You can buy practically anything online these days. As consumers, we have more options than ever before. Better yet, all those options can be delivered straight to your doorstep.
Retainers are no exception. Gone are the days where you needed to visit an orthodontist’s office to maintain your smile. Thanks to online retainer companies, you can have customized, affordable aftercare in just a few simple steps. In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about online retainer retailers, so you can decide if they’re a good fit for your unique orthodontic needs.
Table of Contents
How Do Online Retainer Retailers Work?
To craft customized retainers, remote companies first need to see your teeth, so you’ll need to purchase an at-home impression kit. This kit comes with everything you need to take accurate dental impressions: putty, trays, step-by-step instructions, and a cheek retractor.
Online retainer companies try their best to make the impression process as simple as possible, and many provide online resources like video walkthroughs. Since most people don’t have much experience making impressions of their own teeth, we recommend watching a few Youtube tutorials before diving in.
These molds are the only information this online retainer retailer will have about your smile, so it’s extremely important to take them carefully and accurately.
Is It Safe To Buy Retainers Online?
Teledentistry is still a relatively new industry, so it’s understandable if you’re a little wary of online providers and tempted to visit your orthodontist instead. Remember, though, that your orthodontist is not the one actually making your retainer. They might oversee your impressions process, but they send those impressions to a lab that handles the actual manufacturing.
With many online retainer retailers, you’re buying directly from the lab that makes the products. Though the approach is a little different, the retainers are the same quality that you would expect from a product you ordered through your orthodontist.
Online retainer retailers are a safe, effective way to maintain your smile. By eliminating the middleman, online retainer providers help you save time and money in the long run.
Advantages of Online Retainers
- Convenient: With online retainer retailers, you won’t have to attend time-consuming dentist or orthodontist appointments. Instead, you can complete an impression kit from the comfort of your own home, then mail it back to your provider with a prepaid shipping label.
- Lower Price Tags: Online retainer providers don’t have the same high overhead as an orthodontist office, so they can charge much less than in-person options.
- Long-Term Savings: Online retainer retailers offer significant discounts for reorders and bulk purchases, so you can more easily incorporate this long-term expense into your budget.
- Financing: Many online retainer providers partner with lending companies to make their retainers even more accessible. If the initial payment is too steep, you can simply spread the cost out over a few months.
Drawbacks of Online Retainers
- Limited Options: Some types of retainers require in-person application by an orthodontist, so they aren’t available through online retailers.
- Impression Kits Can Be Challenging: Some people may have to redo their impressions if the first mold isn’t clear enough.
What Types of Retainers Are Available Online?
Online retainer retailers sell two types of removable retainers: Hawley and plastic.
If someone asked you to picture a retainer, you’d probably imagine a Hawley, which is made from wire and acrylic. The wire sits on the front of your teeth, wrapping around to meet an acrylic plate that sits on the roof of your mouth or your lower arch. Hawley retainers are durable and easily repaired. With proper care, they can last 5–10 years.
Plastic retainers look similar to clear aligners like Invisalign and SmileDirectClub, but their purpose is to keep your teeth in place instead of shifting them. Plastic retainers are much more discreet than Hawley ones, since there aren’t any metal wires involved. Depending on how well you care for them, plastic retainers can last from six months to over two years.
The only type of retainer that isn’t available through online retainer retailers is a permanent one. An orthodontist has to attach these retainers behind the teeth with dental cement, so this option is only available through an in-person appointment.
Are Online Retainers High Quality?
Retainers from online retailers often boast the same quality as their in-office counterparts. These remote companies use medical-grade, BPA-free plastic, and some even use recognizable name brand plastics like Essix, Zendura, or Invisacryl Ultra. There are minor differences in the thickness and appearance of each brand, but overall, they’re pretty similar.
Some of the retainer companies we review got their start as dental laboratories manufacturing products for orthodontists. Other providers simply source their products from the same places your dentist gets their retainers. The main difference is that they don’t need to mark up their products as much as in-person retainer options, since they have lower overhead costs.
Cost of Buying Retainers Online vs. At The Dentist
There’s no set price for in-person retainers, because each dentist determines their own prices. They need to cover the expenses of their office, so their prices are typically higher than direct-to-consumer alternatives. The typical range we see for a set of in-person Hawley retainers is $350–$600.
A plastic retainer from your orthodontist can cost $100–$300. However, Invisalign usually sells their Vivera retainers in sets of four. So while you may still pay $100–$300 per retainer, your total would be $400–$1,200 for the set of four.
Initially, the cost of an in-person retainer isn’t wildly different from one purchased online. Your first order needs to cover the impression kit, and all the labor that goes into designing your retainers. With most companies, you’ll only need to do this process once — so they might replacements at a significant discount.
Each online retainer retailer approaches their reordering process a little differently. Some sell a 3D model of your completed impressions, which you can send back whenever you’re ready to order a replacement retainer.
Other companies keep your information for a set timeframe, and offer discounts if you purchase another retainer within that window (between 30 days and one year after purchase). For a small fee, some providers store your information indefinitely, so you can reorder affordable retainers whenever it’s convenient. Others offer ongoing storage at no extra cost.
With in-office retainers, the price you pay for your first set is likely the price you’ll pay for your fourth or fifth one too.
Since the retention stage lasts indefinitely, savings here and there can make a big difference in the long run. If you want to avoid repeating the impression process as much as possible, explore the reordering processes of the providers you’re interested in.
Best Online Retainer Brands
There are plenty of different retainer retailers you could use, but here are few of our favorites.
#1: Retainers Direct
Single Arch: $84.99 | Both Arches: $149.99Retainers Direct has earned the top spot in our online retainer retailer rankings. Though they just got their start in 2020, this small, family-run company has affordable products, top-notch customer support, and a short turnaround time.
#2: Sporting Smiles
Single Arch: $90–$95 | Both Arches $120–$135
Teledentistry is a relatively new business, but Sporting Smiles has been at the forefront since their start in 2009. They’re the most established online retainer provider we cover, having served over a million customers.
#3: Dental Lab Direct
Single Arch $129–$249 | Both Arches: $229–$478Dental Lab Direct has been manufacturing dental for over twenty years, but pivoted to selling directly to consumers. They also give you the choice between Hawley or clear plastic retainers.
Single Arch: $99 | Both Arches: $169
One thing we appreciate about ClearRetain is their “File Your Smile” option. For $25 (or $15 for a single arch) ClearRetain will digitally store your so you can easily order replacement retainers at any time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between clear aligners and retainers?
Sometimes people mistakenly use the terms ‘clear aligner’ and ‘retainer’ interchangeably. Though these devices can look similar, clear aligners and retainers have entirely different purposes. Clear aligners are a part of a larger treatment plan that gradually shifts your teeth into alignment. Retainers, on the other hand, keep your teeth in their positions instead of moving them.
Are at-home impression kits difficult?
For some, the at-home impression process is a breeze. For others, it’s a little more complicated. Some people feel frustrated if they need to take multiple sets of impressions.
However, there’s plenty of information out there to help you take accurate impressions. We recommend watching a few tutorials on Youtube to get a sense of the entire process before making your molds. Some retainer companies sell extra putty to give extra attempts. If you can swing a small added expense, we recommend buying them, since they’ll increase your chances of getting the impressions right on the first try.
What happens if I break a retainer?
Some online retainer brands offer 30–60 day guarantees on their retainers, so they might cover a replacement. The policies typically only cover manufacturing errors; so if your dog eats your aligner, your provider probably won’t send you a free remake. That said, many retainer retailers offer discounts for replacement retainers, so you’ll probably spend less than you did the first time around.
What affects the lifespan of a retainer?
A lot of factors, but the good news is that many are within your control. Make sure to keep your retainers in their protective case anytime you remove them, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle soap to clean them before putting them back in.
If I grind my teeth at night can I still wear a retainer?
Some online retainer providers sell thicker, more durable retainers for people who grind their teeth at night or clench their jaw. Talk to your dentist about which option might work best for you.
Can I order a permanent retainer from an online retailer?
An orthodontist needs to affix your permanent retainer to the backs of your teeth, so this option is only available from an in-person appointment.
Are Hawley retainers or a plastic retainer more durable?
Typically, Hawley retainers are more durable than plastic ones. Hawley retainers are easily adjusted and repaired, and can last 5–10 years. Plastic retainers can last anywhere from six months to over two years.
I have a permanent retainer on my lower arch, can I still get a removable retainer for the upper arch?
Absolutely. In fact, many orthodontists recommend opting for removable retainers on the upper arch instead of a permanent retainer, since the lower teeth can interfere with a permanent retainer on top.
Can I eat while wearing removable retainers?
You should take out your removable retainers before consuming anything other than water. Chewing can put excessive force on your retainers and cause them to break. Plus, food can stain your retainers and cause plaque buildup.
Can I use hot water to clean my retainers?
Hot water can melt the plastic, so stick to cold or lukewarm water for cleanings.