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What Are the Different Types of Orthodontic Instruments?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many types of orthodontic instruments that can be used when attaching, removing or making adjustments to orthodontic fixtures. The tools used in orthodontics are constructed out of strong, high-quality materials that allow the orthodontist to perform delicate procedures while still being able to use a great deal of strength. Some of the more common orthodontic instruments include pliers, cutters and measuring devices. There are various forms of each of these instruments, each used for a very specific purpose.

When placing orthodontic hardware in a patient’s mouth, a number of orthodontic instruments can be utilized. Tools that measure the spaces between the teeth and the distance that the tooth needs to be moved — such as dividers, wedge rulers and gauges — can be used when the orthodontist is determining how to move the patient’s teeth around. These instruments help the orthodontist determine a plan for correcting the alignment of a patient’s teeth. The orthodontist may also use mirrors when attaching the hardware so it is easier to see inside the patient’s mouth.

Many types of pliers are commonly used in orthodontics. Pliers are the most common orthodontic instrument and may be used to bend wires, secure bands and hold the ends of wire, among other uses. An orthodontist will often use multiple sets of pliers when adjusting the wiring on a patient’s orthodontic hardware.

To bend wires, an orthodontist may use different types of pliers designed to create certain types of bends. There are pliers that can create a single angle, those that can help bend a wire back on itself and those that can create multiple bends in the wire. Aside from pliers, there are also specialty wire forming or twisting instruments that may be used to adjust the hardware in a patient’s mouth.

Some orthodontic instruments are designed to remove hardware, such as braces, from a patient’s mouth. There are specially designed pliers that can remove brackets and bands from a patient’s teeth. Various cutting tools can be used to cut through the wires once they are no longer needed. Some instruments are also designed to remove the adhesive that connects the hardware to the patient’s mouth.

In some orthodontic procedures, surgical orthodontic instruments may also be used. Patients who use orthodontic implants will need to undergo minor surgery, which requires the use of cutting instruments such as scalpels. Special tools also may be used to install orthodontic implants into a patient’s jaw.

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Discussion Comments
By myharley — On Mar 22, 2012

@SarahSon - You are fortunate you had your braces when you were young. I have felt self-conscious all my life because of my crooked teeth.

I have seen several people wearing braces for adults, so guess it is never too late to have straight teeth.

I have thought about this many times, but haven't found out how much braces cost. Right now I am wondering how I am going to pay for college for my kids, so don't know if getting braces is on the list yet or not.

I would love to be able to smile and know that my teeth are straight. Even when I have my picture taken, I never show my teeth because they are crooked.

By LisaLou — On Mar 21, 2012

@SarahSon - I also had braces when I was in high school, and think the kids who have them today are much more fortunate than we were.

Many of the braces today don't look as scary as they did when I wore mine. They aren't as noticeable when they smile either.

I was fortunate that I didn't have to wear my braces as long as some of my friends did. In fact, I didn't even know ahead of time the day my orthodontist was going to remove them.

I went in for my regular check-up and wondered what was taking him so long. It also felt like he was using different instruments than he had before. When he was done, he held up a mirror and told me to smile.

It felt wonderful to rub my tongue over my teeth and feel the smoothness of my teeth instead of those braces. I did have to wear a retainer for quite awhile after that, but that was nothing compared to the braces.

By SarahSon — On Mar 21, 2012

I had braces when I was a teenager, so know what orthodontic treatment is like. Every time I went in for a visit, I remember seeing all the instruments he was going to use laid out on a tray.

I got to the point where I would avoid looking on the tray because I didn't want to see what they were going to be putting in my mouth.

Before they even put my braces on, I remember they put tiny rubber bands between my teeth to space them apart a little bit. Of all the instruments he used, these little rubber bands caused the most pain.

Even having the braces put on, and all the adjustments before having them removed were not as painful as the rubber bands.

I am thankful my parents spent the money for me to have braces. I am able to enjoy nice straight teeth and feel confident when I smile because of that.

By golf07 — On Mar 20, 2012

@seag47 - I don't think your husband is alone in his fear of dental instruments. I have a good friend who is a nurse, so she is used to all kinds of medical instruments, and she is paranoid and petrified of having anything like this done to her mouth.

The only way she can handle these visits herself is to have someone with her holding her hand, and making sure she is given gas.

You would think someone who is around similar instruments and noises all the time would not be affected like this. I must admit, some of the instruments look pretty scary.

I try to avoid looking at them and always choose to listen to music to help drown out some of the loud noises.

By seag47 — On Mar 20, 2012

My husband is so intimidated by orthodontic instruments that he refuses to even go to a dentist for a yearly cleaning. He saw several types of pliers and other devices laid out on a table when he took me for my appointment, and he nearly fainted.

He has a phobia of people being in his face and working on his teeth. He calls the dental tools he has seen “torture devices,” and he even has nightmares about them.

I find it strange that he can use pliers in his shop with absolutely no problems. Yet, when he sees a similar pair laid out on an orthodontist's table, he loses his cool.

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