Orthodontic plates apply gentle forces to specific teeth, especially in children

Why use an Orthodontic Plate?

An orthodontic plate is a common orthodontic appliance, generally made from plastic and metal. Usually a plate has moulded plastic to sit behind the teeth and a metal wire on the front.Sometimes instead of wire there will be metal prongs to hold the plate to your teeth.It can be used to either:

  • Hold teeth in place (retainer plates); or
  • Make small corrections to some teeth.

How Does an Orthodontic Plate Move Teeth?

One type of orthodontic plate is a retainer.  Retainer plates are also known as ‘passive plates’.They are meant to hold your teeth in their current arrangement. An ‘active plate’ is a plate that is making a change to your teeth. In most cases the plate will still look a lot like a retainer. An active plate is a retainer that has been modified to apply gentle force where needed.

A plate may be used to assist with correcting teeth that stick out (or ‘buck teeth’). The front wire can be gradually tightened to move the teeth back into a better position. Orthodontic plates can also be used as preventative measures in children’s orthodontics.

Another reason an orthodontic plate may be used is when the back teeth have drifted too far forwards. The plate will help to move teeth backward: adult teeth not yet out of the gums can sometimes be blocked by crowded back teeth.

A plate may also be used to fix an underbite, also known as a cross-bite of the front teeth. A plate to fix an underbite will usually have springs behind the front teeth. This is used to tip the top front teeth ahead of the lower teeth. Once the teeth have moved a little, the plate will become passive and an adjustment may be needed. During routine checkups with your orthodontist, the plate will be adjusted such that there is once again pressure on the problem area.

An Orthodontic Plate is made from plastic and wire to gently move teeth into position

You may be able to personalise your orthodontic plate – with a colour or even a picture.

How is an Orthodontic plate made?

A plate is made using either an impression or – ideally – a 3D scan. An orthodontic lab can then make a model of your teeth. Using this model the orthodontist will design your plate and the lab will be able to make the plate. You may be able to personalise the plate by picking the colour of the plastic – and in some cases, adding a picture.

Can I have a plate to wear at night instead of braces?

Many patients request a plate instead of braces to fix an orthodontic problem. While Orthodontists and their treatments are actively moving teeth, patients are usually required to wear a plate day and night. Once the correction has been made the plate can be worn at night only to hold the correction.

A plate is usually only used to fix one or two teeth. It is designed by hand and we have less control than with fixed braces, which have more adjustable parts.

An alternative to both plate and braces is another type of removable appliance – Invisalign. Whilst it does need to be worn day and night, it is completely clear and removable.

What is the difference between Invisalign and a plate?

Rather than being made by hand and adjusted at each visit, Invisalign is a series of ‘aligners’ or ‘trays’. Each tray is slightly different to the next, placing pressure on the teeth.  Just like a plate, they are completely removable.  Each aligner in the series will slowly move your teeth closer to the intended result.

This is all possible with computer technology: Invisalign aligners are the result of virtual treatment planning. This allows your orthodontist to plan and design treatments via a computer simulation. This treatment plan is then translated into a series of aligners unique to you and your particular orthodontic problem. Unlike a plate, all the teeth can be moved at the same time with very precise movements.

The good news is that even if you prefer braces to Invisalign, we now have virtual planning and digitally customised treatments available too.

Orthodontic plates still have their place, but Invisalign is often more appropriate where greater control or a lot of movement is needed.

To talk to an Orthodontist about your individual oral needs, book an assessment today.