Hawley Retainer: Expenses, Care, Advantages, Colors
A Hawley retainer is one form of orthodontic retainer, which uses a combination of a hard plastic or acrylic
plate connected by a thin metal wire. The retainer is molded to your mouth to fit comfortably on the roof of
your mouth, with the wire settled against the front of your top teeth.
The retainer protects the results of your orthodontic care and prevents your teeth from sliding back into their
previous positions. The Hawley retainer must be worn nightly for life, so your healthy smile is maintained for
as long as possible. It can be used after treatment with braces or clear aligners like Invisalign.
Hawley retainers are the original retention device, but new designs are emerged in the last few decades,
including removable clear plastic retainers such as Essix and Vivera retainers. While clear retainers are
becoming more popular, the Hawley retainer continues to be one of the most common and effective retention
devices used by orthodontists and preferred by patients.
According to a recent study from the National Institute of Health, Hawley retainers were preferred by 90% of
orthodontists for use with a maxillary dental arch.
A Hawley retainer is easy to use, comfortable to wear, and extremely effective at protecting the results of
your smile, as long as it is used as directed.
Pros and Cons of
A Hawley Retainer
There are several advantages of a Hawley retainer:
Easy to mold to the patient’s mouth
Adjustable over time if necessary
Plate color can be custom-selected for personalized appearance
Sturdy materials are durable and difficult to damage
Easy to clean
Removable for easy cleaning and care
No food restrictions: remove the retainer for all meals and drinking
Some cons to consider with Hawley retainers:
More noticeable than other retainers (wire sits in the front)
Plastic plate can be uncomfortable
May cause difficulty speaking
Bulkier appliance may cause irritation to lips, gums, or tongue
If not cleaned properly, bacteria may grow
If not worn properly and regularly, teeth may shift
Requires dedicated compliance
Removable appliance can be broken, lost, or damaged
For these reasons, some patients may prefer another form of retainer.
A Hawley retainer generally costs between $350 and $600. The costs vary depending on your orthodontist
provider, the region where you’re being treated, and the specifics of your case. The price includes the
cost necessary to send molds to a production facility and to have the retainer designed for your mouth
and sent back to the office. Generally, Hawley retainers cost more than clear plastic Essix retainers,
but a single Hawley retainer is designed to last many years, longer than plastic Essix retainers.
The cost of your Hawley retainer may be included in the overall price of your orthodontic care. In
addition, patients whose insurance covers their braces treatment may have the retainer covered as well.
A replacement Hawley retainer is likely the same price as the original retainer, around $350-$600. You
may also have to pay extra for the office visit to be fitted for the new retainer.
Hawley retainers come in a huge variety of colors, and can even be printed with fun designs like
watermelon, tie-dye, or stars-and-stripes. The colorful part of the retainer is the hard plastic or
acrylic plate that sits on the roof of the mouth, which is connected to metal wires that keep the
retainer snugly in place. The acrylic or plastic material can be cast in nearly any color, allowing you
lots of customizable choices to make your retainer your own.
Because the retainer sits high on the roof of the mouth, it’s entirely hidden behind the teeth: that
means you can choose a bright and fun color for your retainer without worrying that anyone will see it.
To avoid discoloration, avoid a very light color like white or gray: bright jewel tones like red and
blue will stay in good condition for a very long time. If your retainer breaks, the plate will have to
be re-cast, and you will have the option to select a new color or design.
Choose your favorite color or your favorite season to inspire your color choices; your orthodontist’s
office may also offer an array of designs you can choose from, like flowers, cats, or sports equipment.
Ask your orthodontist which options you have for Hawley retainer colors and designs.
In order for the Hawley retainer to work effectively, it is very important to keep it clean and stored
properly when not in use.
Wear your Hawley retainer every night, and clean it thoroughly before storing it in the case during the
day. To clean, remove from your mouth, and brush the entire surface gently with atoothbrushand warm
water. Don’t use toothpaste: it can damage the plastic in the retainer.
For an occasional deeper clean, you can also soak the retainer in baking soda and water for several
hours. Don’t do this every night – it can damage the metal wire over time – but soaking the retainer
overnight once or twice a month will provide a thorough overall cleaning of the appliance. You can also
soak the storage case to prevent bacterial growth. Be sure to rinse your retainer with water before
placing back in your mouth or in the storage case; do the same for the storage case.
A Hawley retainer is not designed to move teeth. Rather, it is worn to protect the gains made by your
orthodontic care, either with braces or clear aligners. Without a retainer, your teeth will naturally
start to shift back to their original positions, sowearing a
retainerregularly will stop this shifting and keep your healthy bite and beautiful
smile in place. While some minor shifting is normal as your teeth settle into place, regular retainer
use will prevent your teeth from shifting out of alignment and requiring future treatment.
If you have neglected to wear your retainer and your teeth have shifted, wearing the retainer will not
move your teeth back into their proper positions. You may need another round of orthodontic care to
address the shifting that has taken place. To avoid the expense, hassle, and time of second-round
orthodontic care, prevent dental drift by wearing your Hawley retainer every night.
Which retainer is right for you depends on your preferences or needs. Both Hawley retainers and clear retainers
are effective ways to protect the effects of your orthodontic treatment: in fact, a
recent NIH study found they provided the same amount of effectiveness on average in retaining the
gains of orthodontic care.
How Long Lasting
Metal and acrylic or hard plastic
5-10 years or more
Sturdy materials and durable design: built to last
years Simpler to adjust and repair Many color options
for personalized design Removable design No food
restrictions because appliance is removed for meals Easy to
clean and soak Long lasting design is cost-effective over
Wires or plastic may cause irritation to gums, lips, or
tongue More visible: metal wires go across the front
teeth Bulkier appliance may cause speech
Clear removable retainers
Transparent, flexible plastic
Clear retainers are subtle and nearly invisible No
issues with food getting stuck in retainer Easy to
clean Easy to copy and make several sets at
once Secure, comprehensive snug fit provides effectiveness
at retaining orthodontic results
More difficult to repair if damaged – more likely to
need replacement May need to be replaced every year or if
teeth shift Can cause extra saliva
production Bacteria can grow on retainers if not
How Long to
Wear a Hawley Retainer?
Retainers are “nighttime for a lifetime”: you’ll wear them more regularly in the first year, but
eventually, your orthodontist will instruct you to wear your retainer every night or every few nights
for as long as you can – ideally, forever. This will keep your teeth in their appropriate positions, and
prevent them from shifting back to their old, improper alignment.
For the first year after completing your orthodontic treatment, you’ll wear your Hawley retainer full
time, day and night, removing for meals and to brush your teeth and clean the retainer. This is an
important period of the retention phase where your teeth are adjusting to having your braces removed,
but still require support to keep from shifting.
After about a year, you’ll be able to switch to wearing the retainers just at night for another year or
so. Once this process has been completed, you can wear your retainers every other night, forever.
Hawley retainers are durable and designed to be sturdy in your mouth. However, accidents happen
and the retainers often break – that’s why it’s important to care for your retainer properly, storing
it in a case when you take it out so it does not get lost or broken – or eaten by the dog, which is a
very common problem with Hawley retainers!
Hawley retainers are sturdy and designed to last for years: they are built to last multiple
years. It’s important to care for your retainer properly, to prevent it from getting broken, lost, or
dirty. Even a well-maintained retainer will need to be replaced, however: after several years, you
should visit the orthodontist to get a new Hawley retainer.
Most people find Hawley retainers to be comfortable and easy to wear, especially since they are
worn only at night after the first year when they should be worn full-time. However, the appliance is
somewhat bulkier than clear plastic retainers, and some patients find this uncomfortable: the plastic
plate can irritate the roof of the mouth, or the connecting wire may poke the lips or gums. For
certain patients, clear Essix retainers or a permanent bonded retainer may be more comfortable.
No, retainers are not meant to correct any orthodontic issue, including overbites. Rather, they are
used after treatment with braces or clear aligners to keep the results of treatment in place and prevent
the teeth from shifting back.
If you have a dental issue like an overbite, it will require orthodontist-supervised treatment to
correct, followed by a retainer.
Remove the Hawley retainer and store it properly before eating. Food can get trapped in the
retainer, causing plaque to build up or damage to the device. Store your retainer in the case
provided, not in a napkin, and be sure to rinse your mouth and retainer before putting it back in.
When the retainer is out of your mouth, you can eat and drink anything you like: there are no food
restrictions with a Hawley retainer.
You can drink water with a Hawley retainer in, but if you drink anything else you should remove
the retainer. Store it properly so it doesn’t get broken or lost, and rinse your mouth and retainer
before putting it back in.