After Invisalign.. Clear retainers -Essix Retainers, Vivera or Fixed?

When I first started Invisalign, the time when I would finally be wearing retainers seemed like such a distant prospect that I barely even allowed myself to give it a second thought. In my imagination, a day when I would have good teeth was a day that I dreamt about, but not one that I ever REALLY thought might come.

My friends, that day is here.

As I mentioned in my last post, my upper teeth have now been happily ensconsed in clear retainers for some time, and I thought those of you still on your journey to get that to that point, might like to see what the different retainers look like.

My orthodontist has chosen Essix retainers for me, and ever one to question his professional judgement, I did a fair amount of research as to what I think the most comfortable and unnoticeable clear retainers are, ready to fight battle if need be.

Essentially there are two main options when it comes to retention following adult braces. The bad news is that either way, you need to wear retainers forever. Not forever, as in, for ten years and then your teeth will grudgingly conform and stay elegantly upright in their new, more attractive positions. Nope, this kind of forever is really the forever kind. The kind of forever where fifty years of wearing retainers, followed by a week long slip up will still mean that your unobliging teeth will start to dance back to the position they were in before you trussed them up in Invisalign.

So, retainers fall into two main camps. Permanent retainers and removable retainers, both of them forever retainers.

When I first did my trawl around the various orthodontists seeking an opinion about my teeth, retention was something that was often mentioned to me. I was shown various pictures of retainers, and the types that different orthodontists preferred, and quickly came to a realisation.

Just as I’m not a fixed braces kind of a gal, I’m really not a fixed retainers kind of a girl either. I suspect that many Invisalign wearers feel the same. So an orthodontist that insisted on fixed retainers was never going to be an orthodontist that I could love, a preference that did influence my choice of ortho from the start.

The fixed retainers that I was shown were mainly along the lines of those shown below and were of a permanent wire connected to the back of the teeth that holds the teeth firmly in place, not allowing them to shift :

Clear Retainers Or Fixed Retainers
Clear Retainers Or Fixed Retainers?

The benefits of these retainers, according to the orthodontists that I saw, are that they are a set and forget kind of a deal. Once they are on, you don’t have to worry about lost or forgotten retainers, and your teeth stay in place as long as the retainer is correctly attached. The downside of such retainers is that they are fiendishly difficult to keep clean, and obviously, they ain’t that pretty when you open your mouth wide.

The good news, for someone as averse to metal in their mouth as I am, is that there is also the option of removable clear retainers, which are worn only at night. These are divided into the type that your orthodontist (or dentist) can make for you, and those that come from Invisalign themselves, known as Vivera. Both look, to all intents and purposes, very similar to an Invisalign aligner.

My orthodontist, when enduring his regular eight weekly grilling of a thousand of my stupid questions, told me that there are two reasons why he doesn’t use Vivera. Firstly, they simply weren’t available here in Australia at the time of asking and very similar ones could be made more cheaply and easily here. (A pretty good reason, I’ll have to concede) Secondly, he says that once you order your Vivera retainers from Invisalign your case is seen as effectively closed. He often has patients who decide not to proceed with a refinement or final tweak and then, several months later, change their minds. Using Vivera would remove from him the option of ordering another refinement free of charge, as they would be treated as a new case, with a correspondingly large new bill.

For those who are certain that their treatment is complete though, Vivera certainly sound like a great option. As long as you keep up your subscription to them you receive a nice shiny new set of clear retainers every three months. These can be made either in the shape of your last set of Invisalign, or, if you weren’t an Invisalign patient or if your teeth have been crowned or filled, can be made from a new molding. This gives you the reassurance that as long as the retainer still fits your retainer isn’t changing shape and that your teeth are actually stable and in the position that they were at the end of your orthodontic treatment. There is an interesting review of an orthodontist wearing Vivera here for those that are interested in this system.

In my case, my orthodontist favours another alternative for clear retainers, an Essix retainer.

Whilst this might look fairly similar to an Invisalign aligner, in truth they feel quite different to wear. Whereas Invisalign seem finely crafted and take in the shape of every tooth and gum line, these seem more like Invisalign would be were they crafted by a five year old. The shape and the general appearance are the same, but the execution looks and feels altogether more clumsy. Peering closely at my clear retainer I can see that it does have the individual shape of my teeth molded into it, but that they are not as distinct as they would be on an Invisalign aligner and cover part of my gum as well as my teeth.

Whereas Invisalign feel that they fit very closely to the teeth, these feel larger and thicker in the mouth. However, that isn’t to say they aren’t comfortable. I would equate the putting in of my retainer each night as similar to putting on a pair of comfy old bed socks. Not the most attractive thing in the world, but comfortable and somehow comforting. Comforting too to know that these retainers can be made cheaply (well, relatively- this is orthodontics after all) and easily by any general dentist in a couple of days so losing them isn’t the issue that losing an Invisalign aligner might be. Also, they are doing a fantastic job of keeping my teeth exactly where they were when I completed my treatment, which has to be a good feature in a retainer.

In reality the right retainers will be down to personal preference, but as someone who loves the fact that Invisalign are removable, and just can’t face the prospect of a metal wire permanently fixed to my teeth, Essix clear retainers are perfect for me.

Which is a good job given the amount of time we’ll be spending together.

Which retainers will you be using or have you worn, and how did you find them?

18 thoughts on “After Invisalign.. Clear retainers -Essix Retainers, Vivera or Fixed?”

  1. I just finished Invisalign- 1 year and 9 months. The worst of the entire slow, tray changing, tooth-brushing/flossing after every bite, taking over your life process is the ESSIX retainer my Orthodontist make in the office. I am in terrible pain! Big, bulky, mouth guard looking, drooling, lisp making retainer. So much pressure on the teeth and gums and cutting my mouth up. It was “adjusted”- still TERRIBLE. I am in the process of saving for the Invisalign retainer- $500!! It HAS to be better than the ESSIX.

    1. I know this post is old but I just finished my braces and you are SO RIGHT. I had Vivera before and I kept it…compared to this plastic POS I just got from my orthodontist it’s way better. Hoping because I grind my teeth they will be somewhat covered under my insurance.

  2. Thanks for the blog. I’m approaching the finishing line of my Invisalign treatment. I was given the info talk and sheet about the retainers that I could/should choose from after finishing treatment.
    Having read your comment, that ordering Vivera means I will finish my treatment, I will have to discuss this further with my dentist.

  3. hi my daughter had invisalign teen, so quick! at the end now but she wants refinements to close the gaps she’s left with further, he’s pushing the permanent retainers (on me, saying I should simply order her! yes!) and the gaps are only a millimetre and the composite will conceal them. we both want the gaps lessenedand be less noticeable by having refinements which are going to happen but now we find ourselves wondering… will gaps make relapse more likely hence the pressure to have fixed retainers? as the name i used says, it’s not my mouth and she’s not too keen and has no problem complying with wearing retainers we’re a bit perturbed….. anyone?

  4. One important note about the Vivera retainers for those of you who would like to refrain from repeated impressions for lost (or eaten by your dog) retainers…with the Vivera system, you do not need to take any more impressions. One impression is all it takes. If you get down to your last one (they send you 4 sets) or you lose your last one, all you have to do is call your dentist and they can just click a button or two and BAM, you have your new retainers in a week (no new impressions). The reason they can do this is that Invisalign performs a CT scan of your impression and keeps a digital copy of your teeth FOREVER! No more impressions…

  5. I agree, fixed retainer may be the easiest way to go. It’s just so easy to forget to pop em in or leave them hanging around. A buddy of mine works in a restaurant and he finds nearly a retainer a week left at tables. Also, if you have dogs, they love to chew on them. Food for thought.

  6. Really pleased you finally got the result you were after.

    As with any orthodontic treatment retention after Invisalign is probably the most important part. Both fixed and removable retainers have their positives and negatives. Fixed retainers are great because you don’t have to remember to wear them. They can get broken and occasionally this can go unnoticed until the teeth start moving again – not what you want after 2 years of treatment. With fixed retention ideally you have a removable one as a back up.

    With removable retainers there is now a lot if evidence that wearing them for as little as 15 minutes a day is sufficient to prevent any relapse. Just pop them in when you are in the shower in the morning. Always have a spare retainer just incase of loss or breakage.

    Which ever you choose it does need to be for life.

  7. I have been in Invisalign braces for about 10 months now. My uppers are fininshed but I still have 2 months left on my lowers. My dentist made an Essix retainer for my uppers and I got it yesterday. While, as you say, it’s not uncomfortable, it’s definitely different. I have no trouble inserting the tray, but removing it is very difficult. I start at one side and cannot seem to get the other side to move as easily. I feel like I’m going to rip out my upper teeth! I’ve tried to remove one side then the other, but that doesn’t work either. I will be getting Vivera retainers when I’m completely finished with treatment but need to wear the Essix until then. If anyone has any suggestions on easier removal of this Essix upper retainer, it would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Congrats on finishing at last!! We both got Invisalign at roughly the same time, although needless to say, I finished a long time ago but have still been reading your blog now and again. I hope that you’re pleased with the results and I can’t wait for some before/after pics.

    So having got ahead of you in the braces races, I’ll give you my 2 cents. I have a fixed retainer wire across my lower front 6 teeth (like your top pic) and an essix on the top. The reason for the difference is an uncorrectable overbite which means the lower teeth would hit a fixed retainer on the top but it does give me experience of both.

    So the essix is very much like the invisalign, only, as you say, less precisely defined. Not that it’s a major issue: they aren’t uncomfortable in any way. I’ve been wearing my upper retainer on average 6 nights a week for the last 3 years and my teeth haven’t budged a millimeter. For the first year or so, I found that if I went more than about 2 nights without the retainer then it would be a bit tight to put back in (which made me panic a little!). However, I recently went on holiday for 10 days and found I could get them back in afterwards without any problems, although I’ve never left it any longer than that.

    My fixed retainers have been wonderful and I heartily recommend this choice. It took me about 3 days to get used to them and within a week I hardly noticed them: I was stunned by how easy they were to get used to. When it comes to flossing the bottom front teeth, I use normal floss above the wire (a tiny gap but I still floss it anyway) and TePe floss to get inbetween the gum and the wire. In this time, I’ve had 2 or 3 check-ups with my regular dentist and he’s been more than happy with how my teeth look, particularly those front ones, so they have certainly not been fiendishly difficult to keep clean. As for how they look, let me put it this way: I was going out with a girl for over a year before she noticed anything, and then it was only because she saw me using my TePe and asked me why. Even after opening my mouth as wide as I could and pointing them out, she could hardly see them…

    So there you go. I would recommend the fixed retainer every time for the ‘fix-and-forget’ aspect of it. The cleaning is dead easy and no-one EVER notices it. Plus no chance of forgetting, losing AND you don’t have to buy a new one every now and again when the old one gets skanky. Having said that, I can’t imagine that a fixed wire across your front teeth can keep your back teeth in place so if you want/need to keep your back teeth retained as well, it may not be the best option.

    I’d be very interested to hear which one you choose/have chosen and congrats again on finishing!

    PS don’t forgot those before/after pics 😉

  9. I went with the removable retainer as well…and after finished with invisalign, was able to go directly to just wearing them at night. What a relief! I am able to take them out in the morning around 7am and put them back in at 10pm before bed and there aren’t any issues with too much movement during the day.

    Has anyone else noticed that after wearing invisalign for so long (my treatment was 18 months) that their teeth stain easier/quicker? I don’t know if it’s just me, or something to do with having my teeth covered for so long but it is like the enamel is weaker/worn off?
    Nothing seems to be easy with teeth! Will be going for my 3 month post invisalign appt. soon and will be asking my dentist about it then.

  10. I find the Vivera retainers much like the aligners, but thicker. They are comfortable and I really don’t notice them.
    I wasn’t absolutely 100% satisfied with my teeth after 2+ years of aligners and refinements but I was ready to stop so going to retainers was just too tempting. Now a few months later I regret that. Using Essix is a great idea so that later you can change your mind if not completely thrilled with the final result.
    I found that 3 months day/night wear was still not long enough that I could go to nights only. They were difficult and a bit painful to re-insert after only 4 hrs without. I will try again after 6 months. How long for others?

  11. Hearty Congratulations–What a long journey!
    Are you then wearing retainers for both upper and lower? Your lower “wonky” tooth is now in place?
    I have been wearing Vivera retainers for 3 months today and change to set 2 for day/night for another 3 months, and then nights only. How tight do they feel when you insert them at night? Like new aligners? Or just slightly snug or as if they’ve been out for only an hour?

    1. Hi there!

      So happy that you are in retainers! Unfortunately my lower teeth still aren’t completely finished but my orthodontist has come up with a fabulous idea to get them done without having to wear my aligners 24/7. He’s investigating and if it works I’ll find out at my next appointment at which time I’ll post about it. I have a feeling I’ll be something of a guinea pig again, but I really don’t mind.

      Are you pleased with your teeth having finished treatment? How are you finding the Vivera retainers?

      Thanks so much for reading.

  12. Hi Anita,

    It’s funny how different orthos are different. I have to only wear my retainers at night anyway- I hope that turns out to be enough!

    How does the metal feel in your mouth. Other than the extra flossing, do you find it uncomfortable or difficult to eat?

    Thanks for reading!

  13. I got the wires behind my 3 front teeth on top and 5 front teeth on bottom and then I don’t need to wear retainers in the daytime and just wear my retainers at night. This set of retainers was shaped on top of the wires. I did this option so I wouldn’t have to wear retainers in the daytime for the first year. After a yr I can choose to remove the wire, they redo my retainer without the wire shape then just wear at night!
    I currently have extra flosswork in the evening, but I prefer that over wearing this larger retainer in the daytime. 🙂

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