Updated on April 24, 2024
4 min read

Should You Get a Permanent Retainer?

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Key Takeaways

  • Permanent or fixed retainers are retainers that use metal wires to keep your teeth in place
  • Permanent retainers can cost between $150 to $500
  • They’re not necessarily better than removable retainers and have their own pros and cons
  • You’re at risk of gum disease, cavities, and other oral health problems if you can’t properly maintain your permanent retainer

What is a Permanent Retainer? 

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

3d render of dental bonded retainer on upper jaw

An orthodontist often recommends a fixed retainer with clear aligners or braces after finishing orthodontic treatment. The retainer ensures your teeth don’t 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.

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Permanent Retainers: Pros, Cons, & Costs
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How Much Does a Permanent Retainer Cost? 

Permanent retainers cost between $150 and $500 for the initial placement or to 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?

According to John Reed, a dental health expert and founder of TestPrepPal.com, permanent retainers are generally better for people who’ve experienced significant orthodontic treatment. Because of this, their teeth need constant guidance to keep them in place.

On the other hand, removable retainers are better for people who need minor control. It’s also good for people with active lifestyles or dietary habits due to its flexibility.

3d render of dental bonded retainer on lower jaw

Additionally, removable retainers are usually made for the upper teeth. While permanent retainers are usually placed on the back surfaces of the lower front teeth. However, both retainers have their strengths and limitations.

Pros & Cons of Permanent Retainers

These are the advantages and disadvantages of permanent retainers:

You don’t need to take them off, ensuring your teeth don’t shiftThe process of fixing a permanent retainer may take up to one hour
It’s discreet because it’s bonded behind your teeth Brushing and flossing around a permanent retainer can be challenging
It doesn’t affect how you speakIncreased risk of cavities and gum disease if you can’t properly maintain and clean them
You can’t lose itSugary foods like soda may wear away the natural tooth structure around the retainer, loosening it
It won’t get damaged by routine activitiesCertain foods, like apples or steak, can bend the wire out of place
Sugary foods like soda may wear away the natural tooth structure around the retainer loosening it
The metal wire may break off or debond, requiring replacement or repair

Pros & Cons of Removable Retainers

These are the advantages and disadvantages of removable retainers:

You can take out a removable retainer at any timeYou need to remove them while playing sports or eating
It only takes about five minutes to make a mold of your mouth to create a removable retainerYou may easily lose or accidentally throw away a removable retainer
You can easily clean a removable retainer by soaking it in a cleaning solutionIt’s usually more expensive to replace than a fixed retainer
It’s easier to floss and brush your natural teeth because you can remove the retainer

What Problems Can Permanent Retainers Cause?

If you can’t properly maintain or clean a permanent retainer, it can lead to dental problems. This includes:

  • Plaque, tartar, bacteria, or calculus build-up
  • Gum disease
  • Cavities

If your orthodontic treatment has been successful, your permanent retainer shouldn’t cause 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 

Brush your teeth as usual. Make sure to get the bristles in and out around the crevices of the teeth to ensure every area is cleaned. 

It’s important to clean the areas near the bonded material and behind the metal wire. Although it can be difficult, you shouldn’t forget to floss.

Options for flossing include floss threaders and oral irrigators. These can help you remove food and plaque debris between teeth.

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.

Last updated on April 24, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 24, 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. 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 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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