Retainers are dental appliances that require a long-term commitment. Studies show that after the first three months of orthodontic treatment, 60% of patients wear retainers for more than 10 hours each night. It is a long period even if you have worn braces previously. Naturally, you want something of high quality and removable.
But then there is the question of cost. Retainers online can range from a few $20 dollars for cheap Chinese-made appliances (I don’t recommend those) to custom-made ones that cost nearly $1000. What cost is rational is a tough issue, which is what I’m going to cover in this article.
How Much Do Retainers Cost?
If you want a simple answer to why teeth retainer costs vary so much, the answer is it’s because of different types. Different kinds of retainers use different materials and designs, which makes them more or less comfortable for different purposes. That’s why there isn’t much sense in talking about retainer cost without categorizing them first.
The three main types of retainers are Hawley, Essix, and Bonded retainers. Each retainer type achieves the basic function of keeping your teeth in the correct position. However, some might come with cleaning issues, speech difficulties, or less aesthetic appeal than others. Their cost is also varying significantly, but they all are covered by insurance.
Considering the cost of each retainer type (including replacement costs, dentists visits, and other wearing expenses) is a great starting point before looking into more orthodontic criteria.
Hawley Retainers Cost
Hawley teeth retainers stand out because of their material. They are made from an acrylic plate (sometimes hard plastic) with an attached thin and an adjustable wire. The wire is crucial for holding the retainer in place to effectively prevent teeth movement.
These retainers are quite visible but very durable. I still have the teeth retainers from my childhood in a perfect shape. Their cost can range from $150 to over $600 without dentist consultation costs. Often, the costs add up as a clear Hawley retainer needs to be adjusted monthly or even more often at the dentist’s office.
Essix Retainer Cost
If you care about aesthetics or want no one to notice you are wearing teeth retainers, choose Essix. They are made from transparent plastic and are easily removable from teeth. There are many photos online displaying before and after Essix retainer with tooth alignment improved. However, ensure you make proper teeth impressions with these retainers, as they might fall off otherwise.
Essix teeth retainers can cost as low as $20, but dentists have options averaging around $400. I don’t recommend cheap retainer options. They tend to break or deform over time. The low-cost teeth retainer options are also pre-made and won’t be comfortable. Even worse is that they won’t keep your teeth from moving. No orthodontist would recommend them for your teeth.
Sporting smiles provide a great option for at-home clear Essix retainers. Many customers are already satisfied with their service. It’s worth giving them a try!
- Sporting Smiles started their business as a removable sports mouthguards manufacturer. You can be sure their dental retainers are also durable!
- These retainers are made from clear plastic, which is as close to invisible as it can get.
- Starting from $90, most Sporting Smiles retainers are at least half the cost of the ones you’ll find at the dental office.
- Sporting Smiles retainers are made in a professional dental lab from the impressions you make at home.
Bonded Retainer Cost
Simply put, bonded retainers are thin wires glued to the back of your teeth to prevent them from moving. These teeth retainers are extremely effective, but they have a few major dental consequences, making them the last choice for most patients.
First, such a retainer will remain in your mouth for a long time. Very long time. That’s why they are also called permanent retainers. Secondly, bonded retainers require dentist intervention early on and might complicate teeth fixing afterwards. That’s why they are the most expensive teeth retainer type, which can cost even more than $700 dollars if we add up all the dentist visits.
Other Factors Influencing Retainer Costs
The question of how much do retainers cost is also heavily influenced by the materials used in making them. Every type of teeth retainer can be made with quality materials that are durable and don’t worsen your dental care. However, manufacturers often cut costs by using materials that break, deform, or are bad for one’s health.
This is true for other dental appliances, such as braces or clear aligners, as well as retainers. The general rule of thumb when choosing all of them is the same. The materials must balance durability with gum and dental health. It directly influences how long do you wear a retainer.
Plastic must be BPA-free, wires from stainless metals, and acrylic fits best when it’s thermal. The exact requirements depend on the manufacturer, the retainer type and your treatment, but usually, quality materials are labeled as medical-grade.
Customization and Adjustability
The more customizable your teeth retainer is, the more it will cost. Replacing adjustable orthodontics equipment is also more expensive as it cannot be mass-produced, and you will pay for it to fit your teeth once again. Removable orthodontic retainers, such as those made by Invisalign, are usually more affordable in this regard, as you make one impression that the manufacturer can use them later.
The adjustable wires of Hawley teeth retainers are usually mended to specific teeth, so the whole mechanism is made specifically for your mouth by an orthodontist. Even if the materials are affordable, the specialist’s time will increase the cost of a beautiful smile.
Perhaps the most expensive teeth treatment is with bonded retainers. I doubt many would afford them if dental insurance or Medicaid wouldn’t cover them. Gluing the wires to your teeth requires much precision, which cannot be done quickly by an orthodontist.
Orthodontic Treatment Complexity
Just as with teeth retainer customization, complex cases require a more competent dentist, which costs more per hour. Retainer cost for complicated issues is raised even more by the fact that patients cannot use over-the-counter retainers. The basic one-size-fits-all approach just does not work, while customized treatment is more expensive.
Severe teeth misalignments require complex treatment plans that require the orthodontist to not to use a treatment by the book. Patients sometimes are recommended to use retainers instead of braces or use aligner treatment in a specific way before starting to use removable retainers. In short, complex orthodontic treatment always requires a visit to dentist or orthodontist before starting to use a retainer.
Insurance Coverage and Payment Plans
Most insurance plans do cover teeth retainers in the same way they cover orthodontic aligners, Invisalign for example. They are funded only if your dentist recommends a retainer as necessary for your dental health. Since teeth retainer treatment is a part of the prescribed use of aligners or braces, they are covered fully.
However, many people choose to use teeth retainers for aesthetic purposes as well, so orthodontists do not prescribe a retainer for as long as you would want to. In such cases, you will need to pay a part of the cost of retainer treatment. How much does it cost depends on your teeth retainer treatment plan entirely.
It’s also worth noting that many teeth insurance plans cover initial retainers, but if you need replacement retainers (when you break your retainer, for example), then you will need to pay the full cost. Check your dental insurance plan for all the details about retainers cost before purchasing.
Final Words: Should You Buy Cheap or Expensive Retainers?
Retainers are recommended, and even necessary, after most orthodontic treatments. It might seem you have already paid for your braces or other dental care measures, but retainers should still be accounted for as an expense. Retainer cost is not that big if you find a suitable balance between quality materials, comfort, and durability.
While on paper teeth retainer might cost anywhere from $20 to $1000, worthwhile options will cost you from $100 to $600. I do not recommend looking into cheaper options, and while a more expensive retainer is great, the cost and value ratio is disappointing.