Fitting, adjustment, removal and retainers… your brace journey jargon buster

Some orthodontists have a habit of overwhelming patients with jargon, but not us. In this post, we cover fitting, adjustment, and removal for various common brace types, using language you understand.

Metal Braces

Traditionally, metal braces were once the only type you could get from the orthodontist. But despite the availability of other options, their potent tooth-straightening abilities mean they are still in use today.

At the fitting, your orthodontist will first attach metal brackets to the front-side of your teeth using a special glue suitable for use in the mouth. He or she will then thread a flexible wire through them and tighten it so that it exerts enough pressure to move your teeth. Sometimes, he or she will also add elastic bands for additional pressure on specific, problem areas.

Conventionally, orthodontists adjust metal braces every six to eight weeks, but this isn’t actually set in stone. Some practitioners allow their patients to return within as little as four weeks while others wait as long as ten weeks between adjustments.

Orthodontists tighten metal braces by either ratcheting the existing wire through the back of the brace and then clipping it off, or replacing it altogether. They need to do this because tension on the wire goes down as teeth move into their new position.

After 18 to 24 months, your orthodontist will remove your metal braces and wire brackets altogether and give you a retainer. To complete your brace journey, you’ll need to wear this for several months more. This is to ensure that your teeth do not migrate back to their former position.

Ceramic braces

Fitting ceramic braces is similar to regular metal braces, except the bracket is made of tooth-coloured ceramic material. The orthodontist first applies the glue, then fits the brackets before attaching the archwire. Sometimes he or she will add rubber bands, called ligatures, around the brackets to hold them in place.

Ceramic braces work a little slower than traditional metal braces – taking 18 to 36 months to complete – but they are more discreet. Patients must return to the orthodontist every six to ten weeks for wire tension adjustment. Once you finish treatment, you will need to wear retainers for between 4 and 12 months.

Hidden lingual braces (incognito)

Hidden lingual braces – sometimes called “incognito braces” – fit on the back of teeth (closest to the tongue) and pull teeth “inwards,” instead of pushing them like a traditional brace. They’re particularly popular among patients who don’t want people to know they’re wearing braces but still want the fantastic results.

Fitting lingual braces involves first cleaning and etching the inside of the teeth so that the brackets stick and then adding a primer to both the teeth and the braces to help with adhesion. After that, the orthodontist places specks of glue on the brackets and inserts them all at once, using a special tray. They then use UV light to cure the glue and ensure that the braces don’t move while you’re wearing them. Following that, they remove the tray and then fit the wire to the brackets, before tightening.

Lingual braces require adjustment once every six to eight weeks. Once treatment finishes, you will need to wear retainers for around 4 to 12 months, just as with metal and ceramic braces.


Invisalign works on entirely different principles from the options discussed above. It doesn’t rely on fitting brackets or wires to the teeth at all. Instead, it uses a series of clear retainers that progressively push your teeth into the desired position over time.

Fitting Invisalign involves creating retainers that fit your current set of teeth and then using 3D computer technology to model how they will move in your mouth as treatment progresses. Invisalign uses this information to create a series of individual trays that map the movement of your teeth from their initial to final positions, simulating the action of a traditional wire brace.

With Invisalign, you will need to change your trays every couple of weeks. As with the other methods listed above, you will need to wear a retainer to ensure that your teeth stay in the desired position.


Everyone should have the choice to undergo orthodontic treatment. We offer both private and NHS treatment services. Our goal is to deliver the smile we know you deserve and to ensure you receive high standards of care, treated by the very best orthodontists.


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