What is the difference between Invisalign and retainers

Invisalign is one of our most popular braces, thanks to its discreet clear, removable aligners and a growing crowd of celebrity fans. Worldwide it’s now been used to straighten over 5 million smiles.

However, at first glance, you might find yourself wondering ‘how does it straighten teeth, it looks a lot like a removable retainer?’. Appearances can be deceiving, though. While it does resemble a removable retainer, the similarities end there.

Removable retainers

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

Every orthodontic patient should be given a combination of removable and/or fixed retainers once their brace has been removed. Retainers are a lifelong commitment, and they’re especially important just after your brace comes off, when your teeth are most at risk of relapse.

After a period of full-time wear, you’ll only need to put your removable retainers in at night. Potentially less frequently if you also have a fixed retainer. If they start to feel tight, it’s a sign that your teeth are moving and you’re not wearing your retainers for long or often enough.


The difference between Invisalign and retainers
Invisalign aligners, just like retainers, are custom-made from clear plastic. However, instead of being made to perfectly fit your teeth, they are designed to gently apply pressure and shift your teeth little by little. During your treatment, you’ll be given a series of aligners, which over time will move your teeth through a series of positions towards a beautifully aligned smile.

Take a closer look and you’ll notice some other important differences between Invisalign aligners and retainers:

  • Invisalign aligners are made from a special medical grade thermoplastic material (developed by NASA!) and they’re slightly thinner than most removable retainers.
  • For extra comfort, the edges of Invisalign aligners hug the contours of your teeth, whereas retainers often 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 difficult movements.
  • Invisalign Teen also features blue wear indicators, which fade in line with use, as well as extra space to accommodate emerging teeth.

To find out more about Invisalign, explore our website, including our Invisalign before and after photos, or get in touch to arrange your free no-obligation consultation*.