Can I Get Retainers Instead of Braces?

by | May 4, 2023 | Dental Braces, General Orthodontics, Retainers | 0 comments

6 min reading time

If you face oral health issues that only braces can solve, you’re not alone. Over 4 million Americans wear braces at any point in time, and almost 50% need orthodontic treatment to correct functional dental issues.

Although braces treatment may be appealing to some potential patients, it is not for everyone. Having to wear such orthodontic appliances for many years, in addition to regular visits to the orthodontist, and the obvious aesthetic deterrent is a lot to bear. Because of this, some people prefer to avoid the inconvenience and instead wear retainers straightaway.

At Loudoun Orthodontics, we recommend using retainers only for minor corrections. Retainers may be more convenient than traditional braces but are only sometimes effective independently.

How Do Retainers Work?

With retainers, gentle pressure is applied to the teeth to move them into the desired position. As the bones and tissues holding the teeth in place need time to adjust to their new positions after braces are removed, teeth tend to shift back to their original positions. Therefore, retainers hold the teeth in place for several months while surrounding tissues adjust.

With a retainer, your teeth will gradually shift into the correct position, resulting in a straighter smile over time. A retainer can also correct minor alignment issues, like crowding and spacing.

Orthodontist holding a clear removable retainer

We Offer a Variety of Retainer Options at Loudoun Orthodontics!

In order to address all of our patient’s dental health issues, Loudoun Orthodontics offers a variety of retainers to cover all of their orthodontic issues! Our expert orthodontist, Dr. Richard J. Lee, DMD, will recommend regular (e.g., Hawley, Essix, or Vivera) or permanent aligners based on your goals and circumstances!

#1: Hawley Retainer

Hawley retainers have been popular among orthodontists for decades. They are made up of a thin wire attached to a plastic or acrylic base, which sits on the roof of the mouth or behind the lower teeth. The wire holds the teeth in their new position while the base of the retainer helps keep the device in place.

Hawley retainers are highly customizable and can be designed to fit each patient’s teeth. They can even be customized with a variety of colors or patterns!

#2: Essix Retainer

Essix retainers are made of a clear plastic that fits snugly over the teeth. They are less noticeable than Hawley retainers and are often preferred by patients seeking a more discreet option. Furthermore, they are easier to clean than Hawley retainers since they can effortlessly be removed and rinsed.

There is no doubt that Essix retainers are less visible than Hawley retainers; however, their plastic material can crack or break over time, requiring more frequent replacements.

#3: Vivera Retainers

With the help of advanced 3D imaging technology, Vivera retainers are designed to maintain teeth alignment following orthodontic treatment. 

Unlike standard retainers, Vivera retainers are made from a durable, high-quality material that will not crack or break for a long time (30% stronger and twice as durable). Additionally, Vivera is virtually invisible when worn, making it a popular choice for those who wish to maintain a beautiful smile without worrying about aesthetics!

#4: Fixed Retainer

Fixed or permanent retainers are attached to the back of the lower teeth with a thin wire to stay in place permanently. They are typically recommended for patients undergoing significant orthodontic treatment or at high risk of their teeth shifting back.

#5: Clear Retainers

Generally, clear retainers — such as SPARK or Invisalign — are used to maintain the position of teeth after braces to prevent them from shifting back to their original position. They are made of a transparent, plastic material custom-fitted to the patient’s teeth and worn over them, usually at night. They are generally less noticeable and more comfortable than traditional wire and acrylic retainers.

Patient receiving a new retainer

Can I Get a Retainer Without Braces?

A retainer can correct tooth misalignment and other orthodontic issues without dental braces if the correct tools are used to match your desired results. Therefore, wearing a retainer without dental braces is enough to correct them — in theory. Many orthodontists already prescribe removable or permanent retainers to straighten teeth without braces, but only for mild misalignments. Unlike braces, retainers are not adjustable, making them unsuitable for complicated tooth movements.

The use of retainers without braces can also correct tongue thrusting (i.e., pushing the tongue against the front teeth while speaking or swallowing). With removable or permanent retainers, the tongue is forced to stay in the center of the mouth, thus correcting the slight misalignment caused by the repeated force applied to the teeth.

In the same way, a retainer can correct thumb-sucking-related misaligned teeth by discouraging the habit.

When is It Not Enough to Wear a Retainer?

Dental retainers are typically used as a follow-up treatment to braces to maintain the results achieved during active orthodontic treatment. Even though retainers can keep teeth from shifting back to their original positions, they are generally not a replacement for braces in cases where significant tooth movement is necessary to correct bite or alignment problems.

As a result, a retainer can only maintain your new tooth position or, at best, slightly straighten your teeth. The materials used in creating a retainer are not durable enough to correct multiple crooked teeth simultaneously.

If you’d like to learn whether you can achieve a perfectly aligned smile through braces, retainers, or a combination of both, schedule a consultation with Dr. Lee today!

Happy girl pointing at her beautiful smile

Visit Loudoun Orthodontics Today to Begin Your Teeth-Straightening Journey!

Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you think braces are the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of braces or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a complimentary orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!



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  2. “Can You Get a Retainer without Braces?: Kumra Orthodontics.” Kumraortho, 1 Feb. 2023, kumraortho.com/blog/can-you-get-a-retainer-without-braces/. Accessed 3 May 2023.
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  4. What Percent of the Population Gets Braces?, www.calendar-canada.ca/faq/what-percent-of-the-population-gets-braces. Accessed 3 May 2023.