From our blog

The difference between Invisalign and retainers

Difference between Invisalign and retainers

Invisalign is one of our most popular braces, thanks to its discreet aligners and growing alumni of happy customers. Worldwide, it’s helped millions of patients to achieve a straight, confident smile.

It’s a fantastic brace, but at first glance, you may find yourself wondering how it works. After all, it looks a lot like a removable retainer. First impressions can be deceiving, though, and any similarities end there.

Removable retainers

Removable retainers hold your teeth in position after braces to prevent orthodontic relapse. They’re custom-made from clear plastic using moulds of your teeth, to ensure they closely fit every curve.

Clear retainers

Retainers are a lifelong commitment, and especially important when your braces come off when your teeth are most at risk of relapse. You’ll wear the same set of retainers until they wear out, so you’ll need to keep them clean and store them safely in their protective case.

After wearing your removable retainers full-time for a short period, you’ll only need to wear them at night. (Less frequently if you also have fixed retainers). If your removable retainers start to feel tight, it’s a sign that your teeth are moving, and you need to wear your retainers more.


Invisalign aligners, just like retainers, are custom-made to fit your teeth. However, instead of being made to fit your teeth perfectly, they’re designed to apply pressure to specific teeth and gently move them little by little.


During your treatment, you’ll wear a series of aligners for 1–2 weeks. Each set of aligners will gradually move your teeth towards your final goal.

Despite their appearances, Invisalign and retainers serve very different purposes. Look closely, and you may spot some other differences:

  • Invisalign aligners are made from a unique medical grade thermoplastic material (developed by NASA!), making them thinner and more flexible than most removable retainers.
  • Invisalign aligners have a slight texture to the inside of them. This SmartTrack material is the result of 8 years of research and can speed up your treatment by up to 50%.
  • For extra comfort, the edges of your Invisalign aligners will be trimmed to match the contours of your teeth. Retainers usually have a straight edge that runs along the gumline.
  • Invisalign aligners can have special ‘power ridges’ and ‘attachments’ built-in, helping them to achieve more complicated movements.
  • Invisalign Teen features blue-wear indicators, which fade with use, as well as extra space to accommodate emerging teeth.

Some dentists and orthodontists manufacture their own clear aligners or use a different brand. To check if your Invisalign aligners are genuine, look for the Invisalign logo and patient ID number on each aligner.

To find out more about Invisalign, explore our website, including our Invisalign before and after photos, or get in touch to arrange your free consultation*.

Book your free consultation

Arrange a complimentary consultation with our friendly and knowledgeable team