Is A Permanent Retainer the Right Orthodontic Treatment for You?

This article contains everything you ought to know before getting a permanent retainer, including what permanent retainers are, what they cost, how to wear them and how to care for them.

We are also going to take an honest look at both the pros and the cons of wearing a permanent retainer, and look at alternatives to permanent bonded retainers for those who may find that the cons seem to outweigh the pros. Finally, at the end of this article you will find a FAQ, which hopefully provides the answers you need to be able to decide whether a permanent retainer is the right orthodontic treatment option for you.

Without further ado, here we go.

All about the permanent retainer orthodontic treatment

A permanent retainer, also called a fixed retainer because it is affixed to the backs of the patient’s teeth, is an orthodontic appliance used to treat teeth requiring replacement. Not all dentists and orthodontists are able to provide permanent bonded retainers, as installing and adjusting them requires specialist training.

Permanent retains consist of a singular metal bar which is bonded to the backs of the patient’s teeth – either the upper teeth, the lower teeth or both – using a special dental cement. In most cases, the retainer only spans the front four to six teeth, which makes this orthodontic treatment ideal for patients wanting to correct gapped teeth where there is a large space between the teeth. Over time, the metal wire affixed to the back of the teeth will shift each tooth requiring correction from its original position until, eventually, you end up with the unwanted dental space closed. Once your teeth are in their optional positions, the permanent retainer keeps them from slipping back.

The permanent retainer orthodontic treatment really is a long-term strategy for keeping teeth straight. In some cases, a permanent bonded retainer can be worn for one or even two decades, depending on the severity of the dental problems requiring correction.

As the name suggests, permanent retainers typically have to be worn for many years – sometimes decades. It is important to get your permanent retainers medically reviewed on a regular basis, and to keep your teeth clean along the way. After all, there is no point in sacrificing your oral health for a beautiful smile when you can have both.

The cost of permanent retainers can vary a great deal, but expect to pay anywhere between $150-500+. If your permanent retainer breaks or requires adjustments at any point during treatment, you might have to pay for additional retainers and dental visits.

Permanent retainer pros and cons 

There are both pros and cons of choosing fixed retainers. We are going to go over both, to give you a clearer idea of what to expect if you opt for permanent retainers over other treatment options. 


One of the best things about permanent retainers is the fact that they are affixed to your teeth, which means that once they have been installed and you have gotten used to them, you do not have to worry about forgetting to wear them, or about wearing them incorrectly – they are simply there, which makes the teeth straightening process marvellously simple.

Another pro worth highlighting is that permanent retainers are fantastic at dealing with gapped teeth, particularly of the upper teeth but of the lower teeth as well. A permanent retainer is a long-term treatment option, so there is no quick fix, but rather a thorough, long-term solution to extremely gapped teeth that are likely to slide back towards their original positions if only treated for a short period of time.

It is also worth noting that permanent retainers are invisible – they cannot be seen as they are hidden on the backs of your teeth. This makes them even more discreet, appearance-wise, than clear removable aligners.


While there are some convincing pros of choosing permanent retainers for your teeth straightening treatment, there are also some cons. The cons are, for the most part, the flip side of the pros.

Sure, having a bonded retainer permanently affixed to your teeth is convenient in many ways, but it also means that you do not have the option of removing your retainer when it is time to eat or to brush your teeth. This brings with it a whole host of challenges when it comes to maintaining your oral hygiene. 

It is also worth mentioning here that permanent retainers can feel annoying or unpleasant when you rest your tongue against the backs of your front teeth where the retainer is bonded. to your teeth. Even if you get more used it over time, it can still feel like your mouth has become too crowded.

Another con is the fact that permanent retainers have to be worn, well, pretty much permanently, and certainly for years. In some cases, permanent retainers are the only long-term option for teeth that stubbornly slip back into their original gapped or crooked positions, but wearing permanent retainers for a decade or more can seem like a high price to pay.

Finally, it is worth considering the fact that wearing permanent retainers restrict your diet, since they are prone to getting food stuck in them or even breaking – so if you are a fan of beef jerky, chewing gum or nuts, you are going to struggle during the years or decades that your permanent retainer treatment lasts.

Maintaining oral health while wearing permanent retainers

It is always important to take proper care of your teeth, but this is doubly true when you are wearing permanent retainers.

Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and thoroughly is the only way to avoid tartar buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease faster than mos patients would like to think.

Thread flossing with permanent retainers can be an almost impossible task, so consider getting a water flosser.

You should also be careful of what you eat, as certain foods can get stuck in your permanent retainer or even cause it to break. Specific foods to avoid include all chewy and sticky foods with textures like caramel and taffy, chewing gum, beef jerky and pork. Popcorn, ice cubes, nuts and hard candies should also be avoided.

Reasons to consider removable retainers instead

Simply put, all of the cons that come with wearing permanent retainers can be mitigated by opting for removable clear aligners instead. Clear aligners are not a suitable option for everyone – only mild to moderate cases of teeth misalignment can be treated with Invisalign, AlignerCo or SmileDirectClub.

First of all, clear aligners never have to be worn for decades – instead, the typical length of treatment is 12 to 18 months, depending on the severity of the misalignment issue. In other words, you are trimming down the treatment time quite significantly. 

Most importantly, perhaps, clear aligner are removable and can be taken out when you want to eat or brush your teeth, which makes it a lot easier to protect your dental hygiene. 

Most patients tend to find that wearing removable clear aligners, while not necessarily comfortable, are easy to get used to.

If you are looking for high-quality removable invisible aligners, our top recommendations are Invisalign, AlignerCo, Candid and SmileDirectClub.

Permanent retainer FAQ

How long does permanent retainer last?

The name itself is an indicator that permanent retainers can last an incredibly long time. 

Of course, a permanent retainer is not forever, but can nevertheless last upwards of twenty years before it eventually wears out and can be replaced if desired or necessary.

Can teeth still move with a permanent retainer?

Teeth can still move ever so slightly, even if you have a permanent retainer fixed in your mouth. 

The reason for this is that the various metal alloys and wires that the retainer is made of it susceptible to yield and give way to pressure over time. However, the teeth movements that can happen while you are wearing a permanent retainer are much more minor than they would be without a retainer.

Are permanent retainers worth it?

While permanent retainers offer many advantages, such as being fully hidden from view and easy to use since they are bonded to the backs of your teeth, they also come with certain disadvantages. Whether permanently fixed retainers are worth it depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

You cannot remove bonded retainers from your mouth, for one. Only a trained dentist or orthodontist will be able to remove it safely for you. What’s more, a permanent retainer is, well, permanent, and usually has to be worn for years. You might find that it irritates your tongue when you rest it against the backs of your teeth – and while such an inconvenience might seem minor if you are only wearing your braces for a few months to a year, having this be the permanent state of things can be quite exhausting. 

The most popular alternative to permeant retainers are clear aligners from providers such as Invisalign or SmileDirectClub.

Can a permanent retainer straighten teeth?

Yes, just like a removable retainer, a permanent bonded retainer is able to straighten teeth and adjust them for an overall better, more symmetrical bite.

Can you feel a permanent retainer?

Yes, you will be able to feel a fixed retainer, particularly in the beginning. Because a permanent retainer is bonded to the backs of your teeth, you will inevitably find yourself resting your tongue against it a lot of the time. 

While many find permanent retainers obstructive and uncomfortable to start, most quickly become used to how they feel.

Do permanent retainers hurt?

Permanent retainers should not hurt once they have been installed and you have become accustomed to them. 

Having said that, the process of getting permanent bonded retainers installed can be uncomfortable and a bit painful, and can easily take up to an hour to get done.

How long does permanent retainer last?

The name itself is an indicator that permanent retainers can last an incredibly long time. 

What can you not eat with a permanent retainer?

When you are wearing permanent bonded retainers, there are several food items you either eat carefully or not at all. These include tough and chewy foods, such as beef jerky, chewing gum and taffy. You should also steer clear of hard foods like nuts and hard candies if at all possible. Ice cubes should also be avoided.

Can I get an MRI if I have permanent retainers?

It is not recommended to get an MRI scan if you have permanent retainers, which are are made of metal alloys. Just like piercings, metal braces should be removed before getting a MRI scan.

The possibility of ever needing an MRI scan is one of several reasons to consider removable retainers over permanent bonded retainers.

Closing thoughts

Are your ready to get permanent retainers?

Getting retainers permanently bonded to your teeth is a big decision, and there are plenty of pros and cons to weigh up and consider. We hope this article has given you some food for thought and hopefully helped answer some of your most burning questions about permanent retainers.

All in all, the decision is yours. If you are dealing with severely gapped top teeth and have been turned down as a candidate for Invisalign or other removable aligners, a fixed retainer may be precisely the right choice for you. 

If, on the other hand, you have only just started considering the possibilities, we urge you to spend a bit of time looking into clear aligners as this is often a faster, easier and sometimes less expensive way of straightening your teeth.

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