Clear Retainers Vs Metal Retainers

Having worn braces for months, you wait for them to come off. But unfortunately, the treatment does not end there. You will be advised to wear retainers, an oral appliance that prevents the teeth from returning to their misaligned state. Generally, they are fitted the same day the braces are removed.

There are different types of orthodontic retainers; wire retainers and clear retainers are the two broadest divisions. Whichever one you choose, it is custom-made to your requirements. Choosing an orthodontic retainer involves considering the look, the fit, comfort and price. This article compares the features of clear and metal retainers.

Design and Construction

A wire retainer includes a plastic/acrylic mould attached with a pliable wire. The wire extends across the front teeth while the plastic acrylic mould fits into the mouth, offering support. This type is adjustable. Clear retainers are moulded from clear plastic. They look very similar to Invisalign aligners. It is shaped like a tooth tray and fits snugly over your teeth.

Comfort and Speech

Retainers designed with wire affect speech clarity, temporarily; until the wearer gets used to it. The plastic mould fits into the hollow of the roof of the mouth and so they tend to lisp. Clear retainers are vacuum-formed and hence they fit more comfortably. As there is no piece against the roof, it does not interfere with the person’s speech. Also, the plastic in the wire retainer can cause the roof to itch. That won’t happen with a clear retainer.


The one thing most people who have to wear braces or retainers are concerned about is how they might look or how noticeable they will be. Made of thin, transparent plastic, clear retainers are as good as invisible. No one will notice you are wearing retainers unless they observe it closely. The wire variant is more noticeable. If appearance is your primary concern, you should opt for the clear ones.


Wire retainers have a loser fit. They can be removed easily with the tongue. Therefore, the chances of the teeth moving back to the original position are higher. On the contrary, clear retainers grip the teeth so as to keep them from moving out of place.


Both are easy to clean, but the instructions differ on how it must be done. So, you can use toothpaste and toothbrush for a metal version but, you can’t do the same for a clear retainer. For the latter, you can either use mouthwash or a denture cleaner to rinse it.


It has been noted that wire retainers have a higher durability than clear retainers if maintained properly. Clear retainers have an average lifespan of two years. This is because if they are not cleaned properly, they become yellowish and hazy. They might also pick up stains. However, now-a-days the use of better quality, thicker, water and stain-resistant plastic has made clear retainers more durable than they used to be.

Also, if you want cheap retainers, you can go for the clear ones.

From the medical point of view, your orthodontist will recommend wearing a wire retainer in case your teeth have not aligned well despite the braces. But when it comes to making a personal choice, you can always choose what suits you best.

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