Hawley Retainer After Teeth Straightening: All You Need To Know

Woman Wearing a Hawley Retainer

A dental retainer is a significant part of post teeth straightening. If you’ve landed here, either you have just completed your teeth straightening treatment or want to inquire about maintaining teeth alignment after completing your orthodontic treatment journey. Although there are other great options for retainers too like clear retainers, we’re going to talk about Hawley retainers specifically today and highlight what it does and the benefits it offers and how you can maintain it. Let’s get started.

Hawley Retainers: Introduction

The Hawley Retainer is one of the oldest retainers used in dentistry. It was originally popularized in 1858 by Dr. Alfred Kingsley over 150 years ago. Hawley Retainers are orthodontic devices that are detachable and consist of a stainless steel wire that is covered in a specially made acrylic substance. After orthodontic treatment, these devices function as backup bolsterers to keep teeth in their proper alignment. The stiff acrylic portion of the retainer will be on the roof of your mouth, and the wire that comes from it will hook on the front surface of your teeth. To assist the retainer stay in your mouth, it has two wire pieces attached to the back of it. A Hawley retainer’s job is to maintain the alignment created by the braces while giving the teeth enough space to shift ever so slightly and settle.

Why Are Retainers Important?

Using Hawley Retainer Post-Teeth Straightening
Using Hawley Retainer Post-Teeth Straightening

Wearing a retainer is essential because it helps maintain the new alignment of your teeth after orthodontic treatment, like braces or clear aligners. Without wearing a retainer, your teeth can gradually shift back to their original positions that you had prior to your orthodontic treatment which will undo all the progress made during your treatment. Wearing a retainer will simply help you keep your teeth in place, ensuring your smile stays straight and beautiful like you wanted it to be. Additionally, it allows your bite to stabilize in its new position, giving your jaws and gums time to adapt to the new changes. In short, a retainer is the key to preserving the hard work and investment you put into achieving a straight smile.

Who Is The Right Candidate For Hawley Retainers?

A candidate for a Hawley retainer is someone who has finished orthodontic treatment, like braces or clear aligners, and needs to keep their teeth in their new, straight position. Here’s who might be a good fit:

  • Anyone who’s had braces or aligners: Once your braces come off or you finish with aligners, a Hawley retainer helps maintain your beautiful new smile.
  • People who want a durable option: Hawley retainers are made of sturdy plastic and metal, which makes them pretty durable. If you’re looking for something long-lasting, this could be a good choice.
  • People who like adjustability: These retainers can be adjusted by your orthodontist if minor tweaks are needed, making them versatile.
  • Someone who wants a removable retainer: You can take a Hawley retainer out when you eat or brush your teeth, which some people find more comfortable and convenient.
  • Those who don’t mind a bit of metal: Hawley retainers have a thin wire that runs across the front of your teeth. If you’re okay with this look, it’s a solid option.

In short, if you’ve just finished straightening your teeth and you’re looking for a reliable way to keep them in place, a Hawley retainer might be just what you need.

Cleaning Routine for Hawley Retainers

Cleaning a Hawley Retainer
Cleaning a Hawley Retainer

Let’s talk about how you can establish a cleaning routine for your hawley retainers: You can also read our detailed guide on how you can maintain your oral hygiene with braces or retainers in your case!

  • Establish a Routine: Make it a habit to clean your retainer at the same times each day, such as in the morning and before bed, to ensure consistency in hygiene practices.
  • Rinse After Removal: Every time you take out your retainer, rinse it under lukewarm water to remove saliva and prevent plaque build-up.
  • Brush Gently: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste to brush your retainer gently. Make sure to brush all parts of the retainer, including the plastic and metal components.
  • Avoid Hot Water: Never use hot water to clean your retainer as it can warp the plastic. Always use lukewarm or cool water.

Deep Cleaning Your Hawley Retainer

Let’s talk about how you can deep clean your Hawley Retainer:

  • Schedule Deep Cleaning: Plan a specific day each week for deep cleaning your retainer to maintain a regular schedule and ensure thorough cleanliness.
  • Soak in Retainer Cleaner: Once a week, soak your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaning solution. Follow the instructions on the cleaner package for the correct soaking time. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and lukewarm water. Soak for 15-30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Use Baking Soda: For a deeper clean, create a paste with baking soda and water. Apply the paste to your retainer using a toothbrush and gently scrub. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water after cleaning.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Soak: Occasionally, soak your retainer in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water (1:1 ratio) for about 10-15 minutes to help disinfect it. Rinse thoroughly with water afterward.

Maintenance Tips for Your Hawley Retainer

If you’re wearing hawley retainers or plan on getting them, you need to be aware of how to maintain them so that you don’t have to get new ones over and over again.

Handle with Care

Think of your retainer as a fragile little helper that keeps your smile in check. Before you even touch it, wash your hands to keep germs away. When putting it in or taking it out, do it gently and treat it like a delicate piece of jewelry. And when it’s not in your mouth, you should always store it in its case. Leaving it on the counter or in your pocket is a recipe for disaster, as it can easily get lost, dropped, or sat on.

Keep the Case Clean

Your retainer case is like a cozy home for your retainer. To keep it safe and clean and most importantly away from germs.You should wash the case regularly with soap and water. This prevents any nasty bacteria from making a home in there. After washing, make sure the case dries completely before you put your retainer back in. A wet case can turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and that is definitely the last thing you want near your mouth.

Avoid Harmful Substances

Your retainer isn’t a fan of harsh chemicals. Bleach and alcohol can damage it, making it less effective and possibly harmful. Stick to mild, non-abrasive cleaning products. And don’t be tempted to use mouthwash to clean your retainer; many contain alcohol, which can damage the plastic. Just use lukewarm water and gentle cleaning solutions to keep it in top shape.

Regular Check-Ups

Your retainer needs a check-up every now and then. Bring it to your orthodontist during your regular visits so they can inspect it for any damage or wear. Even if it looks fine to you, a professional can spot issues you might miss. If you notice any cracks, breaks, or if it doesn’t fit well anymore, don’t wait and contact your orthodontist right away. It’s better to fix small problems now before they turn into bigger ones.

Additional Tips

  • Be mindful of where you place your retainer. Pets, especially dogs, find retainers irresistible and might chew on them. Always keep your retainer in its case and out of their reach.
  • Remember to take your retainer out while eating. This not only protects it from damage but also keeps food particles from getting stuck.
  • Stick to your retainer schedule. Wearing it as instructed by your orthodontist ensures your teeth stay in their new, perfect positions.

By taking these extra steps to care for your Hawley retainer, you’ll keep it clean, safe, and working effectively. A few minutes of care each day can make a big difference in keeping your smile beautiful and healthy.

Final Thoughts:

Hawley retainers can be great for retaining the new alignment of your teeth after orthodontic treatment. It’s a great tool for retaining your tooth alignment but it definitely is a more visible option. If you’re comfortable with the metal wire showing through your teeth then you can benefit from a Hawley retainer. All you have to do is be consistent, take care of it and clean it regularly.


1. How often should I clean my Hawley retainer?

You should rinse it with lukewarm water whenever you take it out to keep saliva and plaque at bay. Brush it gently with a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste. For a deep clean, treat it to a soak in retainer cleaner or a mix of white vinegar and water once a week. Your retainer will thank you!

2. Can I wear my Hawley retainer while eating?

It’s best to take your retainer out before chowing down. Eating with clear aligners can mess it up and trap food particles, leading to plaque build-up and bad breath. Just pop it out before meals, and give it a quick rinse before putting it back in. This way, your retainer stays clean, and you can enjoy your food without worries.

3. What should I do if my Hawley retainer no longer fits properly?

If your retainer feels too tight or too loose, don’t stress. Just reach out to your orthodontist. Sometimes, teeth can shift a bit or the retainer might get bent. Your orthodontist can adjust or replace it to make sure it fits perfectly again. The sooner you fix it, the better your results will be.

4. How do I prevent my Hawley retainer from getting damaged?

To keep your retainer in the best shape you should handle it with care. Always use clean hands, avoid dropping it, and keep it away from hot water and harsh chemicals. When you’re not wearing it, store it in its case to protect it from accidents and curious pets. Regularly check it for any signs of damage, and bring it to your orthodontist for a check-up now and then.


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