How much do orthodontic retainers cost? -

1) Original sets.  2) Replacement retainers (Essix, Vivera®, Hawley and Permanent). 3) DIY retainer kits. (Are they OK to use?) | Does your dentist charge for replacement appliances? - Lost/damaged retainer office policies.

Costs for replacing lost, damaged or worn out orthodontic retainers.

If you're reading this page, you've probably had some kind of mishap with one of your retainers and you're curious about how much it will cost to replace it.

This page provides fee estimates for the three most-worn types of orthodontic retainers: 1) Hawley (plastic & wire), 2) Essix/Vivera® (clear vacuum-formed plastic) and 3) Permanent (fixed, bonded, wire).

It also discusses the option of replacing a retainer using an online DIY kit. And outlines some replacement/lost retainer policies that some dental offices may have.

Costs for original sets of retainers.

All of the pricing information on this page also applies to a patient's initial set of retainers. But usually, a dentist has incorporated their "retention phase" fee (their fee for retainers) into the figure presented when initially outlining your orthodontic work's expense.

(Related page: Costs for orthodontic treatment.)


Fees for orthodontic retainers.

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

Picture of a Hawley orthodontic retainer.

A Hawley orthodontic retainer.

a) Hawley retainer -

  • $167.00 - $365.00    (one retainer)

    Low fee = Small rural city or town.
    High fee = Large metropolitan area.
    [How we calculate our cost estimates for procedures.]

Is this the type of retainer you wear? -

What does a Hawley orthodontic retainer look like?

Hawley's are a type of removable appliance. Common characteristics include:

  • A relatively large hard-plastic base (the blue portion in our picture). With upper appliances, this fits against your palate. With lowers, the plastic runs along the inside of your jawbone.)
  • Embedded in this plastic is a "bow" wire that runs across the front side of your teeth. It prevents them from shifting.
  • In most cases, wire clasps (that grasp around selected teeth to aid with appliance retention) have one end embedded in the plastic too.

 

What's the expected lifespan of a Hawley retainer?

Is there a chance your retainer can be repaired rather than replaced? -

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. Or if needed, their wire can even be replaced.

Many dentists will have the materials needed to make minor repairs right in their own office. Although, due to only keeping a limited selection on hand, matching the color of the appliance's plastic base may not be possible. If not, the retainer can be sent to a dental laboratory for repair.

More information about Hawley's.

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

b) Permanent (lingual wire) retainer. -

  • $235.00 - $560.00    (one retainer)
Is this the type of retainer you wear? -

What does a lingual wire (fixed, bonded) orthodontic retainer look like?

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

Picture of a permanent (bonded lingual wire) orthodontic retainer.

A permanent (bonded) orthodontic retainer.

What's the expected lifespan of a bonded/fixed retainer?

Is there a chance your retainer can be repaired rather than replaced? -

Repair options.
If it has simply come off, a fixed retainer can frequently be bonded right back into place, quite possibly even by your general dentist.
If the wire has been bent out of shape, a general dentist might prefer that the needed adjustments are made by your orthodontist. In theory, a deformed wire can be adjusted back into shape. However, if there's been a substantial amount of distortion, making a new retainer may be the preferred solution.
More information about fixed retainers.

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

 
Picture of an Essix orthodontic retainer (Vivera brand).

A Vivera® retainer.

c) Essix orthodontic retainer. -

  • $100.00 - $280.00    (one retainer)
Is this the type of retainer you wear? -

What does an Essix orthodontic retainer look like?

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

What's the expected lifespan of a Essix (clear plastic) retainer?

Is there a chance your retainer can be repaired rather than replaced? -

Repair options.
Due to the thin flimsy nature of the plastic used to construct them, damaged Essix retainers cannot be repaired. A new one must be made.
More information about Essix retainers.

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®.

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

d) Do-it-yourself orthodontic retainer kits. -

  • $70.00 - $150.00    (one retainer)
What do we mean by do-it-yourself?

We're using the terms at-home and do-it-yourself for this method of obtaining a replacement retainer because it's you, the end-user, who takes the impression of your teeth that's then used to fabricate the new appliance.

You do this at home and on your own. And the whole replacement process only involves you and the company that fabricates your appliance. Your dentist is not involved at all.

Picture of an Essix orthodontic retainer.

Most DIY retainer companies provide an Essix-style appliance.

What kind of retainer do you get?

With at-home kits, the usual type of appliance that's delivered is an Essix-style (vacuum-formed clear plastic) one, the type just discussed above (Section c).

However, to know for certain, and to learn specific details about it, you would simply need to check with the company providing the service.

Does using a DYI retainer kit make a good idea?

We don't see how anyone could possibly make the case that not having your dentist involved in the fabrication of a dental appliance is better than the case where they are.

But at a practical level, it seems easy enough to suggest that in most cases (if everything goes right) the appliance that you end up with is one that's functionally equivalent to what your dentist would have provided.

When making this decision, here are some points to consider:

Everything depends on the quality of the impression you take.

If the dental laboratory doesn't have a reasonable copy of your teeth, they can't make a satisfactory retainer for you.

Generally, it seems that the materials that these kits come with are reasonable enough, although there's a bit of a one-size-fits-all aspect to them. And of course, you'll need to be able to follow instructions and be adept at doing what's asked.

Understanding and performing the steps isn't rocket science. The biggest disadvantage is simply that you'll be performing the tasks for the first time. And with impression taking, practice does help to make perfect.

It all boils down to the fit of the retainer that's fabricated.

Even when taken in a dentist's office, distortion and flaws can be inadvertently introduced into the impression taking process. Many of these deficiencies can even be imperceptible to the trained eye.

Of course, the retainer that's made will share these same flaws, potentially to the point of being unusable or even harmful if worn. And of course, that's where the luxury of having your dentist make your appliance can be such an asset.

Probably the safest rule of thumb is if your new retainer doesn't fit fairly identically to your previous one, it shouldn't be worn.

Minor adjustments.

Of course, there are other factors that can come into play in determining if using an at-home impression approach for retainer replacement, or wearing the one that's been created using this method, makes sense.

In passing, we'll mention that some appliance may be perfectly satisfactory yet need some minor adjustment where they rub against your cheek or gums. We explain how you might make those types of minor adjustments here.


Pictures of orthodontic retainers and accessories.

Our affiliate link can be used to learn about   replacement orthodontic retainers and accessories  on  Amazon.com.


What's your dentist's policy about the charge for replacing lost or damaged retainers?

The need for retainer replacement is a common one, and often a common headache for dentists.

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

Here are some of the retainer repair and replacement policies we've heard of:
  • Some dentists issue a second set of retainers to their patients right off the bat after the completion of their treatment. (This might be most likely in cases where Essix-style retainers are worn because they are relatively easy and inexpensive for the dentist to make.)

    If any additional replacements are needed beyond that, their standard fee is charged.

  • The dentist's policy might be one where they will provide one free replacement set if the need arises. This offer may only extend for the first 6 to 12 months post-treatment.
  • We ran across an opinion piece in a journal where the orthodontist related that they were so tired of the insinuation that they were profiting from their patient's misfortune that they provide replacements for free if the patient will make an equal donation to charity.

Section references - Pickron

Check with your orthodontist first.

You'll probably find the most sympathetic ear (in terms of what fee is charged) from the dentist who provided your orthodontic treatment. After all, they know you, have already profited from providing services for you, and no doubt want to see a good outcome for the work they've produced.

Costs for replacements.

Making replacement retainers typically involves the exact same office and laboratory steps as required to make your original ones. So, if that's the case, it's only reasonable to expect that the fee you're charged is your dentist's regular one.

Multiple replacement sets.

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've lost or damaged your retainers, don't put off calling your dentist's office. Ideally, your appliances 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.

One really common place where retainers are lost, especially with 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 frequently have a smell that many dogs just can't seem to resist. So, be sure to keep your retainers up high and out of canine sniffing range and reach.


How much does your dentist pay for your appliances?

You might be curious about the value of the retainers you wear in terms of materials and fabrication costs.

While it's common for dentists (especially orthodontists) to make their patient's appliances right in their own office, dental laboratories offer these same services too. Using dental lab fee schedules as a source of information, we've compiled the following estimates.

  • Hawley retainer  -  $50.00 to $75.00
  • Lingual wire retainer  -  $35.00 to $60.00
  • Essix-style retainer  -  $30.00 to $50.00

Section references - LMTmag

 

Update log -

02/29/2020 - Major page revision.

 
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 Page references sources: 

LMTmag.com. Removable Prosthetic Fees.

Pickron RA. A charitable way to charge for replacement retainers.

Because the procedure estimates we show are developed by different means, you may find the survey of dental fees published by DentistryIQ an interesting independent source: DentistryIQ - 2017 dental fee analysis by region and CDT procedure code

All reference sources for topic Orthodontic Retainers.

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