Choosing the Best Type of Invisalign Retainer After Treatment

Most people know they’ll have to wear an Invisalign retainer after treatment, but not everyone knows which kind is best for them. Near the end of your smile journey, you’ll have several types of Invisalign retainers to choose from, but not all of them are ideal for invisible aligners. This blog will help you understand your options and answer common questions about clear retainers. Here's what we'll cover:

  • Most Common Invisalign Retainers
  • How Long You’ll Wear Your Invisalign Retainer After Treatment
  • Caring for Your Invisalign Retainer 

Text: Freshen Breath + Fight Dry Mouth + Better Aligner Fit = Delicious Progress with Movemints Clear Aligner Mints. Image: a woman in a green shirt holding clear aligner trays and Movemints clear aligner mints.

Most Common Invisalign Retainers

There are five basic types of retainers. Three of them are clear retainers, one is the more traditional retainer worn after metal braces, and our final retainer is a newer entrant to the market. Let’s begin with the two most popular types of Invisalign retainers, the Essix retainer and the Vivera retainer.

Essix Retainers

Essix retainers closely resemble the clear aligners you’ve been wearing throughout your treatment. They are made with the same thin, transparent plastic and are very popular because of their durability. Essix retainers cost between $50 to $200 per set, but with proper care they should last between 3 and 5 years. 

Certain factors can shorten that duration, such as if you grind your teeth or don’t keep them clean. This can lead to needing a replacement sooner, so take good care of them and if you do grind your teeth, ask your orthodontist if they recommend another type of retainer for your post-treatment needs.

Hand holding a translucent upper essix retainer

Vivera Retainers

Vivera retainers are simply Invisalign’s branded version of the Essix retainer. Just like when you were fitted for your invisible braces, your orthodontist will take a digital scan of your teeth and have these clear retainers created using the same 3D printing technology that Invisalign uses. 

One nice perk of the Vivera retainer is that you’ll get 4 upper and 4 lower retainers, all from the same mold, and all delivered at the same time. This ensures that you’ll have backup retainers on hand, especially useful if you grind your teeth at night or if you travel frequently and want to keep an extra set of Invisalign retainers in your travel bag. However, this does come at a cost, as many providers will charge between $500 and $600 for the Vivera retainer set.

Vivera retainers offer great customer service through Invisalign. If you ever need a new retainer, it’s easy to get one shipped to you because Invisalign saves the digital scan for quick delivery. This is awesome for an Invisalign teen patient or college students who no longer live at home, and noteworthy because traditional retainers require a new impression and subsequent stone model during each fabrication. This requires a trip to the orthodontist’s office, which can be disruptive for anyone with a busy lifestyle or day-to-day obligations like work or school.

The Hawley

The Hawley retainer is an old-school, traditional retainer with acrylic in the middle and a metal wire across the front teeth. It is more common in younger kids after they have an expander. If you’re an adult clear aligner patient, it is unlikely that this would be your type of Invisalign retainer after treatment.

Image: An open purple retainer case with a person's hand holding a Hawley retainer.

Like the Essix and Vivera retainers, Hawley retainers are removable and durable. They are easy to clean and quite effective, but most Invisalign patients will use either type of clear retainer we described above.

The Fixed Retainer (aka, Permanent Retainer or Lingual Retainer)

Fixed retainers are metal wires glued onto the tongue side of your teeth. These permanent retainers hold in place the teeth to which they are attached. If your lower front teeth were really crooked or crowded in the beginning, these types of Invisalign retainers may be a nice option for you, at least for the first year or two after your treatment. Then you will typically switch to a removable, night-time only retainer like the Essix retainer or Vivera retainer. 

If they are so effective, why switch to a removable retainer? The answer is simple: hygiene. Permanent retainers require meticulous care and maintenance. In addition to regular and thorough brushing, they are a bit more challenging to floss. If you don’t floss underneath each part of the wire, then plaque, tartar, and bacteria can build up which can damage your teeth and lead to serious problems like bone loss and gum disease. 

Furthermore, while these types of retainers are “permanent” in the sense that they can’t easily be removed like clear Invisalign retainers, they can and will break if you aren’t mindful of what you eat. Not only can a broken retainer require a trip to your orthodontist or provider, it can be difficult to know if it has been broken. 

If your fixed retainer breaks without your knowledge, it can go undetected until your next appointment and cause your teeth to relapse, sliding back to their original positions which can only be corrected by costly Invisalign refinements or a whole new treatment plan. If you do need to wear the permanent retainer, consider asking your Orthodontist if you can have an Essix retainer made to fit on top of your permanent retainer to protect it from damage.

The MEMOTAIN® Retainer

The MEMOTAIN® Retainer is a lingual retainer that, like Invisalign’s Vivera retainer, is made from a 3D printer for extreme accuracy. However, the MEMOTAIN® retainer is a lingual retainer that is fixed to the tongue side of your teeth, like a traditional permanent retainer.

The MEMOTAIN Retainer is an innovative new retainer made with memory alloy featuring several benefits

Image courtesy of CA Digital, makers of the MEMOTAIN® Retainer

But that’s where the comparisons stop, as these state of the art retainers are very new to market and use a digital design and planning process to tailor them to the precise needs of individual patients. Another claim for the MEMOTAIN® retainer is they are much thinner than conventional lingual retainers. They are made with a special memory alloy that, according to the company’s website, cannot be bent any more once it is brought to shape.

How Long You’ll Wear Your Invisalign Retainer After Treatment

After you complete your Invisalign treatment, your teeth will be in their brand new positions, but they won’t stay that way unless you wear your retainers in accordance with the instructions from your provider. 

Many patients ask can retainers move teeth back to their original positions, and the answer is no. Retainers are designed to maintain your smile, and if you don’t wear them as prescribed they will shift out of alignment. This is why most orthodontists recommend you wear a retainer after Invisalign for 22 hours per day for four to six months after your treatment. After that, you’ll likely start to scale back to only at night. 

The reality for most patients is that night-time wearing of their retainer becomes a lifelong commitment. In fact, many people choose clear aligners to correct teeth that shifted back after childhood braces as a direct result of retainer non-compliance. After the investment of time and effort you just put into straightening your teeth, make sure you wear your Invisalign retainer exactly as prescribed so you keep that smile just the way you like it for the rest of your life!

Caring for your Invisalign Retainer

As discussed above, Invisalign retainers are an insurance policy to maintain your beautiful new smile. Investing in comfortable retainers and then caring for them properly is part of the smile journey, so factor them into the “total cost of ownership” for your clear aligner treatment. 

If you take good care of your Invisalign retainer, you won’t have to spend more than necessary. Learning how to clean Invisalign retainers is an important part of this process. If you choose the Essix retainer or Vivera retainer, clean them as soon as you take them out of your mouth, to rid them of bacteria and debris before it has the chance to harden. Use lukewarm water and mild dish soap for a more thorough cleaning, or soak them with Retainer Brite tablets for a soaking cleanse.

You can also purchase a retainer cleaner like Smilesaver™ Spray for easy on-the-go cleaning. We are also big fans of EverSmile WhiteFoam, which can remove stains from Invisalign trays while whitening your teeth. A great combination!

Spraying Smilesaver Aligner Cleaner on Invisalign Retainers

How Long Do Clear Retainers Last?

Because retainers cost a lot of money, you may be wondering how long do Invisalign retainers last? The answer is a good six months, but only if you keep them safe from damage or accidental disposal. Purchase a retainer case like this all-in-one option from Capsule Dental that holds your trays, toothpaste and a tooth brush. This way you’ll always have an appropriate place to secure them, whether on your bedside table, purse or travel bag. 

Regardless of which retainer you choose, daily flossing is crucial to prevent Invisalign gum damage. Removable retainers like the Vivera and Essix take the hassle out of flossing, but it’s still possible to floss with a fixed retainer using a floss threader to get in between and under the fixed retainer wire. Once you get the floss through, follow the classic flossing regime of getting down below the gumline to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Repeat this same process for every tooth that is attached to your permanent retainer.

What To Do If you Lose or Damage Your Invisalign Retainer

This is a common question. Many clear aligner patients save their last set of trays, and in a pinch they can be used as retainers but only for a short period of time. Clear aligners aren't as thick as retainers, so they won’t hold with the same strength and can also wear out faster if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night. 

If you notice that your retainer is cracked or warped, this is a sign that it’s time to get a replacement. Once they lose their composition, they are no longer as effective at retaining your smile. Continuing to wear a damaged retainer can lead to regression, and no one wants to walk back on their new smile.

Invisalign retainers are a lifelong part of your smile journey, so plan to ask your orthodontist or provider which retainer would work best for your case. In most cases, patients will find that the Vivera or Essix retainers are appropriate for their needs. Remember: your gums and teeth are a muscle. After training them with clear aligners, you have to retain your results. Anything less would be foolish, and a wasted investment of time and money! 

 

For more Invisalign tips and tricks, check out our Movemints blog to answer every question you have about straightening your teeth with clear aligners!

 


5 comments


  • Lynn

    Love, love my Invisalign s…have worn mine 11/2 yr. about to go into a retainer, I have cheated tho, worn my last two trays extra long, the best part I brushed my teeth three or four times a day, just couldn’t put the trays in with dirty teeth….now the interesting part I am 77 years old, I wasn’t aware how,your teeth move the older you get, my bottoms were the worst, but did the tops too. So if your thinking about doing this DO……..


  • Carrie

    Maggie, do you actually have Invisaline, or are they another type of invisible aligner? The reason I ask is because my Orthodontist had a special of $2500 for invisable aligners. It seemed as though they used something like smile direct to start with. Which didn’t work well for me. Once it didn’t work, they switched to doing in-house invisible aligners. Both of those sliced up my mouth like crazy. I’m talking horrible pain, where I had to take an emery board to file down every new set and it was still so painful. Once those also didn’t work, my Orthodontist ordered me Invisaline. Since these, I haven’t experienced any kind of pain at all. No rough edges and barely any pain during teeth movement (even though I would have welcomed the pain to move them quicker after 2 years of this journey with minimally crooked teeth). I should at least say that my Orthodontist never charged me anything extra above the $2500 and I know they spent far more than that to ensure that I was happy with my results, but I am a 33 year old woman that would have gladly paid more to have this take the 6 months I was initially told my “invisible aligners” would take as opposed to 2 years.


  • maggie

    I am coming to the end of my invisaligner treatment. I have ordered my retainers. I understand tney are similar to invisaligners but thicker. I wonder if they are more precisely shaped…I often found my liners to be uncomfortable, not just due to the discomfort of moving my teeth but because the plastic is sharp and can get crinkled from pullling on and off and then sharp edges can be felt inside the lips or on the gums. I find that I dread having to wear the same thing every night for the rest of my life. I"d like to have something that is a bit more comfortable without such sharp edges. Any recommendations?


  • George Davis

    This article is helpful for people looking for perfect retainers. You can go for VFR,Hawley retainer,fixed lingual retainer(PERMANENT RETAINER) according to your need.

    https://glowdentaldallas.com/


  • Jasmine Hewitt

    This is very helpful. I’m in the market for Invisalign after having braces for 2 years as a teen. My ortho was terrible – after being treated for a telescopic overbite, I had to wear braces. My teeth were always straight, but the procedure involved pulling teeth on the top, and widening the bottom. After the braces were removed, I received removable retainers. only the retainers that didnt fit at all and did nothing. and the ortho wouldn’t make any effort to fix them. 15 years later, I have crooked teeth that I didnt have to begin with :-(


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