These are sometimes also called orthopaedic appliances. Here you will find the answers to some common questions about functional appliances and wearing them.
See also: Orthodontic Therapist | Dental Problems | Innovative Technology & Techniques
What is a functional/orthopaedic appliance?
A functional appliance is a functional brace that is worn on the upper and lower teeth at the same time in order to correct the way upper and lower teeth fit over each other. For example a functional brace may be used to correct very protruding upper or lower front teeth, improve the way molar teeth bite together, or even improve your facial profile so that the jaws look more aligned with each other when you look at the face in profile.
How does a functional appliance work?
Functional braces only work in growing children and adolescents. Research is still being carried out to evaluate exactly how functional braces work. It is thought that functional braces deliver their effects through a combination of ways. They may promote or modify growth of the jaws, adapt the soft tissues and muscles of the face to new positions, move whole groups of teeth at the same time or change the angulation of teeth.
When should functional treatment be carried out?
Depending on the condition of the bite, functional brace treatment starts either at an early age when milk teeth are still present (age 7-10), or around the time of the pubertal growth spurt (age 11-14) when all or nearly all the milk teeth have been shed. Your orthodontist will assess and diagnose the problems with your bite and determine whether you need functional treatment, and when you should start.
Will it hurt?
- For the first 5-7 days of having your functional brace, and for a day or two each time it is adjusted, you may experience some discomfort in your mouth. The teeth may get a little sore, and parts of the brace may rub on your gum, lips, cheeks or tongue. You may also notice increased saliva flow, and an effect on your speech. This is normal, and soon you’ll get used to wearing your brace and your speech will go back to normal. To improve your speech sooner, you can practise by reading aloud while wearing the brace.
- Try and wear the brace as much as possible during those first few days. If you leave your brace out for a long time, you will have to get used to it all over again when you start wearing it once more.
- If necessary, you may wish to take mild painkillers such the ones you would normally take for headaches. Please read the instructions on the packet regarding how much you should take.
- We can supply you with some orthodontic wax if you wish. If any part of the retainer is digging into your lips or cheeks, tear off a small piece of wax, roll it into a small pea-sized ball between your fingers, and gently mould this over any troublesome part of the retainer. This acts as a cushion, keeping your lip or cheek away from the retainer components.
- If you continue to have discomfort beyond the first few days, contact the practice so that an emergency appointment can be arranged as soon as possible to adjust your functional brace. Don’t just wait for your next appointment as this could prolong your treatment duration.
Do I have to wear my functional brace all the time?
Yes, unless advised otherwise by your orthodontist
The key to successful orthodontic treatment with functional braces is wearing them, not removing them! Functional braces do not work in your pocket! Wear your functional brace all day and all night wherever you are. There are only a few exceptions to this rule.
You may remove them for:
- Eating main meals
- Brushing your teeth
- Playing contact sports or very active physical games or PE (in which case you should wear a mouthguard instead)
- Playing wind musical instruments
- If you sing or speak in performances as part of your school activities
Going on holiday is not an exception to this rule! Only remove your brace for a short while for the above exceptions, and when you do, always store the brace in a small rigid container which we will provide to avoid damage to, or loss of your functional brace.
How do I take care of my functional brace?
Do not leave your functional brace lying around outside its container. Do not carry the brace loose in your pockets or your bag. Do not wrap up your brace in tissue paper or a napkin and then leave it lying around. To avoid damage to, or loss of your brace, always store it in its container/box when it is not being worn.
To keep your functional brace clean, brush it with your regular toothbrush and toothpaste whenever you brush your own teeth. You may wish to purchase brace cleaning tablets from a chemist as an extra measure.
Always insert or remove your brace components according to your orthodontist’s instructions. Do not get into the habit of clicking the parts in and out. This can be damaging to your teeth, to your brace, and very annoying to those around you!
Should I brush my teeth as normal?
You should brush your teeth thoroughly preferably after each meal. You’re your brace out for toothbrushing. Take a travel brush with you to school or work so that you can brush after lunch. Use a fluoride mouthwash or brush with a fluoride gel last thing at night after brushing your teeth.
How long will I have to wear my functional brace?
Your orthodontist would have given you some indication of this. Treatment with functional braces usually takes between 9-12 months. You need to attend for regular appointments so that your brace is adjusted and your tooth movements are checked.
Why haven’t you fitted fixed braces instead?
Different braces have different functions. Your orthodontist has assessed and analysed your orthodontic problem to come up with the treatment plan that is customised to produce the best possible improvement for your bite. This sometimes involves wearing functional braces which act to bring about specific changes which fixed braces may not be very efficient at achieving. Treatment with functional braces is usually (but not always) followed (or occasionally preceded) by fixed brace treatment.