Types of orthodontic appliances

Visiting the orthodontist can be a somewhat intimidating experience. Mentions of a dizzying array of dental devices can prove very confusing, which is why it can help to familiarize yourself with some of the more common types of orthodontic appliances in anticipation of your visit.


Elastics are simply rubber bands used in orthodontic treatments like braces. Incorrect wearing of elastics is the main reason for treatment delays and poor outcomes. The upper and lower teeth can be straightened in the office, but elastics are normally what enhance the fitting of the upper and lower teeth.

Wear your elastics according to instructions, and keep in mind that proper wearing of elastics ensures that your braces will come off as fast as possible.


Headgear is a type of orthodontic appliance used in treating those with an overbite, which is where the upper jaw juts out beyond the lower jaw. It can also be used to correct an underbite, where the lower jaw juts beyond the upper jaw. Headgear is being used less frequently these days but still helps in the treatment of certain conditions.


Retainers come in a variety of designs and may be fixed or removable. Their purpose is to ensure that your teeth remain in their correct positions following the straightening of the teeth.

You will be instructed how to care for them and how long you should wear them. It is important that you wear your retainer as instructed to guard against relapse and so that your investment is protected for a lifetime.

Spacers or separators

Separators are small appliances that resemble rubber doughnuts. Separators are put in between teeth, which pushes them apart to allow for the placement of orthodontic bands. When the bands are ready for placement, the separators are removed. They do not work well with toothpicks, sticky foods, or dental floss.

If you have had separators placed, you should know that it is normal to experience some discomfort for several days, however, the discomfort will subside if you wear them as directed. Over-the-counter pain relievers should help minimize the discomfort.

Distal jet appliance

The distal jet is a type of orthodontic appliance that gradually shifts the upper molars back further into the mouth, creating the necessary space for eruption. The distal jet consists of three main parts: metal parts resting around the teeth; an acrylic piece fitting on the roof of the mouth; and a spring part connecting the acrylic to metal bands around the molars.

The distal jet appliance affects both swallowing and speech for a short time after it is inserted, but you should rapidly adjust to the change. If you experience any discomfort or sore spots in your mouth, a rinse with warm salt water should help. You should take care to follow proper oral hygiene to keep your appliance as clean as you can. This prevents irritation and gum tissue swelling and the buildup of plaque.

Learn more

To find out more about the different types of orthodontic appliances, contact us in Oak Lawn. Schedule a free consultation today with Petty & Bielik Orthodontics to find out which of these types would be the best fit for you. Learn more on our blog.