Your braces are finally off and you have a beautiful new smile. While many believe this is the end of their orthodontic treatment, this is only a small portion. The next stage is retention and requires the wearing of a retainer. But which retainer is best? When it comes to retainers, there are two main types of removable retainers: Wire retainers, known as Hawley, and clear retainers, known as Essix retainers. While each has its pros and cons, studies show that Essix retainers, in many ways, are better for dental retention and more comfortable for wearers.
Essix Retainers Show Better Retention
Both types of retainers are designed to keep teeth in their new position after orthodontic treatment, such as braces. While both types of retainers are effective in this goal, studies have shown that the Essix retainers provide better retention.
A 2012 study published in the Korean Journal of Orthodontics looked at 22 patients wearing Essix and 20 patients wearing Hawley retainers. They evaluated retention at both one and two years post orthodontic treatment. Their results revealed that Essix was more efficient at retaining the anterior teeth in the mandible.
A more recent study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, again compared retainer retention. The researchers divided people into three groups of 30 patients each. One group wore Hawley retainers full-time for four weeks and then only at night. The second group wore Essix retainers full-time for four weeks and then only at night, while the third group wore them full-time for one week and then only at night. Conclusions showed that Essix retainers were more effective at maintaining the arch length and tooth alignment in the upper arch. For lower jaw incisor alignment, results showed Essix retainers worn full-time for four months were more beneficial than Hawley retainers.
Essix Retainers Are More Comfortable and Lead to Better Compliance
Essix retainers are a thin material that form-fits directly to your teeth. For many, this makes it much more comfortable to wear. In addition, because they are clear material, they are near invisible. This makes wearers less self-conscious and more willing to wear their retainer as directed. Studies, such as the 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, show that patient compliance is higher with Essix than Hawley, meaning that patients are wearing their retainer as prescribed, ensuring better alignment retention.
Offers Less Speech Pattern Changes
You can probably assume that a foreign item in your mouth, such as a retainer, will affect your speech. Despite the tight, slim fit of Essix retainers over your teeth, they can affect your speech patterns. However, studies show that, while both retainers contribute to changes in speech, the Hawley retainers are responsible for more pronounced changes in articulation.
Proper Retainer Care is Essential
While Essix retainers appear superior in comfort, compliance, and retention, they can contribute to dental issues. The good news is that proper cleaning and care can stop these issues.
Because of their snug fit to your teeth, a 2018 comparison published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics shows that Essix retainers can contribute to higher levels of bacteria and plaque on the surface of the teeth.
For more information on cavities and retainers, read our blog “Cavities: Why Cleaning Your Essix Retainer Is Important.” In addition, check out our blog “Retainer Care 101: How to Properly Care for Your Retainers.”
In addition, their design can contribute to increased buildup of bacteria and plaque on the retainer. However, there is good news! Thorough cleaning, combined with good oral hygiene, reduces bacteria and plaque on your teeth and retainer.