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What are Hawley Retainers? Guide to Types and Costs in the UK

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hawley retainer picture
Should you get this classic retainer?

The Hawley retainer is perhaps the most well-known type of retainer used for keeping teeth in place after orthodontic treatment. This removable retainer can easily be identified due to its iconic wire that goes across the front teeth, and acrylic plate that sits inside the mouth.

If you're reading this article, chances are you're considering what type of retainer is best for either you or your child, after finishing with braces. To help you figure this out, we'll go over some basic information about the Hawley, such as:

  • How much do Hawley retainers cost in the UK?
  • Who can have one?
  • How do they compare to other retainers?
  • Can they be used to straighten teeth?

We hope this information helps you choose the best retainer for your or your child's post-orthodontic needs.

What is a Hawley retainer?

A Hawley retainer is a removable device made of wire and hard plastic material. When you hear the word retainer, this is probably what you think of first. Unlike some other more modern types of retainer, the Hawley is quite noticeable thanks to the wire that sits along the front few teeth to keep them in place. The design hasn't changed much since its creation in 1919.

hawley retainer uk colours and designs
Hawley retainer colours can be customised!

The wire from the retainer wraps around the front of your teeth and the hard acrylic sits against the roof of your mouth (for uppers) or the hard part of the gums (for lowers). There are wire clasps at the back of the retainer to help keep it in place in your mouth.

This removable type of retainer is one of the most affordable, and should last five years or more. That is, as long as you take good care of it and don't lose it!

What can a Hawley retainer do?

A Hawley retainer is usually used to maintain alignment of the front teeth after braces are removed. Hawley retainers are typically worn full time for three months after braces are removed and then nightly and at home only for the next nine months. Thereafter, nightly wear is usually sufficient but your orthodontist will advise you on exactly when to wear it.

Typically the Hawley retainer is used for top teeth, but it can also be used for the bottom teeth. The acrylic arc is designed to fit comfortably on the lingual walls or palate of the mouth while the wire wraps around the teeth and helps them to maintain their position.

Can a Hawley retainer move teeth? It's not what they are usually used for, but it is possible to make minor adjustments to tooth alignment by positioning the wires in a certain way. Your dentist might do this if you haven't worn your retainer enough after braces and your teeth have started to relapse.

How long does a Hawley retainer last?

A Hawley will typically last 5-10 years, as long as you take good care of it and don't lose it or break it. The materials used in Hawley retainers are more durable than the clear Essix retainer, mostly because of the materials used.

Acrylic and steel wire are much longer-lasting than a thin plastic shell, but that doesn't mean that a Hawley retainer is invincible. It is important to always make sure you store your retainer in its case when it isn't in your mouth, to prevent loss or damage. You should always remove it while you eat, and also take care to clean it properly every day.

The way you insert and remove your retainer can also affect its lifespan. Don't bite down on it to clip it into place, and always use the clasps at the back to remove it, rather than pulling on the bow at the front. In the video below, orthodontist Dr Sarah Sadek shares some more tips for Hawley retainer care.

This video explains clearly, with demonstrations, how to put on retainers correctly, the orthodontist way! I show you how to put on Essix/Vivera, and Hawley retainers after braces or Invisalign treatment. I give some tips and hacks on things you can do to make them last longer. 😃 Dr Sarah Sadek's dental hygiene products: 🦷 Waterpik Cordless Advanced Water Flosser: https://amzn.to/3ijvT3t 🦷 Waterpik & Toothbrush in One: https://amzn.to/2RfHJQc 🦷 Retainer cleaning tablets: https://amzn.to/2DO5yvB ❤️ Join our family: https://www.youtube.com/c/sarahsadek1?sub_confirmation=1 This video is part of a series on retainers. For full knowledge, please watch the remaining videos. Links below: How to Clean a Permanent Retainer After Braces or Invisalign. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ony0lzPUUao How to Clean Retainers After Braces or Invisalign. Do's & Dont's + Top Exclusive Money-Saving Tips! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gmpKVBK3VE Which Retainers are Better? A comparison of all retainers available after Braces or Invisalign! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W82iHQ1G5zA Permanent Fixed retainers after Braces & Invisalign | What, where how, why?! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jwr-VrjlQ8 Removable retainers after Braces & Invisalign! Top Tips- inserting, removing & looking after https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS-WQK6bOA8 Why You Have to Wear a Retainers AFTER Braces or INVISALIGN! What They ACTUALLY do Explained! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5XtlpzDC5g Dr Sarah Sadek is a dentist that specialises in straightening teeth (a specialist orthodontist). She uses a whole range of methods to give her patients a beautiful smile. These include Invisalign, fixed clear braces, Invisalign, Incognito braces. Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/909049472589281 Subscribe for more useful dental information. www.gumgums.co.uk Tweet me at: https://twitter.com/Sarah__sadek Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarah.orthodontics Thanks for watching, keep smiling! This channel is dedicated to everything related to dentistry, orthodontics and straight teeth. How you can get straight teeth with braces, Invisalign or even veneers. All aspects of kids braces are discussed as well as Invisalign for teenagers. I discuss Invisalign cost and how much braces cost. The amazing power chain braces and exactly how these work are shown in great detail. You may wonder what elastics during braces are for and this is also spoken about. General dentistry problems will also be explained. Teeth whitening and the various methods available and their costs, in addition to how you can whiten teeth with braces. Problems with wisdom teeth and you can reduce these. Common causes for tooth ache and dental abscess, their prevention and when you may need to see an emergency dentist are also discussed. Dental implants to fix teeth and how these work, in addition to getting an implant and straight teeth. I will also be reviewing HiSmile for teeth whitening and discussing if it actually works. So for all of this and more, please do join our dental community and subscribe. The content seen in this video does not provide personal health or medical advice. Information is provided only for education purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For personalised medical or dental advice, please be sure to consult your doctor, dentist or relevant health provide immediately.

How to clean Hawley retainers

Hawley retainers require daily cleaning to prevent gum disease, bad smells, and trapped food debris. Oral hygiene is always important, but even more so when there are retainers involved. Neglecting to clean your retainer can lead to a build-up of plaque which will contribute to enamel degradation over time.

Read our retainer cleaning guide to find out the best products to use for cleaning a Hawley retainer. You can buy special retainer cleaning tablets, or use denture cleaning tablets, although these may cause slight discolouration to the acrylic over time.

It is important to note that there are two types of Hawley retainers and each type of retainer requires a different method of cleaning.

Hawley retainers with extra metal pieces soldered on:

  • DO NOT soak a retainer with soldered pieces regularly. This will eventually break down the solder on the retainer, leading the wire to snap.
  • Soaking your retainer every once in a while is okay, but not every day.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste daily to prevent bad smells and plaque buildup on your retainer.

Hawley retainers without solder:

  • Soak your retainer in a cleansing solution daily, or at least once every few days, to maintain optimal oral hygiene.
  • Brush your retainers as you would your teeth, with a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste. Don't forget to brush the metal wire as well.

How much does a Hawley retainer cost in the UK?

Hawley retainers cost £70 – £150 for one, so up to £300 for a set, which is more than you'll usually pay for clear retainers. Hawleys should last much longer, so they can work out cheaper in the long run.

If you or your child have had orthodontic treatment on the NHS then your first retainer will be included with this. If it gets lost or broken then you will probably have to pay for a replacement. Note that NHS retainers may have more limited colour options than those purchased privately.

It may be possible to repair a Hawley retainer if the plastic cracks or a wire comes loose. Take it to your orthodontist and they will let you know whether it can be saved.

Can you buy a Hawley retainer online in the UK?

Some places do sell Hawley retainers online, although there is not currently a reliable outlet to purchase Hawley retainers online in the UK. You can, however, buy a clear (Essix) retainer online. These are less complicated in design since they don't have any wire parts, they just completely cover your teeth.

This process involves taking your own teeth impressions at home with a kit provided, and then sending these off to make your retainers. The finished devices are then posted to you.

Hawley vs clear Essix vs fixed retainers

Choosing the right type of retainer is a very personal endeavour, and you may need to try a couple before you find one you're really comfortable with. If you are just finishing treatment with aesthetic adult braces, you may not want a retainer with an obvious metal wire, for instance. Or you might want to try a clear removable device before committing to a fixed retainer.

Of course, you can discuss your options with your dentist or orthodontist before making any definite decisions.

There are three main types of appliances: Hawley (the metal and acrylic combination), Essix (clear, plastic trays), and fixed/bonded retainers. There are pros and cons to each type that all require consideration before making a decision. Here's an overview:

Hawley

Pros:

hawley retainer uk picture
The Hawley retainer shows wire on the front teeth.
  • Cheaper than bonded
  • More durable than an Essix
  • Easy to clean
  • Cool colours and patterns for the acrylic palate piece
  • Lasts 5-10 years

Cons:

  • More expensive than an Essix
  • Easy to lose
  • Visible on teeth
  • Possibly uncomfortable

Essix

Clear retainer vs hawley
The Essix retainer, clear and removable

Pros:

  • Cheapest option
  • Invisible
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Fragile
  • Easy to lose
  • Only lasts 6 months to a few years

Fixed

bonded vs hawley wire retainer
A fixed/bonded retainer is attached to the back of the front teeth

Pros:

  • Impossible to lose!
  • Lasts up to 10 years – maybe more
  • Most sustainable option
  • Invisible
  • The most durable option

Cons:

  • Difficult to clean
  • Expensive upfront cost
  • Takes time to adjust to the feeling inside the mouth

Check out the table below for a summary of the differences:

Retainer type Cost Lifespan Ease of maintenance
Hawley £70 - £150 5–10 years Easy to remove and clean, durable, easy to lose
Essix £60 - £145 6 months to 3 years Easy to remove and clean, easily breakable, easy to lose
Fixed/bonded £100 - £400 Up to 10 years Difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, durable, impossible to lose

Conclusion

In short, Hawley retainers are a durable and affordable choice if you don't mind having a visible wire at the front. Clear retainers aren't as durable but have the benefit of being almost invisible. If you're worried about losing, dropping, or forgetting to put your retainer in then consider a fixed retainer instead. These are more expensive up-front but can't be lost or forgotten!

If you're still unsure which retainer would be best for you, speak to your dentist and listen to their recommendation. If you try a removable retainer and don't get on well with it, you can always switch to a fixed wire later on.

What are Hawley Retainers? Guide to Types and Costs in the UK
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Contributors:
Amanda Napitu
Amanda Napitu
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Amanda specialises in writing informative content about dentistry. She has been a regular contributor to Dentaly.org since 2017, and collaborates with dozens of dentists to keep this content accurate and up-to-date.