Last Updated on January 26, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Are you wondering how much those orthodontic retainers are going to set you back? Retainers play a crucial role in keeping your new smile in place after braces. But like most healthcare, retainers come with a price tag.

In this article, we’ll break down the typical costs of different types of retainers. We’ll look at whether insurance covers any of the expense. And we’ll give tips for saving money on your new retainers.

Key Takeaways

  • Retainers are required after braces to hold teeth in their new positions
  • Removable, Hawley, and fixed retainers are the main types, ranging in price
  • Insurance usually doesn’t cover retainers except one initial set
  • Replacement retainers cost about the same as the initial pair
  • Shop around, ask for discounts, and protect retainers to save money
  • Expect to wear retainers for at least the first 2 years after braces

How Much Do Retainers Cost?

The cost of the retainers is often included in the total cost of the braces, so you will not have to pay anything for your first set of retainers. At some dental clinics, the standard braces package includes one or two retainer replacements.

If retainers are not included in the braces package, you will have to pay $75 to $260 for one retainer and $150 to $510 or even more for a set. Keep in mind that retainer replacement costs are not covered by the majority of dental insurance policies.

Byte® reports that retainers vary in cost depending on the type of retainer you get, ranging from $300 to $5,000. The average cost for one Hawley retainer is between $150 and $300, with a set costing up to $600. Bonded retainers range in price from $250 to $500 for one arch and $500 to $1,000 for both arches.

Ask the Dentist states that the cost of retainers is usually included in the cost of braces or Invisalign treatment. However, retainers may cost anywhere from $150-$1,000, depending on the type. Hawley retainers usually cost between $200 to $500 to replace, while clear aligners can cost up to $400-$800 per set.

Orthodontic Experts mentions that Hawley or clear retainers from your orthodontist usually cost between $200 to $500 to replace. The cost of clear aligners can go up to $400-$800 per set. Essix or clear plastic retainers from an orthodontic supply company are often the most affordable at $150-$300.

Diamond Braces reports that an Essix retainer costs anywhere from $50 to $300, although your orthodontist should include the price in your original treatment costs.

What Are the Different Types of Retainers?

There are a few main options when it comes to retainers. Each has pros and cons regarding cost, convenience, and effectiveness. The most common choices are:

Removable Clear Plastic Retainers

These are the clear plastic trays that fit snugly over your teeth. They’re removable, so you take them out to eat and brush your teeth.

Removable retainers are convenient for cleaning. But you must remember to wear them as prescribed. Removable retainers cost around $100-$300 per set from an orthodontist.

Fixed Wire Retainers

A fixed retainer uses a thin wire bonded permanently to the back of your teeth. It keeps your front six teeth from shifting. The wire sits behind your teeth, so it’s largely invisible.

Fixed retainers cost around $150-$500 to place. They’re convenient since they’re permanent. But flossing requires some maneuvering.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are removable wire and acrylic retainers that fit over your entire upper and lower arches. Patients find them bulky in the mouth. But they are durable and effective for holding teeth in place. The cost of Hawley retainers is around $150-$350 per set.

Why Do You Need Retainers After Braces?

After months or years of braces, you’ve likely invested a lot into your new smile. So it’s important to keep your teeth exactly where the orthodontist put them. That’s why orthodontists prescribe retainers for every patient once braces come off.

You might also like our articles about the cost of braces, dentures, or toothpaste.

Retainers hold your teeth in their new aligned position. Without them, your teeth will slowly drift back towards their original crooked places. This reversal is called “relapse.” And it can happen quickly. Some patients start to see movement in just six months after braces.

So wearing your retainers as directed is very important for keeping your investment secure. Your orthodontist wants your new smile to last a lifetime.

What Impacts the Cost of Retainers?

Several factors influence the price you’ll pay for your new retainers:

  • Type of retainer: The three main types range in cost, with Hawley and fixed retainers typically being the most expensive.
  • Your orthodontist’s fees: Costs vary between offices. Teaching colleges and new orthodontists often charge less.
  • Which jaw the retainer is for: Upper retainers tend to cost more than lower ones.
  • Details like colored wires or gems: Adding custom details ups the price.
  • Shipping fees: If ordering through an online company, shipping costs extra.

Do Insurance Plans Cover Dental Retainers?

Pair of Retainers costUnfortunately, retainers are typically not covered by dental insurance. Insurance usually covers a portion of braces treatment only.

However, some dental plans may cover one set of basic removable retainers per lifetime. This coverage varies widely between insurance providers.

You usually have to pay the full price for any additional sets of replacement retainers.

To find out if any retainer costs are covered, check your plan details. You can also call your insurance company to ask directly about coverage.

How Much Do Replacement Retainers Cost?

It’s common for retainers to break or get lost. In this situation, a new set is needed to keep your teeth in line.

Replacement retainers typically cost about the same as the initial set. Removable plastic retainers usually run $100-$300 for a replacement pair. Hawley retainers cost around $150-$350 to replace. And fixed wire retainers cost $150-$500 per replacement.

Unfortunately, your insurance likely won’t cover these replacement costs either. You’ll probably need to pay the full fee out of pocket.

Tips to Reduce Your New Retainer Costs

While retainers are a necessary expense, there are a few ways to try keeping the costs down especially when you’re without insurance:

  • Shop around: Get quotes from a few orthodontists before deciding where to get your retainers made. Newer orthodontists often have lower pricing.
  • Ask for a discount: If you got your braces done at the same office, they may give you a deal on retainers. Doesn’t hurt to ask!
  • Consider payment plans: Many orthodontists let you split up the cost over 3-6 interest-free payments.
  • Buy a retainer case: Protect your retainers to avoid costly replacements when you lose or damage them! Cases run just $10-$20.
  • Get removable retainers from an online company: Costs are sometimes lower when ordering directly from online retailers. But quality may be inconsistent.
  • Replace just one retainer: If only one retainer in a set breaks, you may be able to just replace that one to save money.
  • Carefully remove retainers: Take them out slowly and store them in a case. This prevents wires from bending or plastic from cracking.
  • Get a fixed retainer on just one arch: A lower fixed retainer plus upper removable retainer saves money compared to two fixed wires.

How Long Do You Have to Wear Retainers?

Be prepared to wear your retainers for the long haul. Most orthodontists recommend wearing removable retainers full-time for the first 6 months post-braces. Then you’ll switch to part-time wear at night.

Expect to wear retainers every night for at least the first two years after braces. Some patients need them indefinitely. For them, not wearing a permanent retainer can cause a teeth shift even after years.

It’s a big commitment to wear a retainer. But protecting your investment in your smile is worthwhile! Following your orthodontist’s retainer guidelines is key for keeping your teeth in their new aligned positions.

Retain Your New Smile!

Retainers are an orthodontic treatment that serves a very important purpose after braces. While the cost can add up, it’s a smart investment to preserve your straight teeth. Shop around, talk to your insurance, and protect your retainers to keep replacement costs down. Follow your orthodontist’s retainer schedule to get the most from your new smile.

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