Types of Orthodontic Appliances

There are different types of orthodontic appliances that your dentist may use depending on your issue. We’ll go over the common orthodontic appliances and when they are used.


Probably the most common type of orthodontic treatment, braces can be used by patients with varying levels of complexities and at different ages.

  • They are suitable for children, teens and adults
  • They consist of brackets, bands and wires which attach to the teeth
  • They work by forcing teeth to move to a particular position overtime
  • They are made of different materials such as plastic, metal or ceramic. Metal braces are stronger and often the best for complicated issues and ceramic braces have a longer treatment period.
  • Braces can only be removed by a qualified dentist or
  • Although rarely used, inside braces are connected to the back side of the teeth to remain incognito.
  • Braces are usually worn from 1 to 3 years depending on the needs of the patient
  • Braces can be used together with maxillofacial surgery for a better outcome
  • To determine if braces are an ideal treatment plan for your situation, visit our dental clinic for an initial consultation.

Mouth guards

  • These appliances are often made of plastic
  • They are normally worn when playing contact sports
  • They work as a physical guard which protects the teeth, gums or fixed orthodontic appliances from harm
  • Mouth guards are also used to protect the temporomandibular joint from injuries

Removeable appliances

  • They are often made of plastic and metal
  • Retainers are used as a follow up treatment for patients who’ve had braces. It helps to prevent the patient’s teeth from going back to their former position.
  • Retainers can be worn at night and sometimes also during the day
  • The removeable appliances can be worn for several years after braces
  • Can cause soreness or pressure which usually disappears within a couple of days
  • Retainers can be worn instead of braces, if the patient needs to move one tooth or close a small gap in between the teeth.
  • Removeable appliance can sometimes help improve specific speech problems.
  • There’s a unique type of retainer known as tongue-crib retainer which has a small metal bar that comes down from the roof of the patient’s mouth to prevent the tongue from slipping between the teeth when one talks.

Space maintainers

  • They help to prevent the teeth from moving out of place. They keep the teeth where they’re supposed to be.
  • Space retainers are often made of plastic or metal
  • They can be customized to suit the patient’s needs
  • They can help maintain natural teeth and jaw position especially when there are gaps in the mouth due to premature loss of baby teeth.
  • They are often used for children but adults can have them too

Occlusal splints (bite guards, night guards or bite splints)

  • They’re used to modify the bite and protect the teeth
  • Often made of plastic or acrylic nylon (can be soft, semi-hard or hard)
  • The soft occlusal splints are harder to clean and may require more frequent replacements
  • Night guards can help alleviate pain caused by jaw issues and neck aches
  • Should be worn according to the instructions given by your orthodontist (most recommended at night)
  • They aren’t as strong as mouth guards and hence shouldn’t be worn when playing athletics or contact sports
Clear aligners
  • Often made of clear plastic
  • Are used to treat mild spacing issues among adults
  • Are customized to fit the shape of the patient’s mouth
  • Don’t trap food particles or plaque in the mouth hence minimize the risk of gum infection
  • Not recommended for growing children or teens
  • Can be removed when eating, brushing or flossing
  • Are available in sets of two, each set is worn for approximately 2 weeks
  • They are more expensive than traditional braces
  • The treatment period varies between 9 and 24 months
Anterior deprogrammers
  • They mimic the shape of mouth guards
  • Often made of plastic
  • They often recommended for treating grinding and clenching issues which are symptoms of TMJ and bruxism.
  • They help to relax the jaw muscles, alleviate pain, muscle fatigue, and migraines.
  • These devices can be worn during the day or at night and at any section (lower or upper jaw)

Palatal expander

  • These devices are recommended for children between ages 8 and 10
  • They work by expanding the upper arch when it’s too narrow to ensure it fits all the permanent teeth.
  • Palatal expander is not recommended for adults since their bones are no longer growing and would be difficult to achieve the best outcome
  • They are reasonably affordable

Sleep disorder devices

If you suffer from a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, there are devices that can help you to sleep more soundly throughout the night. These sleep disorder devices can help alleviate issues like snoring by opening the airways. Typically, they are made of plastic or acrylic and worn over the teeth like most orthodontic appliances. These sleep disorder devices can help to keep the patient’s airway open and also stabilize the jaw and tongue. They are often custom-fitted to suit the individual’s needs and ensure they are comfortable to wear.

Occlusal equilibration

Some teeth have cusps that are either too low or too high. This is a dental issue that hinders proper jaw closure. The occlusal equilibration is a device that reshapes the biting surfaces of the teeth and stabilizes them.

Patients who have abnormal wear or pain in areas like the jaw or shoulders may be good candidates for occlusal equilibration. The orthodontist may also recommend this device is he/she notices that the lower and upper jaw doesn’t match properly.

This device can be applied in a single appointment. However, in severe cases, it may require multiple dental visits. The goal is to stabilize the bite and eliminate symptoms like pain.

How long will you wear the orthodontic device?

To determine if you are a good candidate for orthodontic appliances like braces, visit our dental clinic. We will guide you on which treatment to consider based on factors such as your age and dental issue. For instance, children ages 7 to 14 years are the best candidates for braces because their bone is still growing, and their permanent teeth may have started erupting. At this stage, it’s easier to straighten teeth.

Space maintainers, braces, and retainers can be used together to treat malocclusions, especially for younger patients. The space maintainers can be worn for a specific time period because they act as placeholders that prevent teeth from moving into open spaces in the mouth where a tooth is lacking. Whether the patient is lacking a tooth due to a traumatic loss or extraction, space maintainers can be a viable solution to keep teeth intact.

To determine how much time you’ll have to wear braces, the orthodontist will need to assess your individual needs. The average child or adolescent will wear braces for 24 months whereas an adult would wear them for 28 months. Retainers can be worn for as long as you like because they work by helping the teeth to remain straight. Remember that teeth move over the years unless there’s something that’s forcing them to remain where they are. Retainers are an ideal solution to keep the teeth from moving.

Orthodontic treatments offer the best results during childhood and in adolescene. This is because the teeth and mouth are still growing so it’s easier to use a device that will manipulate their course. However, this is not to say that orthodontic treatment cannot be done for older patients. Adults can still benefit from orthodontic dentistry when issues such as overbites, underbites, jaw-joint disorders and crooked teeth have advanced. The only drawback is that, with adults, orthodontic treatments usually take a longer time to treat because their teeth have finished growing. The treatment is also more expensive and uncomfortable in some cases. The orthodontist may recommend surgical intervention to achieve the patient’s goal.

If you have healthy gums and teeth, you can seek orthodontic treatment immediately. However, if you are currently suffering from periodontal disease, it needs to be treated first before you begin any orthodontic treatment. This helps to avoid potential issues like gum disease which can lead to tooth loss. When you visit our dental clinic, we’ll walk you through all options to help your orthodontic issue or periodontal problem. Our dentists have the experience and skill to cater to all your dental and orthodontic needs.

Every patient is different and for this reason, your treatment plan will be designed uniquely to cater to your needs. It’s impossible to tell how long you’ll wear the appliance without knowing details about your current situation and what needs to be treated. There are several factors that will determine how long you’ll need the orthodontic appliance. They include:

  • Your age (the older you are, the longer the treatment period)
  • The complexity of your orthodontic issue

On average, the patient wears braces for 1-3 years and then a retainer for 1 year. This helps to ensure the teeth don’t shift out of their new positions. The dentist may also, recommend the use of a retainer at night which helps to keep the teeth straight.

Orthodontic appliances should be worn for the specific purpose for which they were designed. For instance, mouth guards that are designed to be worn when playing contact sports or any other physical activity should only be used for this purpose. Orthodontic appliances which are recommended for use after oral surgery should only be worn as advised by the orthodontist.

If your dentist has recommended a sleep disorder appliance, how long you’ll need to wear it is based on the progression of that disorder. If it’s a severe disorder, the patient will be required to remain in treatment for a longer period.

When you visit our dental clinic, you’ll speak to an orthodontist who will evaluate your situation and advice on the treatment plan that’s best for you.
King West Dentistry