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Oxford Orthodontic Centre, 95a London Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 9AE


Orthodontic Retainers

Alternative retainers

There are several alternatives to the conventional retainers. In this practice we prefer where possible to use the clear vacuum formed retainer shown below. If you maintain good brushing through treatment and your gums are not swollen then these retainers may be used. If however, poor brushing has resulted in swollen gums you will have to have conventional wire and acrylic retainers.

Vacuum formed retainer (VFR)

Vacuum formed retainer VFR

Our preferred option Although this retainer looks flimsy, in practice it is more robust than the wire and acrylic retainer. It is also more comfortable to wear and nearly invisible. As an added bonus, because it is such a good fit, it is usually worn for fewer hours during the day than the conventional retainer. Download information sheet here.

Fixed wire retainer

Lower fixed wire orthodontic retainer

Sometimes it is preferable to fit a fixed retainer, which is a thin wire glued to the inside of the teeth. These perform well for the lower front teeth but are more prone to damage behind the upper front teeth. They may be left in place indefinitely provided that good oral hygiene can be maintained.


After active orthodontic treatment when the teeth are straight, the fixed appliances are removed. If nothing is done at this stage the teeth have a tendency to return towards their initial position. In addition, if you are young and your teeth and jaws are still growing, the teeth may move and re-crowd.


Removable orthodontic retainers

To prevent the teeth moving it is usual to wear retainers - retaining braces until the teeth reduce their tendency to move. In reality, teeth tend to move throughout life and re-crowding of the front teeth, especially the lowers, is a natural ageing process.

Faithful wearing of retainers can minimise unwanted changes in the position of teeth but it is important to follow the instructions you are given.

Hawley retainers

Removable Hawley retainer

Conventional removable retainers, known as Hawley retainers after their original designer, are made of wire and acrylic. They are reasonably robust but can fracture is mishandled or abused. However, if the damage is not too great, they are relatively easy to repair.