Teeth Straightening: What is the Difference Between Aligners and Retainers?

Clear aligners have become very popular over the past few years. The main reason for this is that they are inconspicuous and work very effectively in almost all teeth misalignment and crowding situations. However, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to differentiating between aligners and retainers.

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The two may look alike, but they are vastly different. If you are thinking about getting clear aligners and do not know the difference between them and retainers, this article is for you.

Clear Aligners: What are They?

Clear aligners are teeth straightening options that use clear plastic instead of the traditional brace or ceramic and wire. To make the aligners, an orthodontist first takes a sample of your teeth in their current state. They do this using a mould or an x-ray machine. They then mould clear aligners that will straighten your teeth by moving them to their correct position over 4-6 months.

Once you get the initial aligners, you will get a new set every week or two. These new sets offset the teeth just a little bit depending on the progress you are making and your orthodontist’s assessment. Once you are done with all the sets, in about six months, your teeth will be where they are supposed to be.

The two main advantages of aligners are that they can be taken off and are inconspicuous because they are clear. You cannot take metal or ceramic braces off; the only thing that is required is adjustments of the wire as your teeth shift. Because of the brackets and wire they use, these braces are visible, which makes them not ideal for most adults who want braces.


One of the main complaints people have after wearing clear aligners for the prescribed period is their teeth moving back into position after some time. This happens because these people did not follow the instructions to wear their retainers as prescribed. Retainers are meant to work after completing your clear aligner treatment. They prevent the teeth from moving into an undesirable position after the treatment. If you do not follow the instructions given, your teeth could relapse, and you will end up with the same problem before you started wearing the clear aligners.

One question you might have is how long you need to wear the retainers for. Most people are supposed to wear retainers for about 12 months after removing their aligners. You need to wear the retainers at night for this period. The doctor will then assess your teeth and let you know if you need to keep wearing them.

There is a very small minority of people who are advised to wear their retainers for a longer period. There is a lot more to know about retainers, especially how to wear them after removing your aligners. You can find everything you need to know about retainers on Straight My Teeth’s blog. Straight My Teeth makes it possible to straighten your teeth at home using their clear aligners in 4-6 months. They also sell Night-Only aligners for those who want a more discreet teeth straightening option. They also offer complimentary retainers after removing the clear aligners.

Are Aligners and Retainers Interchangeable?

Aligners and retainers are made using different materials and are very different because they serve different goals. Aligners are meant to help your teeth move into the correct position by applying gentle pressure. The new sets that come in also help with this goal by pushing the teeth a fraction of a millimetre at a time.

Retainers are meant to stop the teeth from moving back to their old position once you remove the aligners. Remember that your gums were used to remaining in certain positions before the alignment. They may want to go back to these positions after the alignment and the retainers are supposed to stop this from happening.

What Types of Retainers Can I Get?

The two main types of retainers you can get are removable and non-removable retainers. You may be familiar with clear retainers that fit both your upper and lower teeth. These are removable retainers, and they are desirable by a lot of people because they are transparent. They are made to last a long time and are great at stopping the teeth from moving.

There are also removable wire retainers that use a piece of plastic that is placed on the upper part of the inside of the mouth. The piece of plastic is then connected to wires that go around both the top and bottom teeth.

Fixed or permanent retainers are made of thin wire bonded behind the upper and lower teeth. These retainers must be checked from time to time and can only be removed by an orthodontist.

If you are thinking about getting clear aligners, you need to know how they differ from retainers and when you need both of them. Working together, clear aligners and retainers can give you the smile you have always wanted.

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