If you’re looking to get braces for you or your child, you may already know that not all braces have to be glued to teeth. This is a huge advantage because it makes brushing and eating easier, not to mention you get a break from wearing them. But removable braces aren’t for everyone, and they’re not all equally effective.
There are several types of orthodontic devices that fall under the umbrella of “removable braces”, and I’m going to cover them all in this article. Some of these braces are better suited for adults, while others are exclusively designed for children. I’m also going to quickly mention some of their drawbacks, so if you’re interested, keep reading.
Clear Aligners – The Ultimate Removable Braces
Clear aligners are quickly becoming the gold standard of braces for adults these days, both because they’re removable and convenient and also because they’re nearly invisible.
If you’re not familiar with clear aligners, they come in the form of plastic trays that look like transparent replicas of your teeth, much like the retainers you see people wear after braces.
They work by introducing tiny, gradual corrections and pushing teeth in the desired direction. This is achieved by switching multiple trays over the course of treatment, which can make them expensive.
If you decide to go with clear aligners, you will receive a number of trays from your orthodontist to switch every week or every couple of weeks. Once you’ve worn all the trays, you go in for a checkup and perhaps an adjustment of the future trays you’ll receive.
Sounds easy, right? Well, removable braces sound good in theory, and most adults are responsible enough to wear their trays for the correct amount of hours, but sometimes life comes in the way. Trays get broken or lost, or patients simply don’t wear them as instructed.
The biggest disadvantage of removable braces of any kind is compliance. This is why clear aligners aren’t a good idea for treating kids or teenagers, unless you have an unusually responsible little human, or you’re watching them like a hawk.
Clear aligners have come a long way and most practitioners are now skilled enough to treat moderate to complex cases, but sometimes the plastic itself doesn’t have the necessary strength to move certain stubborn teeth, so traditional braces are a better route to take in that scenario.
The Inman Aligner – A Unique Removable Device
If you’ve never heard of the Inman Aligner, it’s because it’s not that popular these days, especially since clear aligners are so readily available. But I still decided to add it to this list because it’s such an interesting device.
The Inman Aligner is a spring aligner, where the front teeth are pushed both from the front and the back, and basically “squeezed” into alignment. Spring aligners have been around for a while, but they haven’t been very effective or easy to produce. Inman Aligner changed that through digital processes and modern materials.
Although bulky and visible, the Inman Aligner is great at achieving the results it was invented for: fast correction of the front teeth. Most cases are resolved within 5 to 18 weeks and can be used by regular dentists.
So if you only need to correct slightly rotated or crooked front teeth, either top or bottom, you can look for an IAS-trained dentist near you. You will need to wear your device 16 to 20 hours per day and see your orthodontist every 2-3 weeks, because this aligner is strong and fast.
The biggest con to Inman Aligners is that they’re only suited for very minor crowding, whereas clear aligners can expand arches and correct more types of orthodontic issues. Also, seeing your dentist every 2-3 weeks can quickly become inconvenient, as opposed to clear aligners that only need visits every 6 to 8 weeks, sometimes less frequently.
Removable Appliances – Removable braces for kids
Removable appliances have been around for over a century, and they used to be the main way of expanding arches, correcting crooked teeth, crossbites and other bite issues in children. I say children, because their bone is malleable enough to be able to achieve these movements with a removable device.
You’ve probably seen them around: a resin plate that covers the palate, has a screw in the middle, and a metal wire that runs through the middle of the front teeth.
Some orthodontists still use them, and they do work if they’re worn properly, but personally, I’m not a fan. It takes a long time for all permanent teeth to erupt on the arch, and that means that most children will need additional treatment in braces anyway.
So why not spare them the effort and just go straight to braces or aligners when they’re old enough and all the adult teeth have come in?
Most orthodontists these days prefer to expand arches and palates using fixed palate expanders as opposed to removable ones, but do consult with your orthodontist to learn why a removable device might be necessary in your case.
Myofunctional Trainers – Best for Habit Correction
Myofunctional trainers are a type of orthodontic devices designed to address oral habit correction. If the name sounds confusing, myofunctional refers to the muscles of the face – tongue, cheeks and lips – and how we use these muscles, while the term “trainer” refers to correcting poor oral habits.
Some oral habits can have disastrous effects on the growth and development of the child’s face, posture, and even skeletal system. The biggest one is mouth breathing, followed by tongue thrusting and thumb sucking.
While trainers like Myobrace aren’t the magic bullet to single handedly correcting these issues, they do help a lot if worn properly. Your child will have to bite into the device, much like wearing a sports mouthguard, and wear the trainer 1 hour a day and over night. Wearing the trainers coupled with myofunctional excercises can guide the patient’s growth in a more favorable direction.
I used to be very excited about trainers because they seemed good in theory, and they do still work on dedicated patients. However, they take a very long time to show results and most patients give up on them. The main complaint is that the trainers don’t stay in overnight (which determines some practitioners to resort to mouth taping, yikes!), and that they’re too big and bulky.
I would still recommend them to mouth breathers though, along with an ENT consult and myofunctional excercises. Most of the children start nose breathing after a few weeks.
As for teeth alignment, it’s a welcomed side effect of this type of devices, but if that’s the main reason why you’re looking into trainers, I’d think again. Also, if you’re an adult looking to straighten your teeth with a removable trainer, unfortunately, they don’t work as advertised.
Removable Retainers – Both Active and Passive
Lastly, I want to mention removable retainers on this list. Some people still see them as braces, and in some cases, they can actually act like braces for minor correction.
Removable retainers can either be clear, like the popular Essix retainers, or look a lot like a removable appliance, like the Hawley retainers.
Hawley retainers can work much like the Inman Aligner, minus the springs, and squeeze the teeth back into alignment. This works best for minor relapses, which happens when people don’t wear their retainers after braces.
This is why labs design both “active” retainers that squeeze teeth, and “passive” retainers that just hold teeth in place.
I have a whole section dedicated to retainers on this blog, so if you’re curious, give it a look.
Hopefully, by now, you have a clear understanding of what removable braces are, and what they’re not. I’m sure you found a few new devices you didn’t even know existed, as well as some of their limitations. Good luck on your braces journey!