Let’s Talk Appliances

Appliances have long been used by orthodontists to help treat specific dental conditions, working alongside traditional orthodontic treatments like braces, to achieve a perfect smile.

You’re probably asking yourself how a blender or an air fryer helps to correct a smile. It’s common to think of household items upon hearing the word “appliance,” but orthodontists use special appliances designed for specific dental purposes. 

Just like the different appliances you may have in your home, Peterson Family Orthodontics has all sorts of different appliances available to patients, depending on their specific needs. Appliances have the ability to help fix tooth position within the mouth, as well as bite and jaw issues.

Most appliances can be broken down into categories regarding whether it is possible for the patient to remove them.

These categories are:

  1. Removable
  2. Removable-fixed
  3. Fixed

Removable and fixed are exactly as they sound—removable appliances may be taken out by the patient and fixed appliances will remain in place. Removable-fixed appliances remain at the orthodontist’s discretion—the doctor can choose whether to keep or remove the appliance in the mouth and for how long. Within the different categories of appliances, no appliance is the same—each and every piece will be custom fitted to the patient in order to ensure maximum effectiveness to achieve the best results.

Now that we’ve narrowed down categories, let’s get into the specifics of some of the appliances that exist and how they work to help our patients achieve their dream smiles!

Carriere Motion Appliance

The Carriere Motion appliance is often used prior to beginning treatment in braces. It’s a sort of “step zero” before starting your first step in braces. This fixed appliance works to align the back teeth, with this phase of treatment lasting around 6 months on average. The Carriere Motion appliance helps significantly reduce time spent with physical brackets on the teeth, as it already allows for movement in the back teeth for 6 months prior to getting braces put on.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Elastics can be worn in a number of different ways and are considered a removable appliance, due to the fact that they should be changed throughout the day by the patient. When wearing braces, rubber bands are usually attached to a small hook on the bracket and are stretched in order to attach to another bracket within the mouth. The purpose of rubber bands is to help move your bite into alignment, aligning the upper and lower jaws so that they fit better together. Which brackets the rubber bands attach to and the time of wear is different for each patient. For instance, some rubber bands may be worn during the day while others are worn at night. Different types of elastics will be available to different patients according to their needs and what will have the most effective result.

Palatal Expander


The purpose of the expander is exactly what it sounds like: to expand the mouth. The appliance is designed with attention to a narrow upper palate, working to widen the mouth. This works to correct and further prevent crowding and impacted teeth, as well as a crossbite— a misalignment that occurs when the upper teeth fit within the lower teeth. Expanders can be either fixed or removable, depending on what your doctor feels will be most effective.

Herbst Appliance

Herbst Appliances remain fixed in place for about twelve months, or otherwise specified by your doctor. The appliance has largely taken over the job of headgear in “the olden days” and works to realign the upper and lower jaws. The job of the appliance is to help strengthen the lower jaw while slowing the development of the upper jaw. Because it is installed by the orthodontist and remains fixed in place, this allows the appliance to work continuously, from the moment it is installed until the moment it is removed.


Unlike several of the appliances listed, positioners come after braces have been taken off, yet serve as a continuation of treatment. How is it worn, you ask? After getting your braces taken off, your Orthodontist will custom-make the positioners. There are “sockets” in which your teeth sit, and it is worn both at night and for a few hours each day. This will help close any remaining gaps, finishing your treatment!

Reverse Pull Headgear

The purpose of reverse pull headgear is to correct an anterior crossbite, usually occurring when the patient has a strong lower jaw. Essentially, the appliance helps to move the upper jaw forward and correct the bite. This is the only headgear we use at Peterson Family Orthodontics and it is typically used for kids between the ages of 7 and 10 years old. The appliance is extremely important in correcting the bite. The reason proper use of this headgear is so important, and the reason it is most commonly seen in kids, is that when used correctly and efficiently, it significantly reduces the need for jaw surgery later in life. The use of this appliance early in life and development allows the orthodontist to manage and resolve the problem as the jaw grows.

Fixed Retainer


Quite possibly the most popular appliance, both in use and knowledge. Retainers are used after treatment in order to hold the teeth in place, working to keep the perfect smile permanent. Retainers are custom fitted shortly after the removal of braces. Long gone are the days of yucky, gooey molds, as technology has allowed orthodontists to begin the use of 3D scans and printing. Retainers can be fixed or removable, clear or colored—it really is up to the patient and their preferences! At Peterson Family Orthodontics, we recognize the importance of retainers in maintaining your dream smile, which is why we created the Smile On Forever program! For a flat rate, patients have the ability to receive multiple retainers while in the program. Whether the retainer is lost or just worn down, we will replace it! 

Space Maintainers

There are several different types of space maintainers, yet their purpose all remains the same. Space maintainers are often used in children who lose their baby teeth earlier than average. Just like the name suggests, the appliance helps to keep the teeth aligned while saving space in the mouth for adult teeth to grow. Space maintainers may be fixed or removable depending on how close the tooth is to coming in and what your doctor suggests.

Thumb Crib

It’s no secret that thumb sucking affects the alignment of teeth later in life, often resulting in the need for orthodontic care. The crib acts as a sort of “buffer” preventing the thumb from reaching behind the front teeth. Most children usually find comfort in having the thumb touch the gums and the back of the front teeth. With a thumb crib, the possibility for children to reach this spot becomes impossible, eventually eliminating the desire for them to suck their thumbs.