What Makes a Clear Essix Retainer Different?

Clear custom mouth guard being held

Whether a patient is looking for a retainer after just having braces removed, or looking for a retainer to help reposition teeth later in life, there are a few options to consider before choosing which retainer is the best fit.

There are two major types of non-permanent retainers on the market: Hawley retainers and Essix retainers. In general, Hawley retainers are what most people think of when they envision a retainer — a removable retainer with a wire and plastic base shaped to fit a patient’s mouth. These are contrasted with the clear plastic retainers, also known as Essix retainers, that are molded to fit each tooth in a patient’s mouth. While Hawley retainers are the traditional standard, let’s explore why someone would choose an Essix retainer over a Hawley retainer to help with positioning their teeth.

Aesthetics and Wear of a Clear Essix Retainer

As mentioned, Essix retainers — or thermoplastic/vacuum-formed retainers — are molded as a single piece of clear plastic to fit the individual shape of each tooth in a patient’s mouth. To do this, a mold is taken from the patient’s mouth, which is used as the base to form the Essix retainer.

This grants the Essix retainer several advantages. First, because of its bespoke shape, the Essix retainer is comfortable to wear, fitting snugly against a patient’s mouth. This also makes the Essix retainer less bulky and less likely to affect a patient’s speech versus a Hawley retainer.

The clear plastic used to manufacture the Essix retainer also provides it with a unique aesthetic look, making it more easily blend into a patient’s mouth, and more difficult to ascertain if a patient is visually wearing a retainer. Contrast this with the Hawley retainer, with its wire frame build, which is easily spotted when worn. 

Wear and Tear and Longevity

While the Essix retainer will be the more pleasing and discrete retainer to wear, it may not be the longest lasting. Hawley retainers are made to be more durable than Essix retainers, though the Hawley retainer will also take a bit longer to adjust to while wearing it. Essix retainers, on the other hand, can be easily damaged by patients with a tendency to grind their teeth, or who play contact sports, as this can quickly crack the retainer.

The popularity of Essix retainers is consistently on the rise, but they may need to be replaced more often than Hawley retainers. For instance, if a patient’s teeth realign by a large degree, a Hawley retainer may be able to be adjusted, but an Essix retainer will need to be replaced, as the mold is specific to the alignment of the patient’s teeth. Additionally, Essix retainers wear out more quickly in general than Hawley retainers, and it’s suggested that Essix retainers be replaced annually.

Both retainers are fully removable and should be removed when eating or to be cleaned. Patients can also remove either retainer easily should they need to quickly take it out before a specific event or activity. It’s important to follow the care instructions for each retainer type, to soak the retainer thoroughly to avoid bacteria or mold build-up, and to avoid cleaning with toothpaste, as this can be abrasive for Essix retainers.

Essix retainers tend to be a bit more costly than Hawley retainers on average, as well, but they appear to be on the more popular side for their less obvious presentation.

Clear Essix Retainers Made Simple

No matter which retainer type feels like the right fit, Dental Lab Direct has patients covered for their Essix and Hawley retainer needs. Dental Lab Direct is able to customize the fit for Essix and Hawley retainers for patients from impressions taken right at home, using an at-home teeth impression kit shipped right to patients’ doors!

Once the impressions are received by Dental Lab Direct, the retainer is built using only top-quality, hypoallergenic, FDA-approved materials and products, creating a dental appliance that fits each individual patient’s mouth exactly as intended. Not only are the retainers made to order, but they are likely more cost-effective than what can be found at a dentist or orthodontist’s office.

Dental Lab Direct works directly with dental professionals, able to craft their appliances using the same superior quality as a dentist, but without passing on the overhead charges of keeping an independent office open.

If you’re interested in how an Essix or Hawley retainer could help you, or how you can get a retainer without breaking the break, check out dentallab-direct.com today!