How much do orthodontic retainers cost?

- Your original set. / Replacement retainers (Essix, Hawley and Permanent). / The Vivera® program.

Orthodontic
Retainers

This page gives cost estimates for the three most worn types of orthodontic retainers: 1) Hawley, 2) Essix and 3) Permanent (Fixed, bonded).

For the most part, this page will be of most interest to people trying to figure out their cost for replacement (broken, lost) retainers. That's because dentists typically incorporate their "retention phase" fee into the lump sum they present to you when outlining your case's overall treatment expense.

(Related: Costs for orthodontic treatment.)


Fees for orthodontic retainers.

Note: The estimates given below are for a single retainer (upper or lower). Having a set of two made typically costs twice the price shown.

a) Hawley retainer -

A Hawley orthodontic retainer.

A Hawley orthodontic retainer.

What is a Hawley orthodontic retainer?

Hawley's are removable appliances. They have a hard plastic base portion that fits inside your mouth (it rests against your teeth and jawbone on the tongue or palate side). Embedded in this plastic is a "bow" wire that runs across the front side of your teeth to keep them from shifting.

Repair options.

Hawley appliances can be repaired if the damage they've sustained isn't too great. That goes for both their plastic and wire components. Even most general dentists will have the capability to make a repair if need be.

More information.

This page provides more detailed information about Hawley retainers including: applications, advantages, disadvantages and pictures of what they look like.

A Permanent (lingual wire) orthodontic retainer.

A permanent orthodontic retainer.

b) Permanent (lingual wire) retainer. -

  • $225.00 - $500.00    (one retainer)
What is a lingual wire (fixed, bonded) orthodontic retainer?

This type of appliance is made by crafting a wire so it matches the alignment of your straightened teeth (often just the front 6). It's then bonded into place permanently on their backside.

Repair options.

If it has come off, a fixed retainer can frequently be bonded right back into place. And, like with Hawley's, quite possibly even by your general dentist. If the wire itself has been bent, attention from your orthodontist, or even a new retainer, may be needed.

More information.

This page provides more detailed information about permanent orthodontic retainers including general applications, advantages, disadvantages and pictures of what they look like.

An Essix orthodontic retainer (Vivera brand).

A Vivera® retainer.

c) Essix orthodontic retainer. -

  • $100.00 - $275.00    (one retainer)
What is an Essix orthodontic retainer?

This is a removable, clear plastic appliance. It looks very much like an Invisalign® aligner.

Repair options.

Due to the nature of the plastic used to construct them, damaged Essix retainers cannot be repaired. A new one must be made.

More information.

This page provides more detailed information about Essix-style orthodontic retainers including general applications, advantages, disadvantages and pictures of what they look like.

The Invisalign Vivera® retainer program.

Align Technology, Inc. (the company that makes Invisalign®) offers a dental retainer program under the brand name Vivera®.

The service provides a new set of retainers for the patient every four months. The annual fee for the program is around $500. The system can be used after any type of orthodontic treatment method, Invisalign® or not.

Are new retainers really needed 3 times a year?

You'll simply have to take your dentist's advice on this matter. We do, however, have the following points to share:

a) Extended wear.

Some patient's treatment involves extended retainer wear times. And as such, they are given instructions to wear theirs around-the-clock (except when eating) for the first months, or even years, after completing their treatment.

For appliances exposed to this much use, plastic fatigue (tearing, cracking, breaking) may be an issue and therefore replacement needed relatively frequently. For patients who only need to wear their retainers at night, and possibly only a few times a week at that, the issue of requiring replacements might be much less of an issue.

b) Loss.

Another reason why frequent replacements may be needed is that the previous set has been misplaced.

This might be an issue for younger, less responsible patients. Or those involved with extended wear times who must keep track of their appliances (after taking them in and out for various activities) when away from home.

A nice aspect of the Vivera® service is that in just 3 months you'll have your first spare set of retainers.

c) Survival rates.

Advertising materials for the Vivera® program seem to stress the importance of retainer integrity. They state they have "data on file" that shows that the plastic used to create Essix-style retainers can fatigue in as little as 2 months of simulated daytime wear.

We'd expect that this is one of those instances where the information is factual but possibly not representative of a big clinical issue.

  • Two fairly recent studies (Keenan 2012, Sun 2011) [page references] determined that both Hawley and Essix appliances (the most commonly used types of removable retainers) have similar survival rates.
  • It seems the most common practice among practitioners is to replace appliances only as they demonstrate a need (show signs of fatigue and damage).

How much does it cost to replace lost or damaged dental retainers?

Your dentist's policy.

The issue of retainer replacement is a common one, and a common headache for dentists.

For this reason, you'll probably find that your dentist has a fairly explicit replacement policy. And you'll be reminded of it the day you are given your appliances.

Here are some repair and replacement policies we've heard of:

  • Some dentists give a second set of retainers to the patient right off the bat. (This might be most likely in the case where Essix-style retainers are worn because they are relatively easy and inexpensive for the dentist to make.) If additional replacements are needed, a fee is charged.
  • The dentist's policy might be one where they will provide one free replacement set, depending on if you need it. This offer may only extend for the first 6 to 12 months.

In all cases, you'll probably find the most sympathetic ear (in terms of the fee that's charged) from the dentist who provided your orthodontic treatment. After all, they know you, have already profited from you, and generally want to see a good outcome for the work they have produced.

Costs for replacements.

For the most part, making replacement retainers involves the same patient and laboratory steps as needed for the original set. So, if that's the case, it's only reasonable to expect that the fee charged will be the same too.

In the case where you find that needing replacements is an ongoing issue for you, you might ask if multiple sets can be made. Especially in the case of Essix retainers, there might be an economy of scale involved that can lower your overall costs.

Contact your dentist's office promptly.

If you have lost or damaged your retainers, don't put off calling your dentist's office. Ideally they should be replaced as soon as possible and it may take up to a few days to have your new ones made.


Be careful with your retainers.

A really common place where retainers are lost, especially for kids, is right off their lunchroom tray. Retainers are often wrapped in a napkin, forgotten about and then lost when the tray is emptied.

Another potential problem lies with the family dog. Retainers sometimes have a smell to them that evidently some dogs can't resist, so keep your retainers up high and out of their reach.

 

 
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