What is an Essix Retainer? Purpose and Advantages

After an orthodontic treatment to realign your teeth, dentists give you a retainer. The work of a retainer is to maintain the outcome of prolonged orthodontic treatment. There are many commercially available retainers, out of which the Essix retainer stands out. It won’t catch your eye as it is an entirely clear retainer.

The Essix retainer is a vacuum-formed aid to maintain good teeth alignment after orthodontic treatment. They have some significant advantages over conventional retainers. They are aesthetically superior and give better results.


However, there is a significant drawback of the Essix retainer. They are very fragile and susceptible to breakage. Hence, proper care of an Essix retainer is essential.

If you take proper care of the retainers, they will last long enough to complete your treatment. So, we will also see how to take care of these retainers. It is also essential to understand their purpose, advantage, and disadvantages.

What is an Essix Retainer?

Essix retainer, also known as overlay or invisible retainer, is entirely transparent. It is custom made with clear plastic in a dental lab and is somewhat like clear braces.

They fit snugly onto your teeth just above your gum line. Essix retainers came into being in the early 1970s and ever since then, orthodontists use these retainers post-treatment to maintain the results.

Essix retainers keep your teeth well aligned after orthodontic treatment. Dentists recommend continuous usage of the retainers for best results. You can wear the retainer for a period of 6 months to a year. (1)

How do dentists make the Essix retainer?

Essix retainers are vacuum-formed appliances and are relatively simple to make. Many dentists fabricate them in their office. The steps to make an Essix retainer are –

  • Your dentist makes an impression of your teeth and transfers it on a plaster cast.
  • The cast is then covered with a preheated thin sheet of plastic. The thickness of this plastic is around 0.030 inch.
  • The dentist now puts this cast and plastic in a vacuum former where this plastic gets the exact size of your teeth.
  • Dentists trim away the excess plastic. The outcome is the Essix retainer which covers all of your teeth.

Other types of retainers

There are two kinds of dental retainers, removable and fixed. One type is permanently attached (bonded) to your teeth whereas the other is removable.

  • Permanent retainers are fixed and bonded retainers.
  • Removable retainers are Hawley’s and Essix retainer.

Purpose of an Essix retainer – What does it do?

Essix retainers guide your teeth into a position where the upper and lower sets align with each other. Hence, your dentist gives you an Essix retainer after complete orthodontic correction.

Though your teeth may feel firmly set in your mouth, they continuously reposition. They move when under bite pressure and can assume new positions in the mouth all on their own.

Essix retainers maintain the corrected position of your teeth following orthodontic treatment. And also, they provide minor corrections to slightly misaligned teeth.

If you compare an Essix retainer to contemporary removable or fixes retainers, you will know the difference. Essix retainers are the best fit for your teeth.

There is the least scope for post-treatment teeth movement with Essix retainers. Also, they are transparent, hence esthetically superior. They are easily removable, and you can clean them properly. (2)

For how long do you need to wear the Essix retainer?

The minimum time for your teeth to settle into their new positions after treatment is more than 230 days. The length of treatment with an Essix retainer is six months to a year. Also, you need to wear the retainer all night.

You might wear an Essix retainer for up to one year or longer. After which you need to wear the retainers at night once or twice a week. Your orthodontist can advise you when and how long to wear yours for the best results.


Essix retainers have some significant advantages over other conventional retainers.

  • They are fairly unnoticeable. Hence you can also call these as invisible retainers.
  • Maintaining oral hygiene with these retainers is easy. You can take them off while brushing. You can also clean them very quickly. Cleaning other retainers is cumbersome.
  • Due to their aesthetic superiority, you may want to wear these retainers regularly. Hence, patient compliance is the best with these retainers.
  • Superior results as against other retainers due to better fit. (3)


There are also some drawbacks to the Essix retainer.

  • Essix retainers are non-adjustable. Your dentist can’t use them to make further alignment refinements.
  • You need to inspect them regularly to look for cracks, holes, tears or breakage. Also, the plastic may warp if exposed to heat.
  • Your dentist cannot repair your Essix retainer if you damage it. You need a new retainer in such cases.

Essix retainer care

Essix retainers are fragile. We need to know how to take care of them. With consistent wear, an Essix retainer lasts the entire length of your treatment. When caring for your retainer, be sure to:

  • Rinse the retainer in cold water when you take it out and before you put it back in.
  • Store the retainer in a plastic case whenever you aren’t wearing it.
  • Don’t brush the retainer with toothpaste, as it can scratch the surface.
  • Brush the retainer after each meal with cold or lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush.
  • Don’t put the retainer in hot water, which will shrink it.
  • Wash the retainer with a specialized retainer cleaner once every two to three months.

Final Words

To preserve the results you got from wearing braces or aligners, wearing retainers is essential. Essix retainers are an excellent retention aid for well-aligned teeth. You have seen multiple advantages of an Essix retainer.


They are transparent, fit well and work wonders for your teeth with minimum efforts. If you take care of your retainers, you will have good results.

It is essential to follow a proper care regimen for your retainers as well. Essix retainers are fragile. Hence, you may ask for an additional pair. If you want the best alignment results with fewer efforts, Essix retainers are your go-to aid.


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Hawley Retainer – Keeping Your Smile Straight After Braces

Hawley retainer is also called as the wire retainer and is the most well-known removable type of retainer. It is made of wires and clasps supported in acrylic.

Know Everything About Clear Retainers

A retainer is a passive orthodontic appliance that helps in maintaining and stabilizing the position of teeth after the active phase of orthodontic treatment is over.

Different Types of Retainers & Their Maintenance

Braces help you to set the teeth in their correct position and retainers do the work of keeping the teeth in their corrective position permanently. There are different types of retainers such as removable and fixed retainers. They are further categorized into sub types as clip-on retainer, wrap around retainer, etc.

Permanent Retainer Removal – When You Should Consider This?

There could be instances where you may have to go for permanent retainer removal such as tartar buildup, retainer damage due to trauma or biting on hard foods.

Teeth Retainer – Why You Require Retainers After Braces?

Orthodontic relapse occurs when adequate retention is not provided to the teeth after the finish of the treatment. Our tooth tends to move back to their original position after orthodontic treatment. The dentist thus provides teeth retainer, which is to be worn for a stipulated period.

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