Headgear, retainers, and spacers are different types of removable orthodontic appliances. In addition, night guards are removable orthodontic appliances that do not help straighten teeth but prevent wear and jaw pain. All of these types of removable orthodontic appliances are used in modern orthodontistry, depending on the ultimate goal, severity of a person’s overbite, and more. In addition, some orthodontists are more prone to applying permanent appliances rather than removable ones to ensure the best outcome.
One of the most common removable orthodontic appliances is headgear that attaches to one’s braces. It is typically worn most of the day to correct overbites, and can be worn for more than a year. Many patients find sleeping with orthodontic headgear uncomfortable, but choose to wear it during the night anyway to wear it less during the day in school or work environments. In general, they are designed to be adjustable so that an orthodontist can simply instruct the patient to attach it to a different hole to tighten it.
Patients who undergo orthodontic teeth realignment must wear retainers to keep their teeth in place. These removable orthodontic appliances are either made of wire or clear plastic, and molded to perfectly fit the patient’s teeth. Initially, patients are usually instructed to wear the devices night and day, but are eventually allowed to wear them only at night. To keep the teeth in place permanently, orthodontic patients are often instructed to wear these removable orthodontic appliances every night of their lives.
Rubber band spacers, also known as orthodontic separators, are removable orthodontic appliances used to separate a patient’s back teeth before attaching braces. The teeth are separated to put thicker, metal spacers on, which are a part of the actual braces. Sometimes rubber band spacers pop or are removed accidentally when the orthodontic patient eats sticky food, so orthodontists typically give their patients extra spacers to take home. Pain is normal anywhere from one hour to a day after the spacers are put on, because they slowly space the patient’s teeth.
Night guards are similar to retainers; they are clear and usually molded to fit a person’s teeth. Their purpose is to reduce or eliminate the effects of bruxism, a condition in which a person grinds his or her teeth. Teeth grinding can lead to headaches, jaw soreness, and excessive tooth wear. Wearing a night guard at night, or even during the day if bruxism is a problem then, can significantly relieve symptoms and prevent unnecessary tooth damage.