How Much are Dental Retainers in the UK? Cost & How to Save


After years of avoiding sticky foods and smiling with your mouth closed, the day you get your braces off will be one for the books. Regrettably, that’s probably not the end of your dental journey.

I had braces when I was 16, and it wasn’t pleasant. Thankfully there are a lot more choices now. Retainers are a necessary evil used to keep your teeth in line but unfortunately, they don’t come cheap. 

Dental retainers in the UK can cost anywhere from £60 to £400 depending on the type of material used and whether or not it’s fixed. Fixed retainers are the most expensive, costing up to £400 per jaw, but they should last up to 10 years. In contrast, £60 plastic retainers may only last six months.

In this article, I’ll discuss the various types of retainers and how they compare, including pricing, ease of use, and, of course, their costs.

Costs of Different Types of Retainers

Retainers are usually given to patients after they have their braces removed. During the years with braces, teeth are straightened and moved into place.

Though you may think that would be the end of it, teeth will naturally move back into their original positions if given the chance! (Source: East Lancashire Hospitals)

To keep this from happening, the patient will often wear a retainer explicitly made for them with either a mould or laser oral scan to ensure a perfect fit. 

The table below shows how much different kinds of retainers cost, along with their key features:

MaterialApplicationLifespanCost
Permanent (fixed) RetainersMetalFixed3-10 years£100 – £400 (each jaw)
Essix RetainersClear plasticRemovable6 months – 3 years£60 – £145 (each jaw)
Hawley RetainersMetal and plasticRemovable5 – 10 years£70 – £150 (each jaw)
Vivera (Invisalign) Clear plasticRemovable1 – 5 years£125 – £200 (per set)

Source: Dentaly.org

As you can see, each of these has a different lifespan, and the costs vary quite a bit too. Simple plastic retainers are pretty affordable, but the prices will increase dramatically when you start looking at the more intricate metal designs.

In some cases, retainers may only be needed at night and for a year or so after the braces are removed. If that’s the case, the cheaper option would likely be more than enough.

However, in other situations, dentists may recommend more frequent use for longer. That would typically require something with more longevity, so you don’t need to replace it once a year. 

woman smiling with a retainer on teeth

How Much Fixed vs. Removable Retainers are in the UK

Choosing between fixed and removable retainers is often a matter of preference. If your dentist gives you the option between the two, you’ll need to decide which you think you can live with for the longest. 

Fixed Retainers – Pros and Cons vs Costs

Fixed Retainers Are Permanent and Should Last Longer. Fixed retainers are simple pieces of wire that your dentist will glue onto the back of your front teeth. Being placed on the back will keep them out of sight while they work to keep your teeth straight. This is ideal for those who prefer something minimal and more aesthetically pleasing (Source: Natural Smiles).

However, you get what you pay for, and to achieve this longevity, you’ll need to spend a lot more than your average removable retainer. Fixed retainers start at around £100. 

Fixed Retainers Are Better for Busier People. Fixed retainers will prevent any issues of forgetfulness, as you don’t need to worry about taking your retainer with you on vacation or leaving it on a table somewhere. 

This type of bonded retainer stays in place for years with very little needed of you. So if you prefer a hands-off approach, it might be worth investing the extra money.

Removable Retainers – Pros and Cons Vs Cost

Firstly, removable retainers are easier to manage. One of the most significant pros of removable retainers is that they can be taken out whenever you need. That means you don’t need to worry about avoiding certain foods, like sticky toffee, which can get stuck on bonded retainers. 

In addition, it’s easier to care for your teeth with removable retainers. Flossing is almost impossible with fixed retainers, which could mean added costs from teeth cleanings. 

Removable retainers are cheaper, starting at around £60. This type of retainer is made using a mould of your teeth. The dentist will typically apply a malleable material to your teeth and have you clench down to get the impression. Once it’s set, they will order your retainer. 

Although these don’t last as long as fixed retainers, they work just as well and are not overly expensive to replace when need be. 

woman wearing a removable retainer

Removable Retainers work on all of your teeth. One of the biggest drawbacks of fixed retainers is that they are only applied to the front teeth. So, if you start to grow wisdom teeth, or if your back teeth were crooked before you got braces, chances are the teeth not attached will start to shift. 

Removable retainers, on the other hand, usually cover all of your teeth, keeping them in line from front to back. This will save you money in the long run as you won’t need to have your teeth straightened again after the fact.

Key Takeaways

Fixed retainers will typically cost a lot more than removable models. This is because they’re designed to last a lot longer. 

However, removable retainers are easier to manage and don’t keep you from eating certain foods. They’re also relatively inexpensive and not invasive at all. 

Essix retainers are clear, durable, and easy to use. They’re also straightforward to clean and cheap to replace. On the other hand, Hawley retainers will last a little longer for not that much more money. 

And since most people only wear their retainers at night, it shouldn’t matter that you can see some of the metal wire. 

Differences (Including Price) Between Essix Retainers and Invisalign

At first glance, Essix retainers and Invisalign may look the same, but there is one key difference between the two.

The difference between Essix retainers and Invisalign is that the former is used to keep your teeth in line. In contrast, Invisalign is designed to move your teeth slowly over time. They are used until the teeth are straight, and then Essix retainers are required to maintain their new position.

Source: Sporting Smiles

Invisalign costs start at £125, more than double that of Essix retainers, but this is because you need multiple sets to move your teeth. Not only that, but in order to get the most accurate fit, you’ll need to have a laser scan to use Invisalign braces.

So if you’re not attached to one over the other, Essix retainers are going to be cheaper.

Tips on Saving Money When Buying Retainers

If your goal is just straight teeth without spending a fortune, there are easy ways of cutting the costs of retainers.

Invisible vs Invisible Retainers

One of the first questions you should ask if you’re looking to save on retainer costs is – do you REALLY need an invisible retainer?

Bear in mind you do not need an invisible retainer as how it looks will not affect how it works. The choice will depend on whether or not you want a fixed or removable solution and how much you can afford to spend on a retainer. 

Hawley retainers may not be invisible, but they are a longer-lasting solution that’s minimally invasive. Starting at as little as £70, this plastic and metal mouthpiece should last at least five years. 

In that time, you could have replaced your Essix retainer at least twice, costing upwards of £200. So, investing in the Hawley from the start (if you can) could save you money in the long run.

woman puts transparent retainer on her teeth

New vs. Replacement Retainers

The cost of a new retainer will be more than that of a replacement retainer. This is due to the fact you will probably need to have new moulds or scans taken. 

If you lose your retainer, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible to try and arrange a replacement. If they have your impressions on file, you should be able to get a replacement at a cheaper cost than you initially spent. 

But if you lost your retainer and left it too long, chances are you will need to pay extra to have the new model made. 

The cost will also vary depending on what kind of dentist you have. Even those lucky enough to have their braces covered by the NHS will not be given replacement retainers for free. 

NHS dentists will charge a fixed rate of £84.80 per device to replace a retainer. That will likely be more expensive when working with private clinics.

Online Retainer Replacements

There has been a significant increase in the number of online retailers offering custom retainers. This is how you can buy retainers for less, but only with the removable options. 

For example, Orthosmile Dental fixed retainers start at £250 per jaw, with their removable options starting at £150 per jaw. 

Compare that to Everything Teeth’s retainer kit at just under £60 (for one jaw), and you can see a considerable saving (Sources: Orthosmile, Everything Teeth).

Overall, there are a few great options when it comes to choosing a retainer, and it mostly boils down to how you want it to look and fit. Hopefully, this article has helped you to make the right choice!

If you’re also looking at getting your teeth whitened, you might like this complete guide to Philips Zoom Whitening too.

Gina

I'm an ex-BBC food co-ord and committed cuisine nerd. My specialties are travel (I've been to over 50 countries), food, drink, the outdoors, and any geeky tech!

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