What are orthodontic appliances?

Orthodontic appliances are often used to direct growth and development, prevent unwanted tooth movement, or protect teeth from damage. Many appliances work orthopedically to change the way the jaws are growing. Sometimes it is important to start orthodontic treatment before all the permanent teeth erupt. Appliances can be designed to help the permanent teeth erupt correctly and encourage the jaws to develop in balance. Below is an example of some of the appliances we use to help our patients:

Space Maintainers

These appliances are used to hold space for permanent tooth eruption. Normally the baby teeth do this naturally, but sometimes baby teeth come loose too early. Baby teeth may also have to be extracted by the dentist due to decay or discomfort. Without a space maintainer, other teeth in the area will drift and tip into the extraction site, leaving no room for the adult tooth to erupt.

Bite Plate

A Bite Plate is used to correct a deep bite or a crossbite. It is a removable appliance custom fit to the upper or lower teeth. It is made of a smooth plastic material and fits comfortably in the roof of the mouth or over the biting surfaces of back teeth. A Bite Plate is worn full-time, even while eating.


Expansion appliances are primarily used in the upper jaw to create width. There is a suture in the middle of the palate. This suture serves as a growth center for the upper jaw. Once growth is complete, this suture closes. In young patients, this suture is open and can be influenced by an expander to stimulate growth. We can do this with very light forces in a young patient.

An expander will be used in cases where the upper jaw is constricted. If the upper jaw is smaller in width than the lower jaw, it is called a crossbite. As the upper jaw gets wider, more space is created for permanent tooth eruption.

Habit Appliances

Thumb and Finger Sucking habits are hard to break. When other methods have failed, we often turn to a cemented appliance aimed at preventing the habit. Dr. Magnuson prefers working with your child to modify the behavior without an appliance, but at some point the damage to the bite and smile may warrant the use of an appliance.


Herbst Appliance

The Herbst appliance is used to correct overjet and overbite problems. Because it is a cemented appliance, it is always working to improve the bite. We use this appliance in growing patients to encourage lower jaw growth. In addition to correcting the bite, it improves the profile and creates a more balanced facial appearance.