Braces – consisting of brackets and/or wires and bands. Bands are fixed firmly around the teeth and serve as anchors for the appliance, while brackets are usually connected to the front of the teeth. Wires in the shape of an arch pass through the brackets and are fixed to the bands. As the arch wire is tightened, tension is applied to the teeth, which over time moves them into proper position.
A patient sees the orthodontist once a month so that the braces can be adjusted. The treatment course may last from several months to a number of years. Children tend to prefer the colored braces, while adults usually go for the clear styles.
Fixed space maintainers – if the child loses a milk tooth, a space maintainer will stop the two teeth at either side of the spaces from moving into it until the adult tooth comes through. A band is fixed to one of the teeth next to the space, and a wire goes from the band to the other tooth.
Special fixed appliances – these may be recommended to control tongue thrusting or thumb sucking. Patients may find them uncomfortable, especially when they are eating. Experts say they should only be used if they are really necessary.
Removable appliances – these are typically used for treating minor problems, such as preventing thumb sucking or correcting slightly crooked teeth. They should only be taken out when cleaning, eating or flossing. Sometimes, the orthodontist may advice the patient to remove them during certain activities, such as playing a wind instrument or cycling.
Examples of removable appliances include:
Aligners – an option instead of traditional braces for adult patients. They are virtually unnoticeable by other people and can be taken out when patients brush their teeth, floss, or eat.
Headgear – there is a strap around the back of the head, which is attached to a metal wire in the front, or face bow. The aim is to slow down upper jaw growth, and keeping the back teeth in position while the front ones are pulled back.
Lip and cheek bumpers – specially made to relieve the pressure of cheeks or lips on the teeth.
Palatal expander – an appliance designed to make the arch of the upper jaw wider. The device consists of a plastic plate that is placed in the palate (the roof of the mouth). The plate has screws which exert pressure on the joints in the bones, forcing them outward, thus expanding the size of the palatal area (roof of mouth area).
Removable retainers – these are placed on the roof of the mouth. They are designed to stop the teeth from moving back to their original positions. If modified, they may also be used to stop children from sucking their thumbs.
Removable space maintainers – an alternative to fixed space maintainers.
Splints (jaw repositioning appliances) – they are placed either in the top or lower jaw and help the jaw close properly. Splints are commonly used for TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) syndrome.