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A Look at How We Make Our Clear Retainers In House

A Look at How We Make Our Clear Retainers In House

The team at Hawley Orthodontics is always finding ways to create a better, more convenient patient experience, while achieving fantastic results. That’s why we integrate proven technology into our practice. And one of our favorite upgrades is a system that lets us make perfect-fitting clear retainers right here in our office. Not only does this benefit our patients, it’s also really cool. 

What are Clear Retainers?

Clear retainers, or Essix retainers, are made of clear plastic. They have quickly become the most popular type of orthodontic retainer because they’re removable, comfortable and virtually invisible. Patients sometimes refer to them as Invisalign retainers since they look just like clear aligners and, similarly, fit over the entire arch of teeth. 

However, instead of being designed to move teeth into place like an aligner, a clear plastic retainer is meant to hold your teeth where they are. This prevents teeth from shifting and helps you maintain your braces or Invisalign® results for life. 

How 3D Printing Dental Retainers Works

3D printing in orthodontics isn’t new but when the technology first came out, it was mainly only used at big dental labs. Now, we have our own 3D printer in the office. This allows us to design, print and fabricate retainers in house

Here’s how it works:

  1. We take intraoral scans

When you finish your braces or Invisalign treatment (or if you come in for a new retainer), a team member will take quick, comfortable digital dental impressions with our iTero® scanner. Yup, no gooey impressions at our office! 

  1. A mold is 3D printed

Dr. Hawley will make sure your scan looks perfect before we export the digital file to our printing software. The 3D printer will print a mold of your teeth and gums, creating a precise replica. 

  1. The mold goes into a thermoforming machine

We prep the mold and put it into a thermoforming machine along with FDA-approved polyurethane plastic. The plastic is heated to make it pliable and then formed around the model to create your clear retainer. 

  1. Get a durable, crystal clear retainer

When it’s ready, we’ll cut the retainer out of the plastic, separate it from the mold, and trim away any excess to get it to the exact height and contour we want. Finally, we’ll smooth the edges and sterilize it, and boom! You’ll have a precise, high quality retainer to hold your teeth in place. 

The Benefits of In-House, 3D-Printed Retainers

Here are some of the ways 3D printing all of our retainers benefits our Papillion orthodontics patients:

  • Saves Time

Traditionally, your orthodontist would take impressions and then they’d send the model to a third party dental lab. The lab would use the model to create your retainer and ship it to the office. This could take a couple weeks. And if there were problems with fit, the process would start all over again.

By 3D printing orthodontic retainers in our office, we eliminate the need for a third party and have the retainer ready for you in a week. This is especially important for patients who need a replacement retainer, because the quicker you get a new retainer, the less your teeth will shift. 

  • Gives Dr. Hawley More Control 

Making clear retainers in the office allows Dr. Hawley to oversee every aspect of your treatment from start to retention. Your retainer will be printed for you based on a precise digital scan and we’ll make sure the fit is flawless. This ensures your smile will always look just as good as the day you finished braces or aligner treatment.

  • High Quality

Dr. Hawley and our team researched printers and systems in order to find the one that would create the best quality appliances. And we use premium, FDA-approved materials for retainers that are super clear and durable.

  • Comfortable 

It’s true! Your 3D-printed retainer will be comfortable because we can achieve the perfect fit, plus, the process itself is comfortable too. You won’t have to hold still with a tray full of putty in your mouth for impressions. We use the iTero scanner to take fast, comfortable digital scans with no goop, no gagging and no discomfort. 

  • Better for the Environment

Our locally made retainers have a smaller carbon footprint than those manufactured at a lab and then shipped to our office. What’s good for the environment is good for our patients!

  • Convenient

Every step of the process is more convenient. From the quick digital scans to the speedy turnaround. And if you lose your retainer, we can use your previous mold to create you a new one right away. 

We Have all of Your Omaha Smile Needs Covered!

If you want a high-tech, clear plastic retainer, whether you’re a previous patient or not, call our office at (402) 592-3200 to schedule an appointment. We can scan your teeth and 3D print a custom retainer just for you. 


Need to straighten your teeth first? Our Papillion orthodontist Dr. Hawley can help with that too! Book a free consultation to find out your personalized treatment recommendations.