How to avoid expensive retainers.

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Todd Ehrler

DDS, MS

Table of Contents

  1. Cost of Retainers
  2. Retainers After Aligners
  3. Getting the Best Retainer
  4. References

Many teenagers go through a course of braces to correct misaligned teeth and then get a retainer to keep their teeth in place. Today, more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment due to their teeth misaligning in early adulthood. This means they may wear braces or use clear aligners and then need a retainer to keep their teeth in place following treatment.

Retainers are a valuable part of orthodontic treatment, and they are important whether you get braces or you use clear aligners like Invisalign or Byte. You may wear a retainer for one or two years after you complete braces or aligner treatment, but most often, it’s recommended to wear it nightly for the rest of your life.

Traditional braces or aligners through an orthodontist may be expensive, especially if your orthodontic treatment is not covered by dental insurance. After you’ve spent this money, the thought of dishing out more money for an expensive retainer is daunting.

Why are retainers so expensive?

A standard retainer, called a Hawley retainer, is made from a combination of metal and acrylic. These are removable devices that you wear for several hours per day, usually overnight. Those hours encourage your teeth to stay in the alignment you worked so hard to achieve with braces or clear aligners.

Hawley retainers cost about $150 to $350 each. If you break them, lose them, or otherwise do not care for them, your dental insurance is less likely to help you replace them. And that dollar amount covers each device, per arch of teeth. If you need two retainers, one for each jaw, your cost doubles.

Retainers are also available in plastic form. A study found that there was no significant difference in plastic retainers compared to Hawley retainers after a standard course of orthodontic treatment. The study surveyed 94 patients over six months, which is about half the standard length of time you are likely to wear a retainer.

Some forms of plastic retainers are relatively inexpensive. If plastic or polyurethane retainers work as well as Hawley retainers, this may allow you to save a bit of money on this important device.

An Essix retainer is a clear plastic or polyurethane retainer that covers your teeth and sits just above your gumline, much like clear aligners. The cost is similar to Hawley retainers, generally between $100 and $350.

Plastic retainers are usually a slightly thicker material than the material used for aligners. This is because you wear these retainers for much longer. Aligners are replaced every couple weeks as your teeth move, but your retainer should last you for much longer.

Some plastic retainers, like Vivera retainers which were developed to work with Invisalign treatment, cost significantly more — around $300 to $750.

There are some ways to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on a retainer, especially if you work with mail-order aligner companies like Byte.

Retainers after aligners.

Doctor-monitored, at-home aligners help people achieve straight teeth and beautiful smiles without continual visits to an orthodontist. It’s a course of teeth straightening that takes place at home, where you replace your aligners every couple weeks. The process is often faster and cheaper than straightening teeth with braces, and it works well for minor to moderate teeth misalignment issues.

You may wonder if you even need a retainer if you use aligners to straighten your teeth. Can you keep your last plastic aligner and wear it as needed? You may assume this works similarly to a retainer, but you should not stick to this aligner without consulting with your treatment team.

Again, the retainers provided after a course of aligners are thicker and more durable than a standard aligner. Some companies, like Byte, include a retainer in the overall cost of the treatment plan, so you won’t pay extra to ensure your teeth stay in place.

Getting the best retainer without breaking the bank.

If you need a retainer following braces, your orthodontist will create the device for you. These devices are custom made for your teeth.

If you lose or break your retainer, you’ll need a new one, so it’s important to take care of your retainer. It is equally important to wear a retainer to keep your teeth aligned for years. If you skip this treatment to save a few hundred dollars, your teeth will most likely return to their original positioning fairly quickly. This wastes all the money you spent on straightening your teeth.

Byte offers a free retainer, custom-fitted for your teeth, after you complete a course of straightening with their clear aligners. While Byte and other doctor-monitored, at-home aligners won’t work for all cases, they work very well for people who have mild to moderate alignment issues, including crowded teeth, gaps between the teeth, and rotated teeth.

At-home aligners may be the best option for you if you do not need braces for a serious malocclusion. They cost significantly less than braces, and they take less time to straighten your teeth. You don’t have to go to any in-person visits since you take impressions at home and are sent your aligners in the mail.

If you’re concerned about how much you could potentially spend on expensive retainers, consider Byte. Few doctor-monitored, at-home aligner companies offer a free retainer in their treatment plans. Most require that you spend a few hundred dollars on top of the cost of your aligner treatment. But with Byte, you can save that money and still retain the straight teeth you achieved with aligners.


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