Braces vs Retainers

braces vs retainer

A pearly white smile is the first thing that anyone notices when they meet someone for the first time. But, if your pearly whites are even a little crooked, crowded or protruding, they can end up making an even more lasting impression. If left unchecked, crooked or crowded teeth can cause serious medical conditions like gingivitis or gum disease and even tooth decay. Getting your teeth fixed will help boost your confidence and make the world take notice of your smile. You can either opt for braces or for a retainer to help fix your teeth. But, when it comes to braces versus retainers, what is the difference between the two and which one will work better for you?

Differences Between Braces and Retainers

Let’s take a look at what they are and how braces and retainers differ from one another.

What Are Braces?

braces vs retainersBraces are the most widely used orthodontic solution to help get perfect teeth, whether your teeth are crooked, crowded or misaligned. If you have an underbite wherein your upper teeth overlap above the lower teeth or an overbite, when the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth, braces are recommended for aligning the teeth on top of each other. Braces work by applying continuous pressure on the teeth to push them in one direction. The gradual move helps change the shape of the bone.

Braces consist of individual brackets that are applied on each tooth. They are held together by wires which help guide the movement of the teeth. On the last tooth, a buccal wire is attached which helps hold the entire brace in place. Tiny rubber bands help hold the wires in place.

Depending on the reason braces are being administered, they are usually required for one to three years and only in rare cases for more time than that. They can be worn by both children and adults but will work faster on children as their bones are still growing and it would be easier to mould them.

Types of Braces

There are three main types of braces which you can get depending on the materials used in them.


The most commonly used braces are the traditional ones which have individual brackets that are put on each tooth and are held together with wires and rubber bands. The brackets come in a variety of colors and designs and are more preferred by children. The brackets are made from high-grade stainless steel and put in place using a special cement. Patients with severe misalignment will be advised to use these braces.


Ceramic braces are like traditional braces but are made of a ceramic material, which is less visible, as it is tooth colored. Even the wires and bands used are of a similar color, which makes them popular with adults who need orthodontic corrections. They are as strong as the traditional braces but as ceramic is more porous, it is at a higher risk of getting stained. So if you drink a lot of coffee or colas, these braces will get stained quickly. Ceramic braces are also recommended only to those patients who do not have severe misalignment.


The most discreet form of braces are the Damon braces which are a self-ligating system. In regular braces, the wire is attached to the brackets with the help of elastic bands but Damon braces have brackets which have a small gate-like opening which lets a wire get threaded through it. These produce the fastest results as they move teeth on their own without requiring constant adjustment. It also causes lesser friction, making the movement of teeth less painful. Requiring lesser adjustment also means fewer visits to the dentist.

What is a Retainer?

retainers vs bracesOnce you have gone through the braces treatment for correctly aligning your teeth, a retainer is used, as the name suggests, to help retain the new shape of your teeth. Retainers vs braces, hold in place the periodontal ligaments, which hold the teeth in place, helping them mould into the new shape. Retainers are usually worn only at night to help the teeth stay in place. Retainers themselves are of two different types.

Permanent Retainer

A permanent retainer is one which is not removable and is fixed inside the mouth with the same cement which binds the brackets of braces on the teeth. They are usually not visible to others as they are placed behind the teeth and they are also less prone to damage that way. They are also comfortable when it comes to eating and talking. However, they can make oral hygiene tricky as they are more likely to trap food particles in them.

Hawley Retainer

dental braces vs retainer

These are the retainers which are removable and need to be worn usually at night before sleeping. The Hawley retainer has an acrylic plate which is moulded to the shape of the mouth and has wires which clasp around the teeth. These do not stain and scratch easily, making them a long-lasting option. Even oral hygiene is easier to maintain as they can be removed while brushing and flossing. These can be an impediment while talking and eating, as when used initially, they will need to be worn more often than just while sleeping.

How Much do They Cost?

Let’s see how much each of them cost on average.


Braces can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000. However, some places cover them under insurance which can significantly lower costs. The cost also depends on the severity of the treatment as well as state you are residing in.


Retainers are much more affordable, coming up to just around $150 to $300 for one set of teeth and around $300 to $600 both sets of teeth. As always, the cost varies from case to case but that’s the average price.

Extra: Common Care for Braces

The first few days after the braces are put in place can be slightly painful and uncomfortable. But, over the counter medication like Tylenol can be used to manage it. However, visit your dentist if the pain is unbearable even after a few days. A regular cleaning and flossing regime needs to be maintained as food which can get stuck between the braces can result in dental complications like tooth decay and gum inflammation later. While wearing ceramic braces, care needs to be taken to not consume foods which will stain them, as cleaning them or replacing them will be very difficult.


Everyone wants a beautiful smile to set the right first impression on people. But, crooked teeth can cause people to feel less confident about themselves. Braces are the solution to correcting any issues you have with your teeth, whether you are a child or an adult.

Traditional braces can be used by both children and adults, but the clear ceramic ones are preferred by the latter as they prove to be a more discreet solution. A retainer is worn after the treatment of the braces is complete, to help the teeth stay in their new positions.

A treatment for braces does not come cheap but given the level of intervention required, your insurance provider’s policies and even the state you live in can help bring down its costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top