Invisalign Trays and Retainers
By Mina Levi, DDS, 05/22/2014

After orthodontic treatment, patients are supposed to wear a type of retainer. This retainer is an orthodontic appliance that helps keep the teeth in the optimal position that was achieved through orthodontic treatment such as metal braces or Invisalign. There are different types of retainers and there are upsides and downsides to every option. In this article, we will discuss orthodontic retainers so that patients can decide which retainer is the best fit.

Why do I need to wear a retainer?
Retainers need to be worn because even though the teeth have been moved to the ideal placement, the teeth are capable of shifting back to their original placement or out of alignment. When this happens, orthodontic treatment may need to be repeated, which is a very costly and completely avoidable experience. A retainer, unless permanent, is usually only worn at night and reinforces the alignment of the teeth, making sure there is no deviation from the optimal placement.

Types of retainers
1. Vacuum formed clear retainers. These retainers are manufactured in the dental office from impressions made of the patient’s teeth. They are made out of a rigid, clear plastic material.
  • Easy to clean. These retainers are easily able to be removed from the mouth and can be cleaned with a toothbrush and occasionally with denture cleaner. For more information on how to clean the retainers, check out our article: Cleaning and Maintaining your Night Guard and Invisalign Trays.
  •  Only have to wear them at night. In comparison to a permanent retainer which is in the mouth at all times, this retainer is able to only be worn at night. The retainer must be worn at night diligently; however, otherwise the teeth can shift.

  • Not long-lasting. These orthodontic retainers do not last very long, usually between 12-16 months. After they wear down, a new set will need to be manufactured, as retainers are required indefinitely.
  • Costly. Although each set is only about two to three hundred dollars, considering that they will need to be replaced about once per year, the vacuum formed retainers are expensive.

Fixed wire retainers san francisco 2. Fixed wire retainers. This type of retainer involves a wire bar being placed on the inside (tongue side) of the teeth to keep the teeth in alignment. This is a permanent retainer that cannot be removed without the help of a dental professional.
  • Less personal responsibility. With this type of orthodontic retainer, there is no need to remember to wear a retainer at night. This is a better option for patients who are busy or forgetful and are not able to claim responsibility for wearing anon-permanent retainer.

  • Bulky. This type of retainer is bulky in the mouth and will take some getting used to. This bulkiness is not something that can be adjusted professionally without the removal of the bar completely.
  • Accumulates plaque. The wire retainer collects plaque easily and makes it difficult for patients to clean thoroughly around it. This can cause plaque build-up and calculus, cause gum inflammation later on cause dental decay, periodontitis, and  the need for restorative dentistry.

3. Vivera Retainers. Vivera retainers are a set of orthodontic retainers that are made by Invisalign. These retainers are purchased as a pack of four sets of retainers.
  • High quality. The Vivera retainers are made professionally through Invisalign, and are made with a very high quality plastic material. This material is thinner and longer-lasting than the in-office vacuum-formed clear retainers.
  • Come in a set. With the purchase of Vivera retainers, the patient will get four sets of retainers. This way, when the first set wears down and is no longer usable after about a year and a half, the patient can move on to using the next set rather than paying for another set to be fabricated.

  • Up-front cost. The up-front cost for Vivera retainers is more than the vacuum-formed clear retainers, ranging around five to seven hundred dollars. However, since the Vivera retainers come with four sets of retainers, the cost is markedly less per set than the other option that needs to be replaced every year.

If you have concerns about orthodontic treatment, orthodontic retainers, or Invisalign clear aligners, give Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS a visit on the web at or give us a call at (415) 513-5066.