Essix Retainer: Cost, Care, Benefits, How It Works (2023 Guide)

Want to know what an Essix retainer can do for your smile? Learn all about the benefits and costs of this popular clear, removable dental device in our handy guide.

11 min readEssix Retainer: Cost, Care, Benefits, How It Works

Essix retainers are popular and cost-effective retainers for teeth without the use of traditional braces. They are an ideal solution for those who have already undergone orthodontic treatment but need to maintain their new smile. Also, they are used for minor dental adjustments and corrections.

This popular type of retainer is great because they are very affordable and easy to maintain. You can get a new one for as low as $60, and with advances made to its plastic material, these products have become increasingly durable.

So, are Essix retainers worth getting? With this comprehensive guide, you will get to know the ins and outs of getting an Essix retainer, its benefits, and ways to keep it looking great for years to come.

What Is An Essix Retainer? Overview

An Essix retainer is a removable dental appliance that is used to keep teeth in their correct position following orthodontic treatment. This is a set of two removable pieces made from clear plastic that is molded to your teeth. It is made from a thin, clear plastic material and fits snugly over the upper or lower arch of the teeth.

The benefits of using a clear plastic retainer are that it is nearly invisible, making it more likely to be worn regularly and consequently reducing the chances of relapse.

Additionally, this type of retainer tends to be less bulky and may provide greater comfort than other types, like the Hawley retainer, which is commonly known as a “wraparound” retainer.

How Do Essix Retainers Work?

Essix retainers are custom-made by an orthodontist using impressions of your mouth, which are taken with special equipment. Once these impressions have been taken, they are sent off to a dental lab where the retainer is created.

The retainer will be designed to fit your exact mouth shape, making it more comfortable and efficient than a stock retainer available in stores. Once the retainer is made, you will need to apply it as instructed by your orthodontist.

Generally, this means wearing the retainer for most of the day at first and then reducing usage over time until your teeth have settled into their new position.

You may need to wear it for longer periods of time if you experience any discomfort or shifting during the adjustment period.

The Benefits And Risks Of Using Essix Retainers

While Essix retainers can be great at keeping your smile straight at an affordable price, there are both benefits and risks associated with using this popular device that you should be aware of before deciding whether or not this is the right option for you.


  • Improved teeth alignment - Essix retainers are designed to keep your teeth in their new and improved alignment for as long as you use them, helping to prevent any post-orthodontic relapse.

  • Customizable fit - The Essix retainer is custom-made to fit your individual mouth shape and size, giving you the perfect level of comfort and security while wearing it.

  • Discreet appearance - Unlike other types of retainers, Essix retainers are made of a transparent plastic material that makes them virtually invisible when worn. You can feel confident knowing that no one will be able to tell you’re wearing them!

  • Comfort and convenience - The lightweight and flexible design of the Essix retainer makes it comfortable to wear and easy to take on and off. Plus, they require less cleaning than other types of retainers, making them a convenient choice for busy people on the go.

  • Low maintenance - Unlike traditional metal retainers, Essix retainers are made of a durable plastic material that doesn't corrode or rust over time and requires minimal maintenance. All you need to do is rinse it with lukewarm water every once in a while, and you’re good to go.

  • Cost-effective - The cost of Essix retainers is typically lower than other forms of orthodontic treatment like braces, making them a great option for people on a budget.


  • Uncomfortable to wear - In some cases, the plastic may cut into your gums or cause irritation when worn for extended amounts of time.

  • More easily broken - Essix retainers are not as durable as other types of dental appliances, making them vulnerable to getting broken easily if dropped on a hard surface or stepped on accidentally.

  • Unpleasant taste - Another con of using Essix retainers is that they can have an unpleasant taste and smell due to the plastic material used in their construction. This may cause some discomfort for those who wear them for long periods, such as when sleeping or exercising.

  • Not suitable for serious orthodontic issues - While Essix retainers are effective at keeping minor orthodontic issues in check, they are not suitable for more serious dental problems since they cannot provide the same level of support and adjustment as metal braces or other types of appliances.

  • Limited Adjustability - Essix retainers have limited adjustability, making them unsuitable for those who need to make frequent and major adjustments. In these cases, the patient would be better off with a more adjustable appliance, such as metal braces or even Invisalign treatment.

You can maintain your teeth's alignment without having to wear traditional braces with Essix retainers. You should, however, be aware of the pros and cons of this option before deciding if it is right for you. Depending on the severity of the case, some patients may require more complex treatments.

Before And After Essix Retainer With Tooth

We've all heard of "dental transformation" stories where people get braces and then, after a few years, emerge with perfectly aligned teeth. But what about those who take a more conservative approach to straightening their teeth?

Here are before and after images of people who have used Essix retainers to achieve beautiful smiles over time.

Essix Retainer Cleaning Tips

To get the most out of your Essix retainer and ensure it continues to function well, proper cleaning is essential. Here are some tips for keeping your Essix retainer clean.

  • Use a soft-bristled brush – Just like you brush your natural teeth twice daily with toothpaste, you should also be brushing your Essix retainer with toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush every day. This will help to remove plaque, food particles, and other debris that can build up on the retainer over time.

  • Soak it – At least once a week, you should soak your Essix retainer in an approved cleaning solution for about 15 minutes to ensure it stays clean and bacteria-free. Be careful not to use regular mouthwash, as this could damage the retainer or cause discoloration over time.

  • Regularly check for wear and tear – Inspect your Essix retainer regularly to make sure that there are no cracks, chips, or other signs of damage and discoloration that may need to be addressed.

These simple cleaning tips will help you keep your Essix retainer working effectively and looking great for a long time.

How Long Do Essix Retainers Last?

Essix retainers typically last anywhere from one to three years, depending on the individual person’s oral health needs and habits. They are designed to be comfortable and durable so that patients can wear them for the full duration of their treatment period without any significant damage or discomfort.

In general, an Essix retainer life expectancy is based on the patient’s wear and tear habits. Wearing it more often will increase the risk of deterioration. It is recommended that you wear your retainer for at least 22 hours each day for the first eight weeks following your treatment.

In addition to the patient’s own habits, Essix retainers can also be damaged by improper cleaning or storage methods. Abrasive toothpaste should never be used on these appliances as they can cause scratches and discoloration over time.

Essix Retainer Care Instructions

Properly caring for an Essix retainer will help maintain its effectiveness and keep your smile looking its best.

  • Wear your retainer as much as possible - Wearing your Essix retainer for the required amount of time will help prevent teeth from shifting back to their original position and keep them straight and healthy.

  • Clean it daily - Make sure to brush off any food particles or plaque that may have accumulated on the retainer using a soft-bristled toothbrush, warm water, and mild soap. Rinse the device with cold water after brushing, then soak it in a denture-cleaning solution at least once a week.

  • Avoid hot temperatures - Extreme temperatures can cause the retainer to warp and no longer fit your teeth properly. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight, hot car interiors, or near any other heat source for extended periods of time.

  • Keep it safe - Place your Essix retainer in its case when not wearing it and store it away from pets, children, and other sources of damage. Don't wrap it up in a napkin or tissue, as this can lead to accidental disposal or loss of the device.

Along with these care instructions, visiting an orthodontist every six months is a good idea to guarantee the proper fit and functioning of your retainer. Most orthodontists will recommend that patients bring in their Essix retainers for professional cleaning and assessment.

The Cost Of An Essix Retainer

Essix retainers are favored by many due to their nearly transparent look and cost-effective price. Each package contains a top and bottom arch device, with prices ranging from $60 to $300 on average. It is expected that Essix retainers will last for three years or so.

As a comparison, another popular retainer option is the Hawley retainer, known for its bright-colored plastic aesthetic and single wire across the top front teeth. A Hawley retainer will start around $350 and go up to $600, but it should last around five years.

What Is Essix Retainer Made Out Of?

Essix retainers are constructed from a transparent plastic material, similar to the aligners used with treatments such as Invisalign. Both of these products are custom-fitted to your mouth after orthodontic treatment.

A clear Essix retainer contains co-polyester, whereas Essix Plus contains co-polyester and proprietary additives ranging from 0.0% to 6%. Because of the addition of proprietary additives, Essix Plus retainer material has a stronger finish than standard retainer materials.

Before you decide to get your own Essix retainer, check out some questions frequently asked by customers.

Are Essix Retainers Effective?

Essix retainers are effective at keeping teeth in place and can be compared to traditional Hawley retainers. They are also less visible and more comfortable to wear than their counterparts.

As an added benefit, Essix retainers provide full coverage of the teeth, making them ideal for those who grind or clench their teeth while sleeping.

Can Essix Retainers Move Teeth Back?

Essix retainers can't be adjusted easily, but if the teeth need to be moved less than 1mm back into place, these may be able to do it. However, a retainer's primary function is to keep your teeth in place and not move them. So, talk to your dentist as soon as possible if your retainer no longer fits properly after a period of time.

Can Essix Retainers Be Adjustable?

Your orthodontist can either modify your current Essix retainer at the office, so it fits better, or if that's not a viable option, they can give you a new one. Make sure to only let your orthodontist adjust the retainer to make sure it functions correctly and safely for your mouth.

Can You Eat With An Essix Retainer?

You should not snack or consume anything other than water with your Essix retainer in. If you do so, food particles and sugar may accumulate around your teeth, which can lead to discoloration and cavities. When eating, simply take off your Essix retainer from your mouth since it can be removed easily.

Do Essix Retainers Straighten Teeth?

Using an Essix retainer helps keep your upper and lower teeth in the right position. Retainers alone are not the most effective option for reshaping your teeth as they are not designed to provide constant pressure over time. However, they may be able to help slightly by adjusting the position of your teeth and bite.

How To Fix A Cracked Essix Retainer

If your Essix retainer is cracked, it needs to be replaced. Do not try to fix it by gluing the pieces back together with regular household adhesive, as this will not create a medical-grade bond.

Online search results for repairing a transparent retainer may also not be reliable, so it is recommended to rely on the advice of an orthodontist. Contact your orthodontist and get a new one instead.

What ADA Code Is Used For Essix Retainer

D8680 is the ADA code assigned to orthodontic retainers, including Essix retainers. In case you are unaware, CDT Codes are a set of codes developed by the American Dental Association (ADA) that are used to accurately identify and record dental procedures when submitting claims to an insurance plan.

The CDT Code list is maintained by the ADA and includes all the codes necessary for coding each dental procedure.

Can You Sleep With An Essix Retainer?

For the initial three to six months, it is necessary to wear an Essix retainer for at least 22 hours each day. This includes wearing them overnight. During the first six months, full-time use is recommended, and following that period, it is best to keep it on only during sleep for another year or two.

What Does An Essix Retainer Look Like?

Essix retainers are designed to be discreet and unnoticeable, as they are made of clear materials. They consist of two pieces, one for the top teeth and one for the bottom teeth, which fit tightly yet comfortably around your mouth.

Each retainer is crafted from transparent plastic that has been molded specifically to match your individual dental structure.

What Can You Eat With An Essix Retainer?

It is highly advised not to consume anything other than water when you have your Essix retainers on. Sugary or acidic drinks, such as diet sodas, can collect around the teeth where the retainer is and lead to cavities or discoloration of the enamel.

Are Essix Retainers Uncomfortable?

It's normal to feel uncomfortable, tight, or even a little bit of pain when you first start wearing an Essix retainer, as with any other retainer. This usually only lasts for the first few days and shouldn't be cause for concern.

However, if the pain persists for more than a week, make an appointment with your dentist to determine what is causing it.

Do Essix Retainers Break Easily?

A common drawback with Essix retainers is that they can be easily damaged if not handled with care. The most frequent cause of breakage is incorrect removal, followed by mishandling when being cleaned. These can, however, last for three years with proper care.

Are Essix Retainers The Same As Invisalign?

Essix retainers resemble clear Invisalign aligners in the sense that they are both clear and almost invisible, made of lightweight yet durable plastic. The Essix retainer covers all of your teeth, providing a secure fit and keeping them in place as Invisalign does.

Which Is Better, A Hawley Or Essix Retainer?

Hawley retainers are more durable and have a longer lifespan than Essix retainers, but they cost more. They can also be uncomfortable due to their metal construction.

Unlike Hawleys, Essix retainers offer superior comfort and fit but may lead to dental issues if not properly cared for. The right cleaning regimen can easily prevent these problems.

Can You Drink Water With An Essix Retainer?

You should take out your Essix retainer when you eat and drink. It is, however, okay to drink water. Make sure to take it off if you have anything else, especially coffee, tea, soda, dark juices, or any other non-clear liquid.

Clear retainers can become discolored from those beverages, so it's a good idea to only drink water while wearing them.

Is An Essix Retainer Removable?

Essix retainers are easily removable. It is recommended to wear them regularly following dental procedures. To take it off, you can use your fingertip on the inside of your back molar and gently ease it away from the teeth.

Be mindful not to tug too hard in order to avoid any damage to the sutures or other areas that have been recently treated in the mouth. Repeat this process on both sides of your mouth before completely removing the retainer.

Are Essix Retainers Strong?

It is essential to handle Essix retainers with care since they are delicate due to being made of plastic. In order to preserve their durability, it is wise to store them in a protective case when not in use and out of reach of young children and animals.

Are Essix Retainers Safe?

Essix retainers are made of BPA-free plastic, meaning that the product does not contain any trace of Bisphenol A that may negatively affect the body.
These retainers are also tailored to your teeth, covering both the upper and lower set of teeth to maintain the results of treatment. They are made with medical-grade polyurethane plastic, which is safe for use in the body and comfortable to wear.

Can Essix Retainers Close Gaps?

Essix retainers, like other types of retainers, are designed to fit the shape of straight teeth and cannot be used to close gaps. They are put in place at the end of treatment, not allowing for adjustment. Retainers are mainly used to maintain your teeth's position so that they do not move or shift.

Can Essix Retainers Cause Gum Recession?

With proper use, Essix retainers do not cause gum recession. If you are not careful to clean your retainers regularly, bacteria can accumulate and lead to dental diseases, such as gum recession. This condition can also be caused by various factors, including aggressive brushing, smoking, or even genetics.

Final Thoughts

Essix retainers are an ideal choice for anyone looking for a more convenient and affordable way to straighten their smile! They offer an affordable, non-invasive option that can be easily adjusted to fit your lifestyle.

Even though Essix retainers do not last as long as other types of retainers, they can be maintained properly and last for several years.