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What Is All the Mouth Hardware For?

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Barakat Orthodontics

Dear Dr. Barakat,

It seems every child I know has some sort of mouth hardware. What are the differences between all of these?

– Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

Children, teens, and adults have many more options today for orthodontic care and treatment than in the past. Everybody’s smile while going through orthodontic care is unique and might leave you wondering what all that metal is for! Below are the most common pieces of hardware you might, or might not in some cases, see:

You can often identify a retainer because it can have a wire band around the front of the teeth. However, there are many different kinds that you might not even be able to spot easily in a person’s mouth, especially if they are clear or only on the back of teeth. Retainers are used after braces to keep teeth in position after treatment. Retainers are based on an individual’s treatment plan. However, it is a great question to ask your orthodontist when discussing the span of orthodontic care.

Many times you’ll see a child with something that looks like a retainer — however, in younger children, it is most likely an expander. Expanders are commonly used in growing children and can be combined with limited braces (braces on just a few teeth). They allow the mouth to be expanded and can sometimes eliminate the need to extract teeth, so there is space for all of the adult teeth. To make it more child-friendly, kids can often choose what color they want their expander to be or even get a glow-in-the-dark version! Expanders can also be designed to be cemented until they have done their job. This will eliminate the need to keep up with an appliance that could get lost.

The most common form of orthodontic treatment is braces. Braces are designed to move the teeth into better positions to align them. Parents are often surprised to learn it is not unusual to place braces while some baby teeth are present. This depends on every patient’s individual needs. Braces can be metal or clear, and in some cases can even be placed on the back of teeth. To make them more kid-friendly and appealing, patients, both young and young-at-heart, can choose the color of the rubber bands placed on braces. These rubber bands are used to hold the wire in braces in place. Kids love to personalize their bands by choosing their favorite colors, including ones that represent their favorite team!

Clear Aligners
Another option you might (or might not!) see are clear aligners. They are removable, virtually invisible, and are popular among teens and adults. They function similar to braces in that they gradually align your teeth. Patients change their custom aligners every two weeks. This option is popular among teens and adults since they are removable and nearly invisible. It’s a great way to get your beautiful smile while continuing to eat your favorite foods and floss easily.

– Dr. Barakat


Dr. Rana Barakat, a board-certified specialist in Orthodontics, has been proudly serving Northern Virginia for 20-years! She has built her practice on a personal touch and excellent treatment. As a parent, she understands wanting the best for your children in giving them beautiful, confident smiles. She makes it a priority to ensure optimal results, but also believes that each patient’s experience during treatment is just as important as the clinical result. As the 2015-16 President of the Virginia Association of Orthodontists, Dr. Barakat’s dedication and expertise reflect why her peers continue to nominate her as a Top Dentist.

Barakat Orthodontics is located at 45745 Nokes Blvd., Ste. 175, Sterling, VA 20166. Connect with them by clicking: OnlineFacebookTwitter, and calling: (703) 433-9330. Download their free app: iTunesGoogle Play.

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