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Girl with braces

Girl with braces
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Dental appliances

3-minute read

Orthodontic and dental appliances are designed to change the alignment of certain teeth, improve or correct bites and repair or protect worn, decayed, cracked or chipped teeth.

Examples of orthodontic and dental appliances include:

  • Braces and retainers — sometimes abnormal positioning of the teeth causes problems with the appearance and function of the teeth, and needs to be corrected. An orthodontist uses appliances such as braces and retainers to correct the position of the teeth.
  • Dental crowns — a dental crown is a tooth-shaped cover that goes on top of your existing tooth. It can be used to cover broken teeth when too much of the original tooth is missing or any cavities are too big for fillings.
  • Dental bridges — these are used to fill gaps where teeth have been removed or lost. A bridge is a false tooth (or teeth) that is fitted permanently into your mouth by being attached to the real teeth either side of the gap. A bridge should last for around 10–15 years if it’s looked after properly.
  • Fillings — fillings are used to fill in any holes where bacteria and decay may build up and cause infections or abscesses.
  • Dentures — also known as 'false teeth'. It is vital to look after your dentures because they can cause irritation and discomfort if they are not fitted correctly or if you do not clean them properly.

Dental appliances can occasionally cause pain and discomfort. Learn more about common dental appliance problems.

Looking after yourself

It’s normal to experience some pain and discomfort during the first few days of having dentures, braces or a retainer fitted. At this time it is a good idea to:

If you have had braces fitted and it feels like there’s something wrong, such as a piece of wire rubbing against your gum, make an appointment to see your dentist or orthodontist.

Before your appointment you can prevent any further discomfort by covering the part of the brace causing you pain with orthodontic wax. This is available from most pharmacies and should provide a temporary solution.

If you’re unable to get hold of orthodontic wax, the wax coating from the outside of certain cheeses will work for a short while in an emergency situation.

If you have persistent pain following the fitting of a dental appliance you will need to return to see your dentist or orthodontist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2019

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