Some Notable Differences Between Retainers vs Invisalign


    The desire for a beautifully aligned smile is a common aspiration among individuals. When it comes to realizing this goal, braces and aligners are the go-to options for most people. In the journey towards straight teeth, retainers often come into the conversation, leaving many patients pondering the choice between retainers vs Invisalign.

    It’s important to note that despite their visual similarities, Invisalign and retainers are distinct in their purpose and function. Both, however, play crucial roles in attaining that coveted straight smile. To gain a deeper understanding of the disparities between Invisalign and retainers, read on.

    What is a Retainer?

    Retainers are like security guards for your teeth after braces. They’re made just for you, using clear plastic and molds of your teeth, so they fit perfectly.

    Keeping your teeth straight is a long-term deal, and retainers are your partners, especially when you’ve just said goodbye to braces. You’ll stick with the same set of retainers until they’ve done their job, so it’s important to keep them clean and safe in their special case.

    At first, you’ll wear your removable retainers all the time, but later on, you’ll only need to wear them while you sleep, and maybe even less if you have fixed retainers. If your removable retainers start feeling tight, it’s a signal that your teeth might be shifting, and it’s time to wear your retainers more often.

    What is an Invisalign?

    To put it simply, Invisalign is not a retainer. These are quite distinct from traditional braces, employing transparent tray aligners composed of a special plastic blend meticulously tailored to your teeth’s contours. It’s important to note that Invisalign aligners should not be confused with retainers; they function as braces, working to reposition your teeth and refine your jawline.

    Each of these discreet aligners is uniquely crafted to conform precisely to your teeth, exerting gentle pressure at precise locations to slowly guide your teeth into proper alignment. Depending on your specific situation, your orthodontist may recommend switching to a new clear aligner every one to two weeks as part of your treatment plan.

    What’s the Difference Between Invisalign and Retainers?

    Retainers vs Invisalign are not the same, and below are some of its differences to help you tell them apart:


    Retainers come in various types, often created using plastic and wire.

    A Hawley retainer is a retainer you can take out. It’s made from a thin metal wire and acrylic. It’s designed to fit either the roof of your mouth or the inside of your lower teeth. The metal wire wraps around the outside of your teeth, ensuring they stay in their proper places.

    Then, you have permanent retainers, made from either braided or solid wire. These are shaped to match your freshly aligned teeth. They get attached to the inside of your lower front teeth, keeping your teeth from moving around.

    And there are clear retainers, which are removable. These might also be called molded, thermoplastic, or vacuum-formed retainers. To create one of these, your orthodontist makes a mold of your teeth and coats it with a thin layer of polyurethane. It’s then molded to fit your mouth perfectly by heating and shaping it around the mold.

    On the other hand, Invisaligns are crafted from a special materials called SmartTrack. It’s a flexible, medical-grade plastic that’s bendy and thin. This material not only makes Invisalign comfy to wear but also simple to take off.

    SmartTrack is custom-designed just for Invisalign, so it fits your teeth like a glove. Plus, it helps Invisalign aligners do their job better, guiding your teeth into place in a more predictable way.


    Retainers might cost between $100 to $500. The final bill can change based on your orthodontist, where you live, and the kind of retainer they suggest for you.

    Remember, there will be checkups and follow-up treatments once your retainers are in place. You should check with your orthodontist to see if these checkups are included in the retainer price.

    Don’t forget about replacement retainers. A new one might cost the same as your original. But, if you don’t need new impressions, you might save some money. If your retainers get damaged, you can ask your orthodontist if they can fix them instead of buying new ones. It’s a good idea to get their advice on that.

    Meanwhile, Invisalign’s price depends on a few things: like the usual cost in your neighborhood, how much effort your orthodontist puts in, what your insurance pays for, and how much fixing your teeth will take.

    Invisalign’s site mentions that their aligners might run you anywhere from $3000 to $7000. They also say that your insurance might pitch in up to $3000. On the flip side, regular metal braces usually range from $2000 to $6000.

    Length of Use

    You might’ve noticed that your teeth are shifting after those braces came off. If that’s happening to you, it’s good to be aware that you might need a retainer for a really long time.

    For the first six months, you’ll need to wear removable retainers every day. Then, it’s down to using them just at night. Your orthodontist will guide you on how long you should keep them in, based on your treatment.

    Now, there’s also a permanent retainer option. This one stays put on your teeth all the time. No need to worry about losing it or forgetting to put it on at night.

    As for Invisalign, the length of use could be around nine months to a year. It involves several sets of aligner trays, and you’ll swap them out every one or two weeks. Each new tray feels a bit different because it’s meant to keep your teeth on the move.

    For the best results, you’ll want to keep those Invisalign aligners on for at least 20-22 hours each day. They’re easy to take off when you eat or floss, though.

    Retainers vs Invisalign: Which Should You Use?

    If you’re on the journey to achieving that perfect smile, understanding the differences between Retainers vs Invisalign is crucial. While both play significant roles, they’re distinct in their materials, costs, and duration of use. So, make an informed decision to preserve your smile’s beauty. And remember, consult your orthodontist to explore which option suits you best and embark on your path to a confident, straight smile today!