Permanent Retainers: Expectations vs. Reality

Permanent retainers are a commonly misunderstood dental appliance. Knowing the difference between a permanent retainer and a removable retainer can be very helpful – especially if you’re trying to decide whether this type of appliance is right for you. One thing to keep in mind: your orthodontist will help you decide whether a permanent retainer is appropriate for your situation. To make your final decision, speak with Dr. Laster at Laster Orthodontics.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are made of metal wire. The wire is glued to your teeth – on the back. Permanent retainers are also called bonded retainers, lingual wire, or fixed retainers. Because they’re glued to the back of your teeth, they’re invisible. They do their work without needing to be removed and without changing your physical appearance.

Are Permanent Retainers Actually Permanent?

Permanent retainers aren’t truly permanent. They’re only called “permanent” because they can’t be removed easily, unlike removable retainers. Permanent retainers do eventually wear out, but they’ve been known to last for upwards of 20 years. When they wear out, they can be removed and replaced.

What Is the Purpose of a Permanent Retainer?

Permanent retainers are typically recommended for people who have had their bite corrected with braces. Once the braces are removed, the permanent retainer prevents the teeth from returning to the original position.

Where Are Permanent Retainers Installed?

Permanent retainers are more commonly installed on the lower teeth, though they can be installed on the upper or lower teeth. Your orthodontist will help you decide where your permanent retainer should be installed.

Pros of a Permanent Retainer

So if you’re trying to decide whether to install a permanent retainer, you should know the pros and cons of this type of dental appliance. There are many advantages.

  • It doesn’t come off. Removable retainers can be taken out and put back in, which means they can be lost. Permanent retainers are never lost – they’re always in the same place!
  • No one knows it’s there. Permanent retainers can’t be seen, so there’s no reason to worry about the way you look when you’re wearing one.
  • It’s hard to damage. Removable retainers are easily damaged because they can be stepped on, crushed, bent, or warped when they’re out of the mouth. Permanent retainers have no opportunity to become damaged in this way because they’re always in the same protected place – your mouth.
  • More effective than removable retainers. Because permanent retainers never come out, this means they never stop doing their job. They’re highly effective at keeping teeth in place.
  • They don’t affect your speech. While removable retainers can cause a subtle lisp that can be difficult to disguise, permanent retainers have little to no effect on speech patterns.


Despite all the benefits, there are some qualities about permanent retainers that people find annoying. This is what you need to know.

  • The procedure can take up to an hour to install. Your permanent retainer may take a full hour to install, or even more, depending on where it’s being installed. Once the procedure is over, you probably won’t have to go through it again for a long time.
  • Brushing and flossing are more complicated. After installation, you’ll have to be very careful to ensure that you’re brushing and flossing your teeth well, as plaque will easily build up around the appliance.
  • The wire may break. Permanent retainers are very durable, but if the wire fails, it will need to be replaced.
  • It can be uncomfortable or annoying at first. Once the retainer is put in place, it might be on for a long time! Some people find this appliance uncomfortable at first, although they do eventually adjust.

How to Floss with Permanent Retainer

Learning to floss with a permanent retainer is the real challenge of living comfortably with this kind of appliance. To get the job done, use a 6-inch piece of floss and a floss threader. (A floss threader is a device that looks kind like a plastic sewing needle.)

To floss, start by threading the floss through the eyehole in the threader. Next, insert the threader in the space between the teeth until the end of the floss is on the other side of the teeth. Finally, pull the floss through the teeth and floss like normal. Repeat this process for the space between each pair of teeth. It’s a process, but you’ll get used to it with time. Brushing and flossing can take several extra minutes for someone with a permanent retainer.

How Much Does a Permanent Retainer Cost?

The cost for a permanent retainer is usually included in a total treatment plan. For example, you may pay for braces and a permanent retainer as part of one extended treatment. Permanent retainers generally run between $150 and $500, depending on the type of retainer, the complexity of installing, and other factors. At Laster Orthodontics, we don’t want costs to prevent anyone from receiving the treatment they need. Ask us about our payment plans.

Can You Remove a Permanent Retainer?

Yes, you can remove a permanent retainer, either because you’ve decided that you no longer need one or because your old retainer needs replacement. Recall that permanent retainers can last up to 20 years. The only safe and effective way to remove your permanent retainer is to have the work done by a trained, experienced orthodontist.

If you’re ready to have the permanent retainer removed from your mouth, contact Laster Orthodontics to make an appointment for a permanent retainer removal.

That said, if you’re thinking about installing a permanent retainer only to remove it a few years after the retainer is installed, it may be that you’d be happier with a removable retainer. See our blog article to consider this issue for yourself.

Contact Dr. Laster to See if Permanent Retainers Are Best for You

Is a permanent retainer right for you? Work with Dr. Laster to learn more about how you can keep straight teeth following the removal of your braces. Contact us today to make an appointment.

At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster’s in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.