Types of Braces: Fixed & Removable Braces | MedStar Health

The main function of orthodontic treatment is to align the teeth, as well as modify and correct problems with facial growth. Your orthodontist will use different kinds of appliances to accomplish these goals.

There are two types of appliances:

  • Fixed appliances—they are fixed or glued to the teeth and don't come out of your mouth

  • Removable appliances—patients can take them out of their mouth

Your orthodontist will select fixed or removable appliances based on your individual treatment plan.

Fixed appliances

Examples of fixed orthodontic appliances are the brackets, bands and wires most often associated with “braces.” Brackets can be made of:

  • Metal

  • Ceramic

Metal brackets are silver-colored. Ceramic brackets are typically clear or tooth-colored and are generally used by patients who want to minimize the visibility of their braces.

Rubber bands, or “elastics,” are used in almost every treatment to help move teeth into a correct position.

There are other fixed appliances your orthodontist may use to move your teeth and reshape the way your teeth fit together or your bite.


Retainers are removable orthodontic appliances. Wearing of retainers is an important part of treatment needed to maintain the proper positioning of the teeth.

Retainers can be either active or passive:

  • Passive retainers hold teeth in their new positions after active orthodontic treatment (braces) is complete

  • Active retainers can be used to move or straighten teeth through the use of springs or elastics. They can be used for minor tooth movement.

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