Types of Appliances

The Parts of Your Braces | Palatal Expander | Retainers | Elastics | Spacers | The Space Maintainer

The Parts of Your Braces

  • Archwire: Wire running between braces that exerts pressure to move teeth.
  • Band: A ring surrounding an anchor molar tooth in the back of the mouth.
  • Bracket: A small stainless steel or ceramic brace glued to the face of the tooth. The archwire passes through the slot of the bracket.
  • Coil Spring: A small spring placed around the archwire to either maintain or increase space between teeth.
  • Elastic Tie: Clear, colored, or silver “doughnut." These ties hold the wire in place.
  • Expansion Appliance: An appliance placed in the palate used to widen the arch.
  • Hook: A part of the bracket or band used for attachment of the rubber bands.
  • Ligature Tie: A very thin wire wrapped around a bracket holding the archwire into its slot.
  • Rubber Band: A clear band that is strung from the "hooks" between the upper and lower teeth.

Palatal Expander

expander1.jpgNow that you have your expander cemented into place, there are some basic instructions that we would like you to remember:

  1. There are some foods that you need to avoid. These foods include anything that is sticky, hard or brittle. Some examples are chewing gum of any kind, caramels, taffy, ice, hard pretzels, and hard candy. Apples and carrots are both fine, but please cut the apples into halves or quarters and the carrots into sticks before eating them.
  2. expander2.jpgThe braces that are used as part of your expander are not sharp, but they certainly are not as smooth as the surface of your teeth. Therefore you may go through a period of time when your lips and cheeks become irritated. If they do, we would recommend that you use wax to help “cushion" your cheeks from the braces. Pinch off a small piece of wax and flatten it between your fingertips. Apply the wax to the part of the braces that is bothersome. If you "mold" the wax around the area, it will stick to the brace and make you more comfortable. Be sure that you remove the wax before you brush and then reapply it, if necessary.
  3. Dr. Bills will tell you how often to activate your appliance. The best time to do this is usually in the morning or at night. The turning instructions are as follows:
    • Place the key firmly into the hole in the front of the appliance.
    • Push the key toward the back of the mouth until the key will go no farther and the next hole appears in front of the appliance.
    • Remove the key by pulling straight down, not forward.
    • If you accidentally remove the key before the next hole appears, you will have to reinsert the key from the back of the appliance and push it further backwards. If you are not able to find the hole, please call our office.
  4. You may notice a difference in your speech the first few days after your appliance is cemented. The more you speak, the faster you will become accustomed to the appliance; and the faster your speech will become normal again.
  5. You may have more saliva than usual for the first few days. This is also normal and will soon disappear.
  6. Keeping your expander clean is very important. You can brush the appliance when you brush your teeth. Please remember to brush the portion that goes across your palate.
  7. Your expander is designed to widen your upper arch. As a result, you will notice a space between your two front teeth. Do not be concerned. This space will be present only for a short time.
  8. In the beginning, the appliance may make your teeth a little sensitive and sore because of the pressure involved in expanding the palate. If you feel a little uncomfortable, we would suggest that you take whatever medication you would normally take for a headache.


retainer.jpgThe retainer is a removable appliance carefully designed for your teeth. It is important that it be worn properly.

  1. Follow closely the instructions that you have been given on how to take the retainer in and out of your mouth.
  2. Wear the retainer at all times (excluding mealtimes) unless you have been specifically instructed otherwise. Remove the retainer when brushing.
  3. The plastic taste of the new appliance will disappear soon.
  4. You may notice a difference in your speech at first. However, in two or three days, your speech will become more normal with the appliance in place.
  5. Your new retainer may make your teeth sore for a day or two. After an adjustment you may experience discomfort. If you have a localized sore spot after three or four days, call the office so that an adjustment can be made.
  6. Avoid flipping the retainer with your tongue. This can cause damage to your teeth.
  7. Clean your retainer by brushing it with toothpaste and/or by using mouth wash or denture cleaner. If you are wearing a lower fixed retainer, be extra careful to brush the wire and behind the lower teeth.
  8. Always store the retainer in its case. Never wrap the retainer in a paper napkin or tissue.
  9. Always bring your retainer to each appointment.
  10. Additional charges will be made for lost or broken retainers, or a retainer that does not fit because of insufficient wear or negligence.


What Are Elastics? Quite simply, elastics are special “rubber bands.” They are used along with your braces to help produce a gradual movement of your teeth.

Are They Important? Yes! Elastics are designed to help insure proper movement and alignment of your teeth. That's why it's important to wear your elastics 24 hours a day, every day (unless instructed otherwise).

May I take Them Off? It's best to keep elastics on all of the time. Remove them only to brush your teeth; to change your elastics; or, if absolutely necessary, to eat a meal. They should be in place when you eat a snack, play, and sleep. We cannot stress enough the importance of wearing your elastics faithfully. If you wear them one day and leave them off the next, your teeth can set up a resistance that slows or stops your progress. Even though you may feel some discomfort at first, if you wear the elastics as directed, that feeling will go away in a few days.

Cooperation Equals Results. Proper wearing of your elastics will help us give you the best possible treatment in the shortest amount of time.

Just Let Us Know! Good communication is the key to successful treatment. Therefore, it's very important that you fully understand how your elastics should be worn. If you have any questions, or if you find that your supply of elastics is running low, just give us a call.


spacer.jpgWhat Are Spacers? Spacers are small doughnut-shaped elastic rings. They are placed between your teeth to create sufficient space to properly and comfortably fit your braces.

How Will They Feel? At first, they may feel like pieces of food stuck between your teeth. That sensation will go away in a few days.

Will They Hurt? Your teeth may become sensitive. However, this will only last a few days. Any discomfort can be relieved with whatever medication you would take for a headache.

How Will I Eat? No problem! You can eat normally. Just be sure to avoid chewy or sticky foods. Also, never remove your spacers once they are in place.

What About Brushing? It's always important to brush your teeth. Even with the spacers in place, you need to continue brushing as usual. You may also floss anywhere the spacers are not placed.

What If I Lose Them? Should you happen to lose one or two, don't worry, this just means sufficient space is now available for the braces.

How Long Will I Need Them? You will need them only long enough to create ample space for your braces. Under most circumstances, you should need them only for a week.

The Space Maintainer

expander1--1-.jpgThe Space Maintainer is a special appliance recommended to preserve the space when primary (baby) teeth have been extracted or lost prematurely. This appliance prevents the permanent teeth, which are present, from drifting into the space "reserved" for the unerupted teeth.

The appliance is made according to Dr. Bill’s prescription using bands, which are carefully fitted on the back molars and special wire contoured to the exact shape of the patient's dental form. It is cemented to the molars and stays in place until the remaining permanent teeth erupt.

expander2--1-.jpgA second phase of treatment with full braces may be recommended at a later age when all of the permanent teeth are present. Successful early treatment with a space maintainer can be beneficial in reducing the severity of a developing orthodontic problem. This creates a better framework for the finishing treatment and a more stable final result.