BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:Social perceptions are influenced by dental appearance. The aim of this study was to determine whether social perceptions of a young adult are influenced by orthodontic retainer design and appearance.MATERIALS AND METHODS:Following ethical approval, a pilot-tested questionnaire study was conducted with 402 third-level students from the Republic of Ireland. Each participant was invited to look at one randomly allocated colour full-face smiling photograph of a young adult male or a young adult female wearing one of five maxillary retainers and asked to make judgements on a Likert scale concerning the subject's social competence (SC), psychological adjustment (PA), intellectual ability (IA), and attractiveness. Five computer-modified standardized photographs of each subject wearing each of the following retainers were used: Essix, conventional Hawley, acrylated Hawley, and Begg; an image with no retainer simulated a bonded retainer (BR) appearance. Statistical analyses were performed in SASŪ (Version 9.2).RESULTS:No significant differences were found between the retainers for SC (P = 0.6741) and PA (P = 0.7217). In the male subject only, greater perceived IA was found with the BR appearance compared to that of the conventional Hawley (P = 0.0018) or the acrylated Hawley (P = 0.0016). The BR appearance was perceived as more attractive than that of the Begg retainer (P = 0.0103).LIMITATIONS:In this study, participants were required to make arbitrary judgements on a single image, which may not be a complete representation of a person.CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS:Social perceptions were found to be influenced by retainer design and appearance. This may be a factor in determining retainer choice.