There are four main types of brace. They are:

Fixed braces

A fixed brace is a brace with brackets and bands which are stuck to your teeth during your treatment. A flexible wire joins all the brackets and allows the teeth to be moved. You can't take the brace out yourself, so it is called a ‘fixed’ one. Treatment usually takes between 12 and 24 months but could take longer if the problem is severe.

Fixed braces may also be placed on the inside of your teeth (these are called ‘lingual’ braces). These can be hard to adjust and not every orthodontist will offer this type of treatment.

Functional braces

Functional braces are usually removable and are used to help improve the bite for young teenagers who are growing quickly. Timing is important. The best time is usually when the last of the adult teeth come through to replace the ‘baby’ teeth. The braces are usually worn for around nine months. After this, fixed braces are used to finish lining up the teeth.

Clear aligner braces

Clear aligners are a series of specially moulded, clear plastic braces which are made specially for each patient. Each set is worn for one to two weeks before being replaced with the next one. Each aligner is different from the one before, and moves the teeth a little bit more. Teeth move because the plastic stretches to fit over the teeth and then, as it returns to its shape, the teeth are pulled into position.

Successful treatment depends on careful planning and monitoring. The aligners should be worn for 20 to 22 hours a day. They can be taken out easily for eating, drinking, brushing, and for cleaning in between your teeth. You need to have most of your adult teeth before you can have this type of treatment.

Removable braces

Some simple, early, treatment may be done using a removable brace (a plate that can be taken out to be cleaned). It has delicate wires and springs attached, which move the teeth using gentle pressure. Removable braces are usually only worn for a short time.

They may also be worn before finishing off the treatment with a fixed brace. This type of treatment is now far less common, but it may still be the best for your needs. That’s why it is important to always talk to your dentist before having treatment.

What are the brackets on braces made up of?

Most brackets are made of very high-quality stainless steel. Some may be made of a ceramic material which matches your tooth colour and makes them less noticeable.

The wires connecting the brackets are made of various metal alloys, chosen for their special properties, to deliver gentle pressure.

What is headgear?

As well as a brace some people need to wear headgear. This helps to hold the back teeth steady as the front teeth are lined up. You usually only need to wear it in the evening or at night. You need to wear it in the way you have been told, otherwise your teeth will not line up as well as they were meant to.

What are elastics?

Sometimes delicate elastic bands are attached to a fixed brace to help move the teeth. Your orthodontist will tell you if you need elastics.

‘Elastics’ are an important part of the orthodontic treatment. They provide the pressure needed to move the teeth and jaw into line.


Related pages

  - Learning about braces

  - Videos about braces

  - Top tips