When your orthodontist says you need an appliance, it can feel like just one more thing in a mouth that’s already full of wires and brackets. But orthodontic appliances make braces work faster and better, and they are only recommended when they will be most beneficial for an alignment issue. Understanding what appliances are for and how they work can help you accept the recommendation for what it is – a necessary step on a journey to a completely aligned smile.
The Purpose of Orthodontic Appliances
Orthodontic appliances are used for different purposes:
- Prep the teeth and mouth for braces
- Straighten teeth all by themselves
- Work in tandem with braces
No matter what group you fall into, the goals always fit in one of the following categories:
- Straighten teeth
- Enhance jaw growth
- Create facial balance during development
Some orthodontic appliances are used in childhood to prep the mouth for braces during adolescence. This treatment is known as interceptive orthodontics. Some appliances are used with traditional braces for teens or adults, Invisalign, or Invisalign Teen.
Your orthodontist does her best to minimize overall treatment time and improve results by using efficient, targeted appliances.
Types of Orthodontic Appliances
When you begin the orthodontic journey, you may be prescribed a common appliance that’s easy to live with or be fitted with an unfamiliar device that may take a little more effort. Here are some of the most common orthodontic appliances you might encounter:
- Expanders: A palatal expander is an important and effective orthodontic appliance for patients with a narrow palate. It may be used to widen the upper jaw so upper and lower teeth match together, create room for crowded teeth, help the back teeth fit together, improve the airway and breathing, and make more room for permanent teeth to erupt.
- Elastics: Once braces are already in place, elastics – aka rubber bands – control the fit of your bite. Many young braces-wearers love elastics because they come in a wide variety of colors and can be changed to match the patient’s whims.
- Retainers: If you wear braces, then you will be the proud owner of a retainer when the treatment is complete. Custom-made and intended to keep those newly shifted teeth in place, retainers are a critical piece of the orthodontic journey that must always be worn at night and, sometimes, in the beginning, around the clock.
- Herbst appliance: This tool encourages the development of the lower jaw so it moves into alignment with the upper jaw. Compact and discreet, the Herbst appliance fits discreetly inside the cheeks. It’s usually used in conjunction with braces instead of going solo. While the treatment can take up to a year to be fully effective, when the gear is in place the lower jaw is automatically shifted forward so you can see what the permanent look will be when the treatment is complete – and seeing results before the end is a great motivator for reluctant orthodontic patients.
What’s Right for Your Orthodontic Treatment?
There are many kinds of orthodontic appliances, and the effectiveness of each appliance differs from patient to patient. Not every braces-wearer will need an appliance, others will. The important fact to remember is that this mouth gear is intended to make braces work more effectively and shorten treatment time so you can get to that straight smile faster.
Learn more about all things orthodontics from Dr. Soleil Roberts at Soleil Orthodontics in Woodinville. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.