Different types of orthodontic appliances and their uses

Different Types of Orthodontic Appliances and Their Uses

Dentists use many different orthodontic appliances to help improve your teeth’s appearance and health. Some standard orthodontic devices include braces, retainers, headgear and expanders.

Below, you’ll find a complete orthodontic appliances list to help you understand what to expect. Your dentist can provide more guidance for what types of orthodontic appliances would best treat your specific condition and the benefits and costs of each.


Braces are orthodontic devices that help realign your teeth for a healthier smile. Traditionally, braces have metal wires and brackets to straighten patients’ teeth, but many dentists now offer clear ceramic braces to make the process more discreet. Metal braces are usually more affordable, but both types help you complete your treatment 24/7, giving you the best results within a shorter amount of time.

Clear ceramic braces may cost slightly more, but they help teens and working adults feel more confident about their appearance. Both options work similarly and can help you achieve the same results, so it’s best to talk with a dental professional to determine your ideal choice. Braces can help transform your appearance and boost confidence, making them an excellent treatment for children and adults.

Rubber bands

Many people who wear braces also need rubber bands. Elastics provide extra pressure to move teeth into position, helping improve:

  • Overbites
  • Underbites
  • Open bites
  • Crossbites

While braces help straighten your teeth, elastics improve their alignment, helping you achieve the best smile possible. Talk with your dentist to learn more about how you can benefit from rubber bands with your braces.


Woman holding an Invisalign clear aligner to her mouth

Instead of metal and ceramic, you can choose Invisalign, which uses clear aligners to help straighten teeth. Some people prefer Invisalign to help them get a better smile without steel brackets, adhesives or wiring, making them less noticeable than traditional metal or ceramic braces. Invisalign also has no dietary restrictions, whereas people with clear or ceramic braces have to avoid specific foods that can get stuck in the wires, such as nuts, chips and popcorn. People with Invisalign remove their aligner trays during meals.

Most patients wear their Invisalign for about 22 hours daily to see results. While Invisalign can cost more than metal or ceramic braces, Amazing Smiles Orthodontics can help you find affordable treatment options to help you get a beautiful smile.


The Forsus Fatigue Resistant Device is an orthodontic device that helps people improve their teeth’s appearance. The Forsus helps adolescents by encouraging growth and reducing excessive overbites. The Forsus can also enhance your teeth’s fit and could eliminate the need for surgery to fix problems with your lower jaw, retraining your bite so it aligns better.


Headgear is one of many orthodontic devices that can help treat underbites and overbites. Once applied, the headgear gently pulls your teeth in the right direction. Your orthodontist might suggest headgear as one step in a comprehensive dental care plan to improve the alignment of your teeth and jaw.

Herbst appliance

The Herbst is an orthodontic appliance that helps improve overbites. The device works by exerting a backward force on the upper jaw and a forward force on the lower jaw. Orthodontists usually use this appliance with younger children who are still growing, improving their overbite before their body matures and preventing it from worsening. Patients generally wear their Herbst appliance for 12 to 15 months for the best results.

Palatal expander

Also known as a rapid palatal expander, the palatal expander widens the upper jaw by putting pressure on the upper molars. The goal is to help the upper and lower teeth fit better together. You’ll slowly add more tension as directed by your orthodontist, who will show you how and when to adjust it. Once you achieve your desired expansion, you’ll continue to wear the expander for several months to prevent regression and solidify your results.


Positioners help solidify your final correction and are often one of the last steps in dental adjustment treatments. Depending on your concerns, you typically only need to wear them for four to eight weeks.


Once a person completes braces treatment, they’ll often move on to retainers, which usually consist of plastic and metal. These devices help prevent the newly aligned teeth from shifting. Patients usually only need to wear their retainer part-time, but some types of retainers are for longer-term, lasting support.

Patients can also wear retainers for other reasons, such as closing gaps or correcting the position of a single tooth where braces are unnecessary. Retainers are essential to your treatment to prevent regression and help you achieve your ideal results.

Types of retainers

Multiple retainers can offer various benefits. Your dentist will help you navigate the different retainers that would be best for your treatment plan, including the following.

  • Fixed dental retainers: These retainers bond to the backs of the upper and lower teeth, with thin wiring holding movement-prone teeth in place. These retainers are not removable, so patients must wear them 24/7 until they reach their desired outcome.
  • Essix dental retainers: These clear plastic retainers fit to your teeth through a vacuum-forming process. Some patients prefer these retainers because they are translucent and less noticeable.
  • Hawley dental retainers: These retainers contain a plastic body, wires and clasps that wrap around specific teeth to prevent them from shifting. Your dentist will recommend that you wear these retainers on the top or bottom of your mouth, depending on the condition they’re treating.


Spacers, also called operators, are rubber devices placed between your teeth to help push them apart, allowing an orthodontist to set bands for braces at your next appointment. Once it’s time to apply your braces, your orthodontist will remove the spacers. Spacers have some dietary restrictions, so you should avoid sticky foods. Spacers also don’t mix well with floss or toothpicks.

What kind of orthodontic appliance do you need?

Dr. Jeff Mastroianni pointing to teeth scans for orthodontics device planning

If you want to improve your smile, Amazing Smiles is here to help. Our dentists use a broad range of orthodontic devices to help you achieve your ideal look. We can help children and adults achieve their perfect smile using braces, retainers, Invisalign and other methods.

When you meet with one of our orthodontists for a consultation, they’ll help you find a customized treatment to suit your needs. We’ll also discuss your payment options so you can find an affordable treatment plan without sacrificing your dental health. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options or schedule a free consultation online!