If you have received a functional appliance to help reshape your dental arch and adjust your bite, it’s important to wear them properly and care for them attentively to ensure that you get the best results from your treatment. Here are some guidelines for the care and wear of your functional appliance, although you should consult specific instructions if you have received:

If you do not carefully follow all instructions, you may not get the results you desire from your appliance treatment.

orthodontic retainer

Wear Your Appliance at Almost All times

Your functional appliance moves your teeth and reshapes your jaw through the application of steady pressure over time. If your appliance isn’t in place all day long, it can’t do its job.

In general, you should only remove your appliance for:

  • Contact sports
  • Swimming
  • Playing a wind instrument
  • Eating (maybe)

Contact sports can damage your appliance and you might suffer injury from your appliance during sports. When swimming, your oral appliance could interfere with breathing. If your appliance interferes with your ability to form the proper embouchure when playing your instrument, you may remove it.

Ideally, you should learn to eat with your appliance in. When you’re chewing, your teeth and jaws are being subjected to exactly the kinds of forces that your appliance utilizes to expand your jaw and move your teeth. So, ideally, you should learn to eat with your appliance in. However, if you must eat without your appliance, that may be permissible, depending on the appliance and your treatment goals.

Whenever you are not wearing your appliance, it should be in its protective case.

Discomfort from Appliance

Some discomfort and irritation from your appliance is to be expected. The teeth and bones are being moved and reshaped with pressure, which can be uncomfortable at first. Your body will grow used to the appliance, and discomfort will go away, although it may return at adjustments to a lesser extent. Over-the-counter pain medication can typically manage this discomfort.

If the wire is irritating your cheeks, orthodontic wax can smooth the interaction to reduce friction. If your appliance is poking your or causing sharp pain inside the arch of your teeth, contact us immediately.

Never try to adjust or refit your appliance unless you have been explicitly instructed to do so. Only perform adjustments you have been explicitly instructed in. If you have any doubts about what adjustments you can perform, contact us before attempting any adjustment.

Improper adjustments of your appliance can break the appliance and either postpone or interfere with your results.

Hygiene and Cleaning

It’s very important to maintain good oral hygiene while wearing your functional appliance. Brush your teeth and clean your appliance after every meal. Twice a week soak your appliance in an appropriate cleaning solution.

closeup of toothbrush and paste


Avoid eating foods that are acidic, sugary, hard, or sticky. These foods can damage your appliance and your teeth. Drinks that are fizzy or tangy contain acid and should be limited. Avoid even sugarfree chewing gum. Limit snacks between meals. Ideally you should avoid them altogether.


If you have been instructed to adjust your appliance at home (e.g. turn a screw), only perform adjustments when and how you were instructed to do so. If you are uncomfortable performing these adjustments, we can schedule additional appointments to perform them in our office.

Broken Appliance

Do not continue to wear a broken appliance. Do not attempt to repair a broken appliance. Do not simply stop wearing your appliance because it broke. Instead, contact our office immediately if your appliance has been broken. We will get you a replacement and help you avoid future breaks.

If you have any questions about your functional appliance, please call 201-343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental. New Jersey’s center for TMJ, sleep apnea & reconstructive dentistry.