Everything You Need to Know About Spring Retainers

While orthodontists use traditional retainers to prevent teeth from shifting after treatment, spring retainers (spring aligners) can correct teeth that have slightly shifted.

They are also a treatment option for people receiving orthodontic care for the first time whose teeth need only minor adjustments that don't require braces.

This article explains spring retainers' uses, advantages, and disadvantages for straightening teeth.

Happy young woman at the orthodontist

Drazen Zigic / Getty Images

How Does a Spring Retainer Work?

Unlike the retainer you get after your braces come off, which holds your teeth in a corrected position, spring retainers work to straighten teeth. To start, an orthodontist makes impressions of your teeth. Then, a retainer is molded based on the position of straightened teeth.

Spring retainers consist of a wire and acrylic frame that gently moves your front teeth into position. They are used only to move teeth 1–2 millimeters (mm), which is why they are sometimes a good choice for teeth that have shifted after previous orthodontic treatment.

Spring retainers can be suitable for turning or rotating a tooth but not for more extensive all-over crowding.

Types of Spring Retainers

Types of spring retainers include:

  • Helix coil: Allows for minor adjustments and flexibility
  • Mushroom spring: Most often used post-treatment to maintain correction
  • Modified spring: Used post-treatment but can also be used for minor adjustments
  • Super modified spring: Combines the technology of the mushroom and helix coil
  • Standard spring clip: Can be used post-treatment or for minor adjustments
  • Spring design with wire extensions: Allows the wire to extend back two to three teeth for added retention

Spring retainers traditionally cover only the front four teeth; however, they can be modified and combined with other retainer technology, like the Hawley retainer, to cover more teeth.

Advantages of a Spring Retainer Over Traditional Braces

If your teeth have slightly shifted after orthodontic treatment or if your teeth need only a slight adjustment, you could be a candidate for a spring retainer. There are several benefits of a retainer over traditional braces.


Unlike braces, you can remove spring retainers for eating, so you won't have to worry about avoiding certain foods or detangling sticky stuff from your appliance. In addition, a removable device makes it easier to keep your mouth and retainer clean.

Less Expensive

Braces are more expensive than less invasive treatments; therefore, a spring retainer may be a more affordable option if your teeth need only a minor correction.

Less Noticeable

Finally, a spring retainer with a single wire over the front teeth is less noticeable. Braces, on the other hand, contain brackets and wire and usually cover all or most teeth. In addition, since a retainer is removable, you can take it out for things like special occasions or pictures. (However, you should not remove your spring retainer too often, as doing so could compromise your treatment schedule).

Disadvantages of a Spring Retainer

On the other hand, spring retainers have some downsides. They are limited to only very minor tooth movements, so patients need to have realistic expectations on the outcomes when using them. Since they are removable, they can be easy to lose.

Some people find them uncomfortable, but the discomfort usually dissipates as you get used to the device. Spring retainers don't last indefinitely, so you may need to replace your retainer eventually.

Spring Retainers Are Not for Everyone

Spring retainers are not intended for severe misalignments. Since they require a high level of personal commitment, they may not work well for kids or others who have trouble wearing and caring for the appliance.


Spring retainers are dental appliances that help to straighten minor misalignments. Unlike other retainers, which, as the name suggests, "retain" teeth in position after braces, spring retainers can move teeth. However, they can do this for only minor adjustments. The spring retainer sits just over the front four teeth. Variations and modifications allow the retainer to cover more teeth if needed.

A Word From Verywell

Since they are less invasive and less expensive, people often wonder if a spring retainer is an alternative for braces. Unfortunately, the answer is not usually. However, if you previously had orthodontic work and your teeth have slightly shifted, you may be a candidate. Remember that your commitment to wearing a retainer as prescribed is essential for a retainer to work. Talk to an orthodontist if you think a spring retainer could help your smile. They'll be able to explore the best options for your circumstance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for a spring retainer to work?

    You wear spring retainers 24 hours a day unless you are brushing your teeth, eating, or drinking (except for water). When worn correctly, treatment may last around three months. However, every circumstance is unique, so an orthodontist will devise a specific timeline for you.

  • How much does a spring retainer cost?

    The cost of retainers varies, depending on where you live, your provider, and insurance coverage. Typically, they range in price from $300–$600.

  • Can spring retainers close gaps?

    Spring retainers are not typically effective at closing gaps, but it depends on how big the gap is. Orthodontists use spring retainers for minor adjustments—usually 1–2 millimeters (mm).

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dentistry.com. Spring retainers.

  2. Dobson Ortho Laboratory. Spring retainers

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.