Comparison between vacuum-formed, acrylic and fixed retainers

Now that you have completed braces treatment, the next important step is to keep your teeth straight. For that, you will need to wear retainers.

This is because as we grow older, there will be natural movement of the teeth which can cause the teeth to become crooked again. That’s why some Orthodontists have advocated lifelong wear of retainers to maintain the teeth alignment.

There are basically 3 types of retainers: vacuum-formed retainers, acrylic/Hawley retainers and fixed retainers.

1. Vacuum-formed retainers

These are clear plastic splints which can function as mouth guards if patients grind their teeth during sleep. These retainers can be used as teeth whitening trays as well (part of the take-home whitening kit).

2. Acrylic retainers (e.g. Hawley retainers)
These are made of acrylic/plastic and metal wires. There are many different designs for these retainers.
The wires can be adjusted to move teeth.
3. Fixed retainer

These are wires glued to the back of teeth. Periodic check-ups (every 6-12 months) are necessary in case the wire detaches from the teeth or if there is distortion in the wire. These can cause the teeth to become crooked again (see below).

Oral hygiene must be excellent to prevent tooth decay and gum problems.

The choice of retainers is dependent on your Orthodontist and your teeth condition. Below is a comparison of the different types of retainers.

blog23 Vacuum-formed
blog24 Acrylic retainers
(e.g. Hawley retainer)
faq11 Fixed retainers
Fixed or removable Removable Removable Fixed
Oral hygiene Easy maintenance Easy maintenance Harder to clean between teeth
Fabrication Can be made in-house Usually made in dental labs Can be done chairside
Durability Moderate Good Moderate
Adjustability Not adjustable Wires are adjustable Not adjustable
Effectiveness Effective Effective Effective only if there is no wire distortion/breakage
Protection for teeth Protective function No protective function No protective function
Can be used as whitening trays Yes No No
Compliance Requires compliance with regular wear Requires compliance with regular wear No compliance with wear required as retainer is fixed

*Vacuum-formed and fixed retainers can be worn simultaneously to maintain/improve stability of teeth alignment.

All three types of retainers work well. Most of our patients (>90%) here are given vacuum-formed retainers as they can be made in-house within 2-3 days.

The most important thing to remember is to wear the retainers regularly (for removable retainers) and to go for periodic check-ups (at least once a year) to ensure the retainers are fitting well.

Did you know?

Here at Tan Dental Surgery, we keep your retainer working models. If you lose your retainers, fret not. Just give us a call and we can fabricate the retainers immediately without you coming in for impressions/moulds.

And if your teeth have moved a little after you lose your retainers, the new set of retainers can help move the teeth back to their straight position. This is because the retainers are made using the original working models after braces (see below).

If you need any additional information regarding retainers or braces, just drop us a line through WhatsApp, e-mail or phone.

Updated: 18 Oct 2021

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