What Is The Difference Between Invisalign And Retainers?

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They both fit snugly over your teeth and are part of the tooth straightening process. It’s hardly surprising that people sometimes confuse the concept of Invisalign with that of retainers. Despite having such similar appearances, the differences between Invisalign and retainers are pretty major. To clear up any confusion, here’s what you need to know:

So, Is Invisalign a retainer? 

The two share similarities in how they look but the answer is a clear-cut no. There is no such thing as “Invisalign clear retainers” simply because Invisalign clear aligners are not a type of retainer at all. Both are different types of orthodontic tools and cannot be used interchangeably. 

Retainers vs Invisalign: The Differences

1. They have totally different functions

Invisalign and retainers serve totally different purposes. Here’s a quick look at what they are used for:


  • Straightens and adjusts minor cases of dental misalignment (crooked teeth)
  • It is a type of orthodontic treatment and a common alternative to braces
  • Involves wearing a set of different-sized aligners over a period of time


  • Holds (retains) teeth in place after they have already been shifted by an orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign or braces
  • Not a treatment on its own  
  • Worn as an after-care measure for the long-term

2. They are made from different materials.

They look similar as they are wearable devices that fit over the teeth, but they are made from different materials. Invisalign aligners are made from a unique medical grade thermoplastic material that is thinner, differently textured, and more flexible than most types of retainers. Retainers are made from metal wires, acrylic, or plastic, depending on the type.

3. Invisalign is a brand

Invisalign is actually a brand name for a popular orthodontic clear aligner treatment. It is actually one of the oldest and most popular aligner brands as it was developed in the 1990s and developed over time to be more discrete and effective as a teeth straightening tool. 

The retainer is the name of the device itself that is used after treatments like braces. There are different types of retainers and various different brands, however, they are generally not known by their brand names by patients.  

4. Retainers are used after Invisalign treatment

Retainers are actually part of the Invisalign treatment process. Once a patient’s teeth have shifted or straightened into their final positions, the patient will receive a custom-made retainer so that they remain in place long-term. The different types of retainers after Invisalign are:

  • Bonded or Fixed Retainer
    A permanent retainer after Invisalign that is glued to the inside of the upper and/or lower teeth to secure them in place.
  • Clear Retainer
    This is a clear, wearable device that fits over the teeth to hold them in place. This is the type of retainer that looks similar to Invisalign aligners.

Can I use my last Invisalign as a retainer?

The last Invisalign tray (aligner) may be worn a little bit longer to act as a retainer. This is usually only for a number of weeks as they are not made from materials that last as long as retainers without wear. You will need to eventually get a retainer as per your dentist’s recommendations. 

Straighten Your Teeth With Invisalign in Townsville

Hopefully, this guide has helped to clarify just how different these two devices are. If you are in Townsville and interested in teeth-straightening with Invisalign or would like to learn more information about the treatment, schedule a consultation today at the dentist at Healthlink.