Hawley Retainer – Keeping Your Smile Straight After Braces

The day you get your braces off is a celebration day!

After having braces for a couple of years, you’ll appreciate how smooth your teeth feel and how amazingly straight your teeth are when the brackets and wires are removed.


In order to keep your teeth and smile looking great for years to come, the next important step is getting fitted with a retainer.

Since the bone and soft tissue around the teeth are stabilizing for a few months after the braces are removed, it is imperative that the retainers are worn as instructed. (1)

Failure to wear the retainers results in undesirable teeth movement. One of the most popular removable orthodontic retainers is called the Hawley retainer.

The Hawley retainer is preferred over the other removable retainers because it can be adjusted and realigned if needed. It is also more durable than other clear plastic retainers.

This article has everything you need to learn about the Hawley retainer and its pros over other retainers. Go ahead and read.

What is a Hawley retainer?

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. It covers the roof of the mouth, palate, or lies along the lingual side of the teeth.

The clasps engage around the posterior teeth and keep the retainer in place.

The wire arches forwardly across the front of the teeth and maintain the correct tooth alignment and a straight smile.

Hawley retainer –

  1. Keeps your teeth in their correct alignment.
  2. Maintains a gorgeous, functional, and a healthy smile.
  3. Prevents relapse of orthodontic treatment.
  4. Prevents undesired tooth shifting. (2)

Hawley retainers are easy to clean and have a long life when appropriately maintained.

They also allow your teeth to arrange in a healthy, natural way and can be easily adjusted by your dentist if needed.

Why do we use Hawley retainer after removal of braces?

Hawley Retainer helps in the retention of teeth in their correct position after removal of orthodontic braces.

It is crucial to wear a retainer because the stretched elastic fibers in the gums tend to pull the teeth to their original position soon after the removal of the active orthodontic brackets. (3)

Retainers help to prevent undesirable teeth shifting thus minimizing the risks of relapsed orthodontic treatment over the years. It aids to stabilize the teeth and the surrounding soft tissues in their new position.

How long is the retainer worn?

Since the teeth continue to move throughout life, researches show that individuals who have undergone orthodontic therapy should wear retainers indefinitely. 

However, usually, a patient should wear a retainer full-time for three to six months soon after the removal of braces.

After around three to six months, the patient can wear the retainer just at night.

This is done to preserve the alignment of teeth and to counteract nature’s tendency to move teeth to their original place with time. You should see your dentist every six to nine months after the active orthodontic treatment to monitor the fitting of the retainer.

How to care for retainers?

Retainers are quite expensive and take around 5 to 7 days to be fabricated. They can last for years provided proper care is taken.

 Keep the following points into consideration for the excellent maintenance of retainers-

  1. Retainers are made of a thermoplastic material, acrylic, which is sensitive to excessive heat. So retainer should be kept away from heaters, dishwashers, car dashboards or any place where the temperature can exceed 115 degrees (Fº).
  2. Retainers should be kept in a proper case when they are not being used. Keep them away from pets, as they like to chew on them.
  3. Clean before and after the placement of the retainer in the mouth. Because acrylic is slightly porous and plaque tends to cling to the surface. Gentle cleaning with a toothbrush and a mild liquid soap does the work. A denture cleaning solution, such as Efferdent, can also aid in the plaque removal. Rinse the retainer thoroughly after cleaning to remove any cleanser residue.

Comparison of Hawley retainer with other retainers

The choice of a retainer depends on the dental needs of every patient.

The type of retainer to be used depends on the type of malocclusion, aesthetic needs, patient’s oral hygiene, patient co-operation, duration of retention.

There are a lot of different retainer options available.

  1. Permanent retainers- lingual wire, fixed, or bonded retainers.
  2. Removable retainers- Hawley retainer.
  3. Removable clear plastic retainers- Essix, Vivera, Zendura.

For permanent retainers, you do not need to follow instructions for when to wear it and are not visible to others.

It is easy to talk with it in place and can’t be lost or damaged. However, it is hard to maintain oral hygiene, especially flossing, with permanent retainers.

They can’t be removed, so tartar and plaque can build up takes place which can lead to gum diseases.

The metal wire may cause irritation to the tongue. Teeth shifting is also possible over time.

Clear plastic retainers are fitted so that teeth stay in place better. They are invisible and thinner and more comfortable.

However, they are not durable and can be easily damaged. They also cause excess saliva production and can have bacterial colonies living on them.

For Hawley retainer, the metal wire is visible in front of teeth and can cause excess saliva production.

But they are adjustable, durable, do not stain and can be easily removed for eating and oral hygiene maintenance. Thus, making them one of the most preferable types of retainers.


Take home message

Wearing Hawley retainer is an integral part of the overall process of orthodontic treatment. It is easy to fabricate, convenient to use and comfortable to wear. It is easy to maintain and has a good life span.

This type of retainer covers the roof of your mouth when worn in the upper arch. It may cause a lisping of speech when you begin wearing your retainer.

However, the issue resolves with time. (4) The retainer is also noticeable because of the wire arching across the fronts of your anterior teeth.


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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.

What is an Essix Retainer? Purpose and Advantages

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.

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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