods, like an apple or steak, can bend the wire out of place.
  • Foods high in artificial sugars or additives, like soda, may also wear away at the natural tooth structure around the fixed retainer, loosening the bond to the teeth.
  • The metal wire may break off or debond, requiring replacement or repair.

Pros of Removable Retainers

The advantages of removable retainers include:

  • You can take out a removable retainer at any time, like when you are eating or brushing your teeth.
  • It only takes about five minutes to make an impression (mold) of your mouth to create a removable retainer that will last for years.
  • You can easily clean a removable retainer by soaking it in a cleaning solution. This helps to clean bacteria and deposits that collect quickly on removable plastic retainers.
  • It is easier to floss and brush your natural teeth because you can remove the retainer. 

Cons of Removable Retainers

The disadvantages of removable retainers include:

  • A removable retainer must be taken out while playing sports or eating, which can be inconvenient at times.
  • Some people are more likely to lose or accidentally throw away a removable retainer.
  • It is usually more expensive to replace than a fixed retainer.

What Problems Can Permanent Retainers Cause?

An improperly maintained permanent retainer can lead to dental problems, including an accumulation of:

  • Calculus
  • Tartar
  • Plaque
  • Bacteria

Practicing regular oral hygiene and attending preventive care appointments while wearing retainers is essential to prevent cavities and gum disease.

If your orthodontic treatment has been successful, your permanent retainer should not cause tooth movement or discomfort. However, a permanent retainer may cause some initial pain or discomfort as you get used to it. If the pain persists, your orthodontist may recommend some alternative options.

How to Take Care of a Permanent Retainer 

It is essential to clean your retainer daily to maintain it and protect the surrounding teeth. 

Brush your teeth as you usually would, taking care to get the bristles in and out around the crevices of the teeth to ensure every area is cleaned. 

Take extra care to clean the areas near the bonded material and behind the metal wire.

It may be more difficult to floss with a permanent retainer. Options for flossing include floss threaders and oral irrigators to remove food and plaque debris between teeth. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should get a permanent retainer?

A permanent retainer is an excellent choice for people who want their teeth to stay aligned without the daily hassle of putting it on and taking it off. 

A permanent retainer is also a great option for people who don’t like the feeling of a bulky retainer in their mouth or have particular sensory or special needs.

When should I replace a permanent retainer? 

A bonded wire retainer can last 10 years or more with proper care. This is significantly longer than some other types of retainers.

If your permanent retainer breaks, a repair might be possible. A repair will cost less than a replacement.

Can your teeth shift with a permanent retainer? 

In cases where you wear a broken permanent retainer that has not been fixed for a few weeks or months, your teeth may shift.

Do permanent retainers make it more difficult to brush and floss your teeth? 

It can be challenging to brush and floss your teeth while wearing a permanent retainer. Try to brush your teeth as you usually would, ensuring you brush the crevices between the teeth so that no area gets neglected.

Flossing is a more significant challenge when wearing permanent retainers. However, it is not too tricky once you get the hang of it. Try not to be too forceful when flossing, or you may cut or injure your gums.

What should I do if my permanent retainer breaks? 

If your fixed retainer breaks, it is not usually an urgent matter. You will likely notice a loose or broken wire or a shift in your composite bonds. If you experience something like this, you should contact your orthodontist to have it repaired.

It is fine to wait a few days to have your permanent retainer repaired. However, you should not wait weeks or months to fix a broken permanent retainer. If you wait too long, you may experience unwanted dental movement.

Can I remove my permanent retainer myself?

As a permanent retainer is fixed into place, it should only be removed by a dental professional. If you attempt to remove a permanent retainer yourself, it could result in severe injury and damage to your teeth.

Last updated on December 2, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 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. Lai S et al. “Orthodontic retention procedures in Switzerland.” Swiss Dental Journal, 2014.
  2. Pratt et al. “Evaluation of retention protocols among members of the American Association of Orthodontists in the United States.” American journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics: official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics, 2011.
  3. Kartal, Y. and Burçak K. “Fixed Orthodontic Retainers: A Review.” Turkish Journal of Orthodontics, 2019.
  4. Al-Moghrabi et al. “The effects of fixed and removable orthodontic retainers: a systematic review.” Progress in Orthodontics, 2016.
  5. Al-Jewair, Thikriat S et al. “Retention practices and factors affecting retainer choice among orthodontists in Saudi Arabia.” Saudi Medical Journal, 2016.
  6. Navabi, N et al. “Orthodontic treatment and the oral health-related quality of life of patients.” Journal of dentistry (Tehran, Iran), 2012.
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