Functional braces

A functional brace is a fixed type of brace which is worn over both the upper and lower teeth. It has to be worn all the time, but, it must be removed for cleaning. It is also removed by the orthodontist at the end of your treatment.

Examples of functional braces include Inman Aligner, Invisalign/Invisalign teen and Stb social 6 braces.

This brace is worn to correct problems with the jaw such as temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ syndrome) and misaligned teeth. It ensures that both the upper and lower teeth match when closed which improves your 'bite' and facial appearance.

It is particularly suitable for children and teenagers as their teeth are still developing and at risk of poor alignment or overcrowding. This brace will exert gentle pressure on their teeth over a period of time which will pull the teeth back into the correct position.

A functional brace consists of a plastic base which covers the mouth and is held in place via metal clips over the teeth. It is larger than a removable brace which means that it takes longer to become accustomed to.

Wearing a functional brace

This brace is worn throughout the day apart from when it is removed for cleaning. The orthodontist will advise you about this and the length of time you need to wear this device. Ensure that the brace is kept in a protective case or box when not being worn.

Once the brace has been fitted you can expect some mild irritation, i.e. soreness, in the first few days as your teeth and gums adjust to it. Do not use your tongue as a means of flicking the brace in or out of your mouth as this will increase the risk of damage and the length of time of your treatment.

This soreness will occur each time the brace is adjusted but it will ease once you have become used to wearing it. Make sure that you follow the orthodontist's instructions about wearing the brace and don't remove it unless otherwise directed. You may find that taking painkillers helps during this time but ask your pharmacist for advice.

The one exception to this is if the brace is causing severe discomfort. If it is then contact your orthodontist.

You will have to undergo regular check ups by your orthodontist to check the fit of the brace. He/she may advise you switch to another type of brace after a period of time. But don't forget about your twice yearly check ups with your dentist as well as it is important that you maintain your dental health.

What to expect with a functional brace

Many patients find that their ability to speak and eat is affected but this soon eases. You will find that you produce more saliva (spit) than normal and feel as if you are drooling but again, this will soon disappear.

If you play contact sports then swap your brace for a gumshield but replace this with the brace soon afterwards.

Take care with the types of foods you eat for example, hard crunchy foods or sugary foods. These are not only problematic for your brace but are harmful to your teeth and gums.

How long do I need to wear a functional brace?

This depends upon the extent of your orthodontic problem. The more severe the problem the longer it will take.

It usually takes around 10 months to a year for the brace to work. If you follow the instructions given by your orthodontist then you will soon notice the results.

But if the brace is not looked after or is broken then this will increase that length of time.

Caring for a functional brace

Clean your brace (and teeth) at three times a day – after breakfast, lunch and dinner. And clean the brace if you have eaten between meals.

If you are not at home then carry a small toothbrush with you which can be used to clean your brace at lunchtimes. Take care not to damage the wires when cleaning your brace.

You may have to wear a retainer (similar to a brace) after treatment has finished. This is a temporary device which helps to keep your teeth in their new position for a period of 6 months. The device is then discarded afterwards.