21 October 2020

4 mins read

Retainers vs Braces: All the Differences You Need to Know About

“Should I get retainers if I’ve never worn braces?” “Can I wear my last aligner as ‘retainers’?” Ever had these questions and more? We’ve got the low-down on retainers vs braces along with which one is more suitable for your Smile Journey.

Female person smiling while holding clear aligners and holding blue aligner case

What are braces for?

Traditional braces are permanently fixed onto your teeth for a period of time to help straighten them. Invisible Braces are similar where it’s worn 20-22 hours a day and removable during mealtimes.

What do retainers do?

Person holding clear aligner up to their teeth

Retainers are designed to maintain the position of your teeth post teeth-straightening treatments such as braces or aligners. After braces make your teeth straight, their position might still shift. 

This is because the gums, bones and muscles of the mouth aren’t used to the new positions of your teeth. Habits like chewing cause teeth to shift, and therefore retainers are needed to maintain your teeth’s new position.

Why do I need to wear retainers?

Retainers are an orthodontic device that look like Invisible Braces but are used at the end of a clear aligner treatment, or any teeth straightening treatment.

Their job instead of moving teeth, is to keep them in place. Unlike Invisible Braces, retainers aren’t meant to be worn for 20-22 hours a day, but only during night time (around 10 hours).

You can get fixed retainers and also removable, invisible ones. Fixed retainers come with a wire attached to the surface of the teeth, they can only be removed by the dentist and require less discipline. While removable retainers come with a certain amount of flexibility and are a more sustainable, long term solution ensuring your teeth remain in place!

What’s the difference between braces and retainers?

Braces Retainers
Straightens teeth
Maintains position of straightened teeth
Anyone who’s had their teeth straightened
Get scanned by dentist and depending on complexity of case, may see results after 6 months or longer
After teeth straightening treatment, worn at night for the rest of your life

Braces vs retainers frequently asked questions

Female person holding up clear aligners in both hands

Do I need braces or retainers?

What would you like to achieve and have you ever had braces done before? If you’d like a straighter smile, braces are your best bet. Retainers are for when you’ve already straightened your teeth and want to maintain your beautifully straight smile!

Can I use my last aligner as a retainer?

Aligners are made with a unique material designed to move teeth. It has an average wear time of 1-2 weeks per set for optimal teeth movement. They’re not designed to maintain the position of your teeth for an extended period of time. This is because aligners are flexible and prone to breakage after its intended use.

Retainers are made from a more rigid material specially designed to maintain your teeth position. Your teeth are constantly moving throughout your lifetime and retainers will help to prevent your teeth from shifting too much.  

Can you wear retainers without wearing braces first?

For cases where teeth are only slightly crooked or crowded, it is possible to get retainers made to maintain your current teeth position. It is best to seek a consultation with your dentist if retainers are recommended for you as every individual is unique. Please note that wearing someone else’s retainer will not straighten your teeth as everyone’s mouth isn’t shaped the same. 

Can retainers straighten teeth?

Retainers can’t straighten teeth like braces do. Braces apply constant and steady force to move  your teeth into the correct position. If you don’t wear your retainers, your teeth may still shift. You may feel some discomfort while putting your retainer on especially if you’ve not worn your retainers for a few weeks. This is because your retainer is slowly pushing your teeth back into its proper alignment. 

If you’re finishing your aligner journey, don’t waste all your effort and get a retainer (or two) to maintain that dazzling, straight smile. 

For those who are looking to keep their teeth straight with retainers, click here to get in touch with our friendly customer care representatives. But for those looking to straighten their teeth with invisible braces take our free smile assessment by clicking the button below!

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Let us advise you with a free smile assessment

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Retainers vs Braces: All the Differences You Need to Know About


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