Permanent Retainer vs. Removable Retainer: Learn the Difference!

woman wearing retainers

After all of your orthodontic treatment, the retainer period may not be your favorite part. But here’s the catch: Following the treatment, teeth tend to return to their previous position. This condition is known as relapse. The entire purpose of wearing teeth retainers is to avoid relapse.

Retainers ensure that all of your hard work, time, and money put into orthodontics does not go to waste. It’s like having a little insurance for your new smile! And there are two sorts of retainers to consider: permanent and removable retainers.

Now you may ask, “Which one is best for me?”! This blog is here to help you find the suitable type of retainer for you by explaining each type, along with their pros and cons.

So get ready for some informative lowdown on a permanent retainer vs removable retainer!

What is a Permanent Retainer?

A permanent retainer is a thin wire that is custom-fitted and attached to the back of the teeth. It is also known as a bonded or fixed retainer. It is usually applied to the lower front teeth, although it can also be applied to the upper teeth.

Permanent retainers are also known as bonded retainers, lingual wire, or fixed retainers.

Once implanted, it remains in your mouth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its purpose is to provide constant support to your teeth.

Pros of Permanent Retainers

  • Convenience: They are an excellent option for you if you have a habit of forgetting or losing detachable retainers. Because they are set in place, there is no need to remember to install or remove them.
  • Long-term Treatment: The result of permanent retainers is more long-lasting as it does not depend on whether you are disciplined enough to wear them all the time or not.
  • Constant Support: Because they are constantly in place, permanent retainers work relentlessly to keep your teeth aligned.

Cons of Permanent Retainers

  • Oral Hygiene Issues: Cleaning around the wire of permanent retainers might be more complex, and takes special care to avoid plaque accumulation.
  • Breakage Risk: There is a chance that the wire may break or detach, necessitating a trip to the orthodontist for repair.
  • Restrictions on Sugary Foods: Sugary meals increase the chances of breaking down the glue and loosening the retainer over time.

What is a Removable Retainer?

A removable or detachable retainer is a custom-made appliance that may be removed from your mouth whenever you need to brush your mouth or eat. They are typically composed of plastic or a mix of plastic and metal and are intended to be worn over your teeth.

Pros of Removable Retainer

  • Simpler Cleaning: Removable retainers may be removed for brushing and flossing your teeth. They make it easier to maintain proper dental hygiene.
  • Less Influence on Eating: There are no dietary limitations with detachable retainers because they may be removed while eating.
  • No Danger of Breakage Because of Food: Removable retainers, as opposed to permanent retainers, can be removed while eating. So there is no danger of them breaking or detaching if you eat some hard or sticky food.

Cons of Removable Retainers:

    • Compliance-dependent: The removable retainers are only effective when worn as recommended. So, they may not serve the purpose if you don’t follow your orthodontist’s instructions to wear them to the T.
    • Risk of Loss or Damage: Because they are used often, there is a greater chance of misplacement or damage being caused to the detachable retainers.
    • More Attention to Maintenance: Removable retainers must be brushed and cleaned on a regular basis. Otherwise, they may begin to smell and accumulate calcium.
    • Need for Replacement: Removable retainers need to be replaced immediately when they wear out.

Permanent vs. Removable Retainers – A Comparison Based on Some Critical Criteria

Basis of Difference Permanent Retainer Removable Retainer
Invisibility Permanent retainers are put discretely on the back of the teeth, making them almost unnoticeable. Removable retainers, on the other hand, maybe visible when worn and may have an impact on the aesthetics of your smile.
Durability Permanent retainers are built to last and can stay in place for many years. Detachable retainers may need to be changed due to wear and tear.
Replacement Permanent retainers do not require replacements until they break or detach. Removable may need frequent replacements due to loss or damage.
Cost Permanent retainers may have a more significant initial cost. However, they do not require frequent replacements. That potentially makes them more cost-effective in the long term. Although removable retainers offer cheaper initial expenses, continuous replacements can build up over time.
Results Permanent retainers usually provide positive and long-lasting results. The effectiveness and result of temporary retainers largely depend on how perfectly you use them.

Both permanent and removable retainers have advantages and disadvantages. Individual tastes, lifestyle, and orthodontic demands ultimately determine which option is best for you. It’s critical to speak with your orthodontist about which type of teeth retainer is appropriate for you and how to properly care for and maintain it.

Whether you choose a permanent retainer for ongoing support or a removable retainer for flexibility, the objective is the same: to keep your freshly aligned smile for years to come.


  1. Are permanent retainers safe?

    Permanent retainers are safe if you take good care of your teeth. But if you don’t clean around them properly, you could get gum disease or cavities. If your retainer gets bent or broken, see your orthodontist right away to avoid discomfort.

  2. Can I stop wearing retainer after 20 years?

    Your orthodontist will tell you how long you should wear your retainer for optimal results. Usually, wearing it for life is necessary to maintain your smile’s alignment.

Also Read: Do You Have to Wear a Retainer Forever – Breaking the Myth!

Dr. Satish Pai, M.D.S

Dr. Satish Pai is an orthodontist and Ivy League trained dentist who has served as a faculty at Columbia University. He believes a perfect smile not only makes a person look great but feel great. As the founder of Putnam Orthodontics and a Partner at Brite Orthodontics, he is dedicated to providing the best orthodontic treatments to his patients. He also writes to educate people about everything orthodontics and the importance of correctly aligned teeth along with good oral health. In his free time, you can find him golfing, doing yoga or surfing, and spending time with his family.

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