Essix vs. Hawley Retainer: Which is Best?

Essix Partial Denture Retainer

After years of orthodontia, it’s an amazing feeling when you finally get your braces off. It’s time to celebrate, eat popcorn, chew gum, and enjoy your beautiful new smile. But although your smile might be perfect now, you need to practice ongoing orthodontal care to keep your teeth in place long-term.

For most people, ongoing orthodontia means wearing a retainer at night to keep teeth in place. Wearing a retainer may be a lifelong commitment, so it’s important to make sure you have the right retainer to satisfy your needs. There are many retainer varieties to choose from, and deciding which one is right for you entails understanding your specific requirements and lifestyle preferences. Essix retainers and Hawley retainers are two of the most common options available, and both offer unique benefits to wearers.

Can’t decide which retainer is right for you? We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you select the perfect fit.

What are Hawley Retainers?

When you picture a retainer floating in a glass of denture cleaner, you’re probably thinking of a Hawley retainer. Developed by Dr. Charles Hawley in 1908, Hawley retainers are sturdy, reliable, and easy to use.

Hawley retainers are made from a strong acrylic base that serves as an anchor point for flexible metal wires. The acrylic base of a Hawley retainer sits flush with the palette, and the wires extend to clip around teeth, holding them securely in place. Because the wire is pliable, Hawley retainers may be adjusted to accommodate shifts in the teeth or jaw.

The Pros of Hawley Retainers

There’s a reason that Hawley retainers have been a popular choice for so many years. They offer stability and consistent results.

Some of the pros of Hawley retainers include:

  • Durability – Since they are made from a durable acrylic material, Hawley retainers are built to last. The acrylic base is virtually indestructible, and Hawley retainers can be cleaned by using a toothbrush and toothpaste without fear of scratching or damaging the appliance.
  • Customizability – Hawley retainers are a popular choice for individuals who want to add a little sparkle to their dental appliance. The acrylic base is available in a wide array of colors and patterns, with the option to add glitter or stickers to the mixture. Because they are customizable, Hawley retainers are a popular choice for kids.
  • Removability – Unlike permanent retainers, Hawley retainers are easy to pop in and out of the mouth. This makes them easy to clean and offers versatility in a variety of situations.

The Cons of Hawley Retainers

Despite their strong performance, there are a few considerations to take into account before purchasing a Hawley retainer.

  • They Are Appealing Chew Toys – Hawley retainers have long been a favorite among naughty canine companions. If you invest in a Hawley retainer, make sure you keep it out of your dog’s reach.
  • They Aren’t Discreet – Due to their design features, Hawley retainers are highly visible in the mouth. The metal wires that hook around the front teeth are conspicuous and may draw attention to the fact that you’re wearing a retainer. Additionally, because Hawley retainers need to rest against the palette, they have a greater impact on speech.
  • They Are More Expensive – Traditional Hawley retainers are much more costly than alternatives like Essix retainers. Although the expense is partially offset by their durability, replacing a Hawley retainer might cost a few hundred dollars, so keeping them in a safe place is crucial.

What are Essix Retainers?

Essix retainers are clear vinyl appliances designed to fit completely over the teeth. They are made by taking a dental impression and using the mold to create a flexible, removable, vinyl retainer. This process is similar to the method used to fashion nightguards and mouthguards.

Essix retainers are well-regarded for their precision. Because they are fashioned from a dental impression, they retain tooth alignment with the most accuracy.

The Pros of Essix Retainers

Essix retainers are a popular choice for patients seeking an effective, discreet, and affordable alternative.

  • Efficacy – Essix retainers have the best track record when it comes to keeping teeth in place. Because they are designed to fit snugly around teeth, they are excellent at preventing movement over time.
  • Discreet Wearability – Because they are made from a thin layer of clear vinyl, Essix retainers are virtually invisible. This makes them an appealing choice for patients who need to wear their retainers during the day as well as at night. Plus, since they are easy to remove, Essix retainers can be taken out and stored in a safe place when not in use.
  • Affordability – Essix retainers tend to be more affordable than other options. Because the manufacturing process is so simple, it’s easy to craft custom appliances at a fraction of the cost.

The Cons of Essix Retainers

Despite their precision and wearability, here are a few drawbacks to take into consideration before purchasing an Essix retainer.

  • They Are Easily Damaged – Because they are so flexible and lightweight, Essix retainers are more prone to wear and tear. Essix retainers may be scratched or damaged by toothpaste and should be gently cleaned using an appropriate dental cleaning solution. In general, Essix retainers typically need to be replaced every few years, so although they are more cost-effective initially, the replacement fees may add up.
  • They Can Influence Your Bite – Unlike Hawley retainers that preserve a normal bite, Essix retainers introduce a thin layer of plastic in-between teeth. Over time, this layer may impact jaw and bite precision, and expose the retainer to damage from grinding or clenching teeth.

Continuing Your Orthodontal Journey with Dental Lab Direct

At Dental Lab Direct, we provide our clients with high-quality dental appliances delivered straight to your door. Dental Lab Direct is an online dental appliance service, crafts custom retainers, bite-guards, dentures, and more, using only the highest-quality FDA-approved materials.

We know that going to the dentist is an unpleasant prospect, so DLD’s three-step ordering process is designed with your comfort in mind. After receiving a Dental Lab Direct impression kit in the mail, the next step is to make an impression of your teeth in the comfort of your home. Once you’ve mailed your completed impression kit back to us, all you need to do is kick back and relax and wait for your custom retainer to arrive in a few weeks. Our affordable options come with a 60-day money-back warranty, so you can make sure your retainer works for you.

With Dental Lab Direct, it’s easy to find retainer solutions custom-made to fit your needs. With our high-quality appliances, excellent customer care, and simple process, DLD provides the appliances you need to be delivered right to your door.