Your braces are off, your teeth are straight and you have a beautiful smile. Now your orthodontist is recommending a permanent retainer.
It can feel a bit like you were tricked; all the metal in your mouth was supposed to be the solution! But does this really mean for the rest of your life? Will the pain and expense of orthodontia plague your mouth until the end of your days?
Permanent retainers usually last up to 20 years but can degrade faster or slower depending on the level of care. But does that mean that this option is better than a removable retainer? Out of all the retainers for teeth, which is the best?
In this article, we'll answer your questions about fixed retainers, and cover all sorts of information like:
- Cost of permanent retainers
- Their benefits
- Potential problems
- If they break
We hope this helps you decide if this is the best option for you!
Table of contents
What is a permanent retainer?
A permanent retainer (commonly referred to as a ‘lingual retainer,' ‘fixed bonded retainer,' ‘fixed,' or ‘bonded retainer') is a metal bar placed behind your teeth to keep them from shifting back to the position they were in before braces. They are permanent because they are bonded with dental cement to your teeth, normally just the front four to six teeth.
Usually, your orthodontist will recommend a wire retainer behind teeth either immediately or six months after the removal of your braces to ensure that your teeth stay aligned. Some people get permanent retainers fixed to both their upper and lower teeth, however, dentists are less likely to recommend a permanent retainer for top teeth than they are permanent bottom retainers, because they have a greater chance of breaking prematurely.
Removable retainers can be removed and replaced easily. There are two types:
Retainers after braces are very important. To avoid the painful and forceful shifting of braces yet again, a permanent retainer gives you a permanent way to keep your teeth in place.
Not wearing retainers after braces can harm your smile and ultimately lead to your orthodontist suggesting braces a second time around.
Permanent retainer pros and cons
There are several types of retainers. Choosing the right retainer can feel like a daunting task in the wake of invasive orthodontic treatment. Will it hurt? Will it cost a fortune? What happens if it breaks? Are they removable? How often do you have to wear it? There are so many pros and cons to the different types of retainer that it may feel like a chore just to decide.
The most beneficial thing about bonded retainers is that it's impossible to forget to put it in. Once it is in place you can forget that it exists and never have to worry about the caretaking that comes with removable retainers. This also allows you to avoid all the pain that comes with putting in a removable retainer that has spent too long out of your mouth and on your shelf. Let's take a look at some of the other pros:
- Visibility: Another benefit to these lingual bar retainers is that since they are bonded to the back of your teeth they are invisible to everyone else. This differentiates them from some removable retainers, which show a wire across the front of your teeth.
- Affordability: Over time, the cost of a permanent retainer vs a removable retainer will likely work out to be less as there is no opportunity for it to be lost and it is much less likely to be broken.
- Lose-ability: A permanent retainer is a “set it and forget it” method of orthodontic treatment that is easy to use and nearly impossible to lose. If this has happened to you, read about not wearing a retainer for a month.
While bonded retainers may sound like the best option as far as teeth retainers, permanent retainer problems are not unknown.
A permanent retainer can make your teeth difficult to clean well as the wire on a bonded retainer can trap bacteria and food and increase your chance of cavities since flossing becomes more difficult. A simple brushing of the teeth isn't enough; in order to avoid dental damage, thorough flossing is required. When it comes to flossing with orthodontics, you may want to consider purchasing a water flosser for easier cleaning. Read all about water flossers in our best water flosser guide.
Is a permanent retainer painful? Not necessarily, but they can be uncomfortable or annoying as your tongue is constantly touching it. But that goes away pretty quickly after getting it in.
A built-in retainer can, like any other dental device, degrade over time. You may have to replace your retainer at some point and it is much more difficult to replace a permanent retainer than a removable retainer since it requires you to physically be with your orthodontist to make the fix.
Another permanent retainer problem is that bonded retainers have the potential to increase plaque buildup and trap bacteria as well as being more troublesome to replace or fix in the event that the retainer breaks.
In the following video, one orthodontist explains why he doesn't like permanent retainers as much as Hawley or Essix.
So you've got some things to consider; have a look at the following table for a summary of the pros and cons:
Makes it more difficult to clean teeth
Impossible to lose
Could break requiring replacement or repair
You don't have to remember to put it in
Costs more than removable retainers
Lasts for many years
If you are interested in getting a removable retainer instead of a permanent retainer, or your dentist recommends one as a supplement to your permanent retainer, you can get custom-made removable clear Essix retainers online from Sporting Smiles.
They make it easy to order your impression kit, make your impressions, and then send them into a lab where professionally trained technicians will craft your clear retainers. You can also choose whether you want standard Essix retainers or Essix Plus which are extra durable.
Order your retainers now, and get 10% off your order with promo code SMILE10.
How much do permanent retainers cost?
Permanent retainers cost anywhere between $150 and $500 for one. You may need a bottom teeth retainer and a retainer for your top front teeth as well (up to $1000 for both the lower and upper front teeth).
But what if you shell out up to $1000 for a permanent retainer and you need to have it removed?
Permanent retainer removal costs are anywhere from $150-$500 (this includes the cost of repair and replacement if the permanent retainer broke on one side).
The price for a permanent retainer is a bit high, but considering that it will ultimately be less than removable retainers, which are more easily lost and damaged, permanent retainer prices are very reasonable considering their lifespan is upwards of 20 years!
How to remove a permanent retainer?
While a bonded retainer may last 20 years, sometimes the metal retainer attached to the back of your lower teeth or upper teeth is just too annoying and you will want to remove your fixed retainer.
The internet has tons of at-home solutions to offer, including mixing a paste of baking soda and peroxide to soak off the glue affixing the metal wire to your teeth. But the only safe and effective way to remove a bonded retainer is to seek treatment from your orthodontist.
Attempting to remove a retainer on your own can put your teeth at risk of damage and possibly require your teeth to need further straightening treatment.
So now you know that a permanent retainer is a great way to keep your teeth in line for many years after orthodontic treatment. There are certainly some disadvantages; they are more expensive than removable retainers and they can break over time, requiring replacement or removal.
Ultimately, your dentist can advise you if a permanent retainer is the best treatment option for you.
How long do you wear a permanent retainer?
You should wear a permanent retainer for the rest of your life unless instructed otherwise by your dentist or orthodontist. However, at some point your permanent retainer may break. You'll have to go in to have it fixed or to have a new one applied.
How do you remove permanent retainer glue at home?
If your permanent retainer breaks or falls off, you might be tempted to try to remove the glue by yourself at home. For your own wellbeing, go to a dentist or orthodontist to have the glue removed. It's the only truly safe and effective way.
How long do permanent retainers last?
Permanent retainers can last upwards of 20 years with proper care, although many people find that a permanent top retainer will fail much sooner than a permanent retainer on the bottom teeth. That's because it's subject to a greater biting force.
How much is a permanent retainer?
Permanent retainers cost from $150 to $500 for one, and you can double that for a set. The cost is the same if you need to get your lingual retainer removed, replaced, or fixed. If your retainer breaks, you should see your orthodontist and find out whether they advise its removal or replacement.
Are permanent retainers safe?
There is an increased risk of gum disease and cavities if you don't keep your permanent retainers clean. If kept clean, permanent retainers are typically not harmful to your teeth.
Can teeth still move with a permanent retainer?
Permanent retainers are made from soft material to allow for the correct adaption to your teeth and they must allow some slight movement of your teeth. However, if they break, they have to be replaced immediately.
Journal of the American Dental Association: High proportion of postorthodontic fixed retainers seem to survive after 10 years. Consulted 27th February 2020.
American Association of Orthodontists: Will I Need to Wear Retainers After Treatment? Consulted 27th February 2020.