The practice of orthodontics focuses on the alignment of teeth and the correction of bite problems. There are several types of orthodontic devices or appliances available to achieve this correction. Depending on the nature of the orthodontic problem, more than one type of orthodontic appliance may be an option to correct the alignment of your teeth and bite.
Space maintainers can be thought of as “glued-in“ retainers that hold space after the early loss of a baby tooth, prior to the eruption of an adult tooth. Simple orthodontic problems can often be corrected with removable acrylic appliances. These appliances can have springs or screws attached that are the active component of the appliance. These springs and screws apply pressure to specific teeth that allows them to move into the correct position.
More complicated problems require more advanced types orthodontic appliances such as functional appliances, traditional braces, and clear aligners.
Functional appliances are a type of removable orthodontic appliance. These appliances are particularly useful when one jaw is growing more than the other and the goal of treatment is to modify the way the jawbones are growing so that they are a better match over time. These appliances are often used prior to or in conjunction with traditional braces or clear aligners.
Traditional braces are glued to the teeth and then a wire is attached to the brace. It is the action of the wire that straightens the teeth. Some braces attach the wire to the braces using colored elastics. Other braces have a “self-ligating” door or clip that holds the wire in place. Often, rubber bands (or elastics) are needed with traditional braces. These rubber bands help ensure that the teeth bite together properly at the end of treatment.
Clear aligners can also be used to straighten crowded teeth. Clear aligners are a series of individualized plastic trays that straighten the teeth and correct the bite as one progresses through the series. Sometimes rubber bands (or elastics) are also needed with the clear aligners. The sets of aligners are changed by the patient every one to two weeks.
There are a multitude of orthodontic problems and there are a multitude of orthodontic appliances used to correct these problems. Orthodontists are specialists who have the training to properly diagnose the problems and to make the appropriate choice of orthodontic appliance to successfully the align teeth and to correct the bite.