The Essix retainer: your new best friend if you're looking for a way to keep your teeth straight after orthodontic work. No, it’s not a strange legal term, it's just the official name for a clear plastic retainer.
Many people prefer to wear clear retainers after braces because, just like invisible braces, they are very hard to notice.
If you're looking at all the different types of retainer and trying to decide whether a removable Essix retainer is right for you, we're here to help. This article answers important questions like:
- What does an Essix retainer cost in the UK?
- How long do clear retainers last?
- How to clean Essix retainers
- Pros and cons of clear plastic retainers vs other types
So you can make a fully informed decision about your dental care. Let's get started!
Table of contents
- 1 What is an Essix retainer?
- 2 Clear plastic retainer uses
- 3 Essix retainer cost in the UK
- 4 How long do clear retainers last?
- 5 How to clean Essix retainers
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 FAQs
What is an Essix retainer?
An Essix retainer is a removable retainer made of durable clear plastic material. Essentially, these smile correctors are moulded to fit perfectly over your teeth. They need to be a tight fit to stop your teeth moving out of alignment again (known as relapsing). These plastic retainers come in upper and lower sets, or as a single device, and are often the cheapest type of retainer.
Clear retainers are made from a model of your teeth, so they are a precise fit. This model can be created either from a 3D scan or from a dental impression using putty.
Are Essix retainers best?
An Essix retainer may be the better choice for you, and it may not. Below is a short pros and cons list to help you decide if a clear retainer is right for you.
- You don't have to limit what you eat, as long as you remove them first
- The easiest option when it comes to cleaning
- Clear and practically invisible
- Not too expensive
- Difficult to speak with at first
- Easily warped or broken from heat or stress
- Can get stained if you don't clean them properly
What is the difference between a Hawley and an Essix retainer?
A Hawley is more commonly known as a “wrap around” retainer and has noticeable metal wires that sit across your teeth. This type can be more durable than Essix but also costs a little more.
Have a look at the following table for a summary of the differences between these two options:
Wire and plastic
£60 - £145
£70 - £150
6 months - 3 years
5 - 10 years
To sum up, an Essix is a clear alternative to the Hawley that snaps into place and doesn't leave the characteristic wire that interrupts your smile. Basically, you can become an orthodontic ninja and hide your retainer from everyone you know!
Clear plastic retainer uses
The most common use for Essix retainers is to keep teeth from shifting after braces have been taken off. This type of retainer is convenient to wear because it can be removed easily for cleaning and eating and doesn’t impact the appearance of your smile.
Clear retainers are usually worn at night while you sleep, although your orthodontist may instruct you to wear yours during the day as well when your braces first come off. An Essix retainer can be used in conjunction with a permanent retainer to ensure that teeth do not shift out of place.
It's also possible to use a series of Essix retainers to slightly shift the position of your teeth, although the more common way to do this is using removable aligner braces, which are specifically designed to straighten teeth bit by bit. Invisalign is a popular brand of clear aligner, but it's not the cheapest. If you're considering using retainers to straighten your teeth because of the cost, check out some cheaper Invisalign alternatives instead.
Essix retainer for missing teeth
Essix retainers can also be used to hide missing teeth. The retainer is made as usual and then a prosthetic tooth is inserted into the gap(s). Once the Essix retainer with tooth replacements is snapped in, it gives the appearance of a complete smile.
These clear retainers are sometimes suggested to prevent the ICL (interproximal contact loss) between an implant restoration and the adjacent tooth. Sometimes an implant tooth can end up wearing down the tooth next to it due to natural shifting, and Essix retainers are one way to prevent this from becoming too problematic.
Essix retainer cost in the UK
Essix clear retainers cost between £60 and £145 per device on average (£120 to £290 per set). This makes them one of the cheaper retainer options, although they aren't as durable as some of the alternatives. You should weigh up both cost and durability when deciding on the right type of retainer for you.
It's a good idea to check prices with a few different dentists and find one you're happy with. You can also look at using an online retainer service which is typically a cheaper option.
What does a clear retainer replacement cost?
The cost of a replacement Essix retainer will be similar to what you paid for your original one.
When you need a new clear retainer, begin by going back to the dentist who made your first one. If they still have your teeth impressions or scans on file, they may give you a small discount on your replacement.
Any other dentist will also be able to make a new plastic retainer for you, but they will need to scan your mouth or take dental impressions first.
Can you buy an Essix retainer online in the UK?
Yes, you can order a clear retainer replacement online if your current one is showing signs of wear and tear. When you buy an Essix retainer online, you need to take your own teeth impressions at home. Send these off in the post and your new retainers will soon be with you.
Since this type of service cuts out the overheads of a dental clinic, it's typically more affordable than a dentist visit. Plus, you can get several sets made at once so you know you're covered if one of them gets lost or breaks unexpectedly.
What does an Invisalign/Vivera retainer cost?
Invisalign make their own clear retainers under the brand Vivera. Invisalign retainers cost £125 – £200 per set on average, but there is no fixed price. You'll often find them in sets of 3 or 4. That means you have to pay £400 -£800 up-front.
How long do clear retainers last?
Clear Essix retainers can last anywhere from six months to three years or more with proper care and maintenance. The plastic does degrade over time. And if you grind your teeth at night this will shorten the life of the retainers. Eventually, they will crack or break and need to be replaced.
With any kind of removable retainer, there is also a risk of losing it, sitting on it, dropping it on a hard floor, and so on. Your clear retainers will come with a hard plastic case, and it's a good idea to use this whenever your retainers are not in your mouth or being cleaned.
How to clean Essix retainers
Essix retainer cleaning is extremely important and many people forget to clean them or are put off by the task entirely, but it really is very simple. We have a separate detailed guide to retainer cleaning, which includes some product recommendations, but for now here's an overview of what to do.
To clean a clear removable retainer, be sure to use cold water as hot water can warp the plastic and render it useless.
There are two ways to clean an Essix retainer:
- Day-to-day cleaning: This method is for after each meal, or at the end of each day or night.
- Deep cleaning: This is for when your retainer needs a bit more than a quick once over. This should be done once or twice a week to prevent bacteria and plaque buildup which can lead to tooth decay.
Cleaning your clear retainer regularly is extremely important. The plastic can hold millions of little bacteria which degrade your tooth enamel over time. Wearing an Essix retainer can end up harming your teeth if you don't clean it (and your teeth) properly. Here are the steps to follow:
- Remove the retainer and brush the inside and outside using a soft-bristled brush and dish soap (not toothpaste as it can damage it).
- Rinse with cold water, make sure there is no soap left unless you want your mouth to taste like the inside of a dishwasher!
- Dry it off and pop it back in your mouth or store it in its case. Quick and easy!
Deep cleaning Essix retainers can take a bit longer, but if you don’t routinely do this it can lead to a few problems. Neglecting to thoroughly clean your Essix appliance can lead to:
- A bad smell
- Discolouration of the plastic
- Poor dental health
Here are the recommended steps for deep cleaning:
- Remove the retainer and lightly brush it as you would with daily cleaning
- Place it into a glass of cool water with one or two retainer cleaning tablets (such as Retainer Brite)
- Rinse after the fizzing of the tablet stops (3-5 minutes)
- Brush with the leftover tablet water quickly and rinse
Many people don’t think that brushing retainers is totally necessary for the care of a removable retainer but ask any orthodontist and they will insist that brushing your retainer is just as important as brushing your teeth.
For more information about what it's like wearing clear Essix retainers, watch the video below from Emma Louise. Do note that she uses Steradent, a denture cleaner, whereas we would recommend a specialist retainer cleaner.
An Essix retainer can be a great way for people who have had braces to maintain the new alignment of their smile. Because they are hardly noticeable, it doesn't matter if you have to wear them all day at first. Plus, the fact that they are removable makes them easier to clean than fixed retainers.
Clear retainers cost less than other types but probably won't last as long. Properly caring for them will help prolong their life, but when they do break, be ready to replace them quickly so that your teeth don't start shifting out of position again.
Can I eat with my Essix retainer?
People sometimes assume that because Essix retainers fit so well, you can get away with eating with them still in your mouth. This is inadvisable because the chewing of food may damage the retainer and then you'll have to replace it altogether. Plus, food can get stuck around the retainer causing bad smells and attracting bacteria to your teeth. You should also remove your retainers to drink anything except water.
Also avoid wrapping them in a paper napkin while you eat. It's likely to get stuck to them, for a start, and it's also very easy to throw them away accidentally. Instead, use the case provided by your orthodontist.
My plastic retainer cracked. Can I still use it?
If the crack in the plastic is not causing you any discomfort then you should continue to wear your retainer while you organise a replacement. But don't delay; a cracked plastic retainer is probably going to split further and then break altogether, and you don't want to be left without anything to hold your teeth in place.
Can you buy Essix retainers online?
Yes, you can order a clear retainer online just like you can get clear aligners online. You'll be sent an impression kit so you can make moulds of your teeth at home, then you send these off to a lab which makes your retainers. The whole process is convenient, and usually cheaper than visiting a dentist for Essix retainers.
How much does it cost to replace a clear retainer?
A new clear retainer will cost about the same as your previous one, so £120 to £290 for a set of two. Your dentist may give a better price if they still have your teeth impression records and can use these to make a new Essix retainer for you.
Where can I find Essix retainers near me?
You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a dentist offering clear retainers near you. Call around a couple of practices in your area to check availability and prices. You may also consider ordering them online if it's more convenient.
National Library of Medicine: Effect of the Vacuum-Formed Retainer on Preventing the Proximal Contact Loss Between Implant Supported Crown and Adjacent Natural Teeth. Consulted 2nd June 2020.
NHS East Sussex Healthcare: Wearing and caring for your Essix Retainer. Consulted 2nd June 2020.