Types of braces: fixed, removable, nearly invisible, functional appliances and headgear

If you’re cursed with crooked teeth, then you might want to consider braces. Braces are the number one treatment for straightening teeth and around 200,000 children and adults in England and Wales get braces each year.

Everyone knows what braces are, but did you know about the different types? There’s actually five main types of braces: fixed braces, removable braces, nearly invisible braces, functional appliances and headgear. In this post, we’ll discuss each one so that you’ll feel confident when it comes to ways to straighten your teeth.


Fixed braces

Fixed braces are the most common type of orthodontic treatment. As their name suggests, these devices are fixed to your teeth and you can’t take them out. This means you’ll need to wear a gum shield when playing sports like rugby to protect your mouth and your braces. You will also need to avoid eating certain foods, such as hard sweets and toffee, as these can easily get stuck in fixed braces and may even damage them. Fixed braces are usually made of metal, but there are some made of porcelain and plastic.


Removable braces

Unlike fixed braces, removable braces aren’t fixed to your teeth. This means you can take them out whenever you like. For example, you can take them out while playing a sport, playing an instrument, eating a meal or brushing your teeth. For this reason, patients find that removable braces are more convenient than fixed braces. However, removable braces are also more expensive. Also, even though they’re removable, you’ll still to wear them for around twenty hours per day.


Nearly Invisible braces

Nearly invisible braces are a fairly recent invention. They’re called nearly invisible braces because they’re made of a transparent plastic and difficult to people to see. This means no-one will be able to tell you’re wearing braces, which is great if you feel self-conscious about your appearance. However, nearly invisible braces aren’t recommended for patients who still have baby teeth. Therefore, children and young teenagers usually need traditional metal braces instead.

At Hazelwood, the nearly invisible braces we use are called Invisalign. Read our Invisalign page for more information.


Functional appliances

Functional appliances are devices used to correct jaw misalignment. This type of appliance isn’t common and not every dentist offers it; only about 20% of orthodontists worldwide offer functional appliances.  Also, functional appliances won’t work on adults because their jaws are already fixed in place. Therefore functional appliances are only suitable for teenagers.


You might have seen headgear in American films or TV; they’re the contraptions you wear around your head and resemble medieval torture devices. The purpose of headgear is to correct misaligned jaws. They either move the upper jaw backwards or pull the lower jaw forwards.



Finally, let’s talk about retainers. Retainers don’t straighten your teeth so therefore they’re not braces. However, what they do is equally as important as braces: they keep your straightened teeth in place. After a treatment of braces, you will need to wear retainers for life or else your teeth might move back to their original positions. Failure to wear retainers is a common reason for why bracse patients see their teeth become crooked over time.