Orthodontic Tools 101 for Curious Patients
JULY 19, 2012
Have you ever been sitting in your orthodontist’s chair, wondering what on earth that big, shiny, scary-looking tool on the tray is called, and what it’s going to be doing inside your mouth? Me too!

To calm my anxiety, I decided to do a little research to find out what a few of those commonly-used tools are for. I found out that orthodontic tools aren’t nearly as scary as they look. Here are a few tools you’ll undoubtedly encounter on your braces journey:


Distal Cutter: This is the little “snipper” that the orthodontist or assistant uses to trim the ends of your archwires. It looks like a pair of sharp pliers (I always think of them as itty-bitty pruning shears), but no worries—your orthodontist’s staff is experienced in the handling of this tool, and after the “snip” all you’ll feel is relief from the sharp end of your wire.


Curing Light: You’ll see this bright little flashlight at the beginning of your treatment and perhaps during, if you lose a bracket or have one re-positioned. It helps the adhesive bonding—used to fix your brackets to your teeth—set. Don’t worry, the UV light isn’t hot, and won’t hurt at all.


Cheek Retractors: These plastic “hooks” will make you look silly, but they serve an important purpose: to hold your cheeks and lips out of the way while your orthodontist places your brackets and/or performs other tasks. It won’t be your most photogenic moment, but look on the bright side: your mouth would be pretty tired if you tried to hold that expression without help!