Retainers after braces

Yes! Retainers after braces are a must. Unfortunately braces alone are not enough to keep your teeth straight long-term. They can move your teeth to where we want them, but once they’re removed, your teeth will have a natural tendency to move back to their pre-treatment position.

This movement of your teeth following orthodontic treatment is known as ‘orthodontic relapse’. It can affect people who don’t wear their retainers to varying degrees. You may be lucky and find that your teeth barely move, or you could find yourself back where you started – months of orthodontic treatment all for nothing.

Why do teeth move after braces?

When we move your teeth, we’re also moving your soft tissues and the surrounding bone. Over time your bone adapts to its new position, however fibres in your gum (which are connected to your teeth and bone) are stretched as result of your teeth moving. These fibres don’t adapt to their new position and will continually pull on your teeth to a certain degree.

There are other factors that can also contribute to your teeth moving over time, for example changes to your jaw as you grow. Certain ‘problems’ such as open bites and diastemas will also be more prone to orthodontic relapse.

How can retainers after braces help?

Retainers after braces are a straightforward solution to this problem. They work by simply holding your teeth in their new position. Be warned though, if you stop wearing your retainers as instructed by your clinician – at any time – your teeth might move. Luckily the latest retainers are very unobtrusive.

Types of dental retainers

Hawley retainer


If you had orthodontic treatment when you were you were younger, you may remember your Hawley retainer. Although some clinicians still use Hawley retainers, we tend to opt for the more discreet and comfortable Essix removable retainers at Sensu.

Essix retainer

Essix removable retainer

These retainers are very similar to Invisalign aligners. They’re made from clear, vacuum-formed plastic, which is shaped to closely hug your teeth, holding them in their new position. They’re very discreet and don’t usually cause any problems with speech. In most cases you’ll only need to wear your Essix retainer at night after a brief period of full time wear.

Fixed retainer

A fixed retainer, as the name implies, is fixed in place, providing permanent protection against orthodontic relapse. They’re designed to be worn long term and with a little TLC will last for many years. Fixed retainers are usually fitted behind the front six teeth and consist of a thin steel wire. You’ll soon forget your fixed retainers are there, but you’ll need to clean around them carefully when you brush your teeth using an interdental brush.

Which retainer is best for you?

Your clinician will talk to you about the best way to keep your teeth straight after your braces. Depending on your circumstances you might be best suited to removable retainers, fixed retainers, or a combination of the two. Some patients like the added security of a fixed retainer, while others prefer the idea of a retainer that’s removable.

Whichever dental retainers you choose, it’s so important to wear them long term. If you lose or break your retainers at any point, please get in touch as soon as you can.

What if your teeth have already moved?

If you’ve recently stopped wearing your retainers and your teeth have started to move there’s still time to take action.

Simpli5 and Invisalign i7 are both braces that have been designed to help correct ‘orthodontic relapse’ and mild crowding. To find out if they can help you, book your free consultation* with our knowledgeable team.