What is an activator in orthodontics?

Activator is a removable orthodontic appliance to treat jaw deficiencies and correct tooth and jaw abnormalities. It is a type of functional appliance. Activator appliance makes your jaw muscles active as the name explains its function. Functional appliances are used to enhance your skeletal jaw growth to get to the normal and fitted position. Activator consists of an acrylic splint and lingual flange for resting on the gums and your upper and lower soft tissues. When you are wearing an activator, the lingual flange makes you bite on it to move your lower jaw forward. This constant biting on the device makes muscles active and causes jaw growth to transform your teeth and jaw into normal occlusion.

Types of activators

  • Original Andresen and Haupel activators
  • Activator with headgear (e.g. Teuscher appliance)
  • Hamilton bonded activator
  • Activator as retainer

How does activator appliance work?

What activator appliance does in orthodontics is interesting to know. Our lower jaw is the bone that is attached by muscles and not bone to the other bones. So it’s a free bone and orthodontists use appliances to move it to the necessary direction.

Activator appliance uses your soft tissues like lips, gums, and the pressures from jaw muscles to force your lower jaw to move downward and forward to correct jaw discrepancies.

Activators, like Twin-Block and Bionator, are called active appliances. It means that your voluntary action of biting or forcing on the appliance is causing your lower jaw muscles to move in to forward direction. These forces will improve your deficiencies in the lower jaw and is a good way to correct bite problems like an overbite.

Why is an activator necessary?

In orthodontics, each type of appliance works by making irregular jaws and teeth align, which improve your smile noticeably. Sometimes, changes are just within teeth, and sometimes even jaw movements a little back or forward or up and down is necessary to get amazing results.

Functional appliances are into these jaw movements and make transformations on our jaws both upper and lower jaw. Activators as the name suggests make jaws active while growth is continuing.

What makes these changes necessary are future problems that happen. Problems like social fears about your appearance, bad-looking teeth, jaw malocclusion, not being able to eat or speak well, bad oral health, and many more factors make activator appliance necessary, like all other appliances in orthodontics.

Uses of activator:

  • Helps to grow jaws into normal position
  • Corrects deep overbite
  • Overjet treatment
  • Prevents open bite
  • Stops bad habits like using the tongue to touch and push teeth and thumb sucking habit in children
  • It can act as a nightguard to prevent sleep clenching and bruxism
  • Prevents eruption of overcrowded back teeth
  • This oral appliance can also be used as a retainer
Headgear and activator combination help correct jaw and teeth malocclusion, improving your child’s oral health.

When is the best time to start orthodontic treatment with an activator appliance?

Functional appliances in orthodontics are designed to use muscle and soft tissues like gums to correct abnormalities in jaws and teeth. So in orthodontics, the critical period and the best time is when children reach adolescence or even earlier if they are willing to cooperate. During adolescence, orthodontists will take advantage of muscle changes to achieve the best results in treating jaw malocclusions.

How long should you wear an activator appliance?

At the beginning of the orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will tell you exactly about the time of treatment. It is important that how long you should wear the appliance or if it should be worn at night or during the day. The longer the better! The minimum should be 12 hours to much standard 18 hours in a day. And depending on your treatment, a minimum of 5 months to 1 year or even 2 years is the period of treatment time for an activator appliance (generally with functional appliances).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of activator appliances?


  • Activator is a removable appliance, which can be removed when you feel any discomfort.
  • It is adaptable to be used with other appliances like headgear.
  • Activator is an effective orthodontic appliance for treating bite problems. 
  • New designs and modifications are available.


  • Because of the bulky shape of the activator appliance, you may not feel comfortable wearing that.
  • They create problems for regular activities like eating or brushing, so removing is necessary.
  • They make your speaking difficult, so you should remove them when speaking.

Activator appliance and braces

Treatment with an activator appliance is usually the first phase of orthodontic treatment. With functional appliances, the misalignment in jaws and abnormalities will get better step by step.

If a fixed orthodontic appliance like braces is needed, orthodontists start to do the next phase of our treatment. They begin the correction of our individual teeth and protrusion or irregularities in our teeth. So, they will fix braces in your mouth as the next stage of your orthodontic treatment.

Activator or Bionator: What is the difference?

Activator’s design makes this appliance to be sort of loose in the mouth, which needs active muscle forces and cooperation. Bionator is also one of the removable functional appliances in orthodontics.

Bionators can also be called a type of activator since their function is similar except for the design and shape of the appliance. A Bionator is more comfortable to wear than an activator because of the smaller design of the acrylic shape in the mouth. It has transpalatal wire that can be adjusted for palatal expansion instead of the large and bulky acrylic of the activator. Bionator reduces the pressure on muscles like cheeks because of the improved designs in wires, which fit in the mouth.

Tips on activator and Bionator appliance

Generally, each orthodontic appliance needs to be cared for until your treatment is over. There are also some tips on activator or Bionator appliance that you should follow.

  • Try to wear an activator or Bionator appliance as long as you can and it is recommended.
  • Follow your orthodontist on the night-time wear or daily wear of your orthodontic appliance.
  • For young children, cooperation is often difficult. Therefore, parents should step in and manage the daily wear of the activator or Bionator.
  • Clean your appliances regularly. You can use a brush to do that.
  • Do not forget oral health practices and stick to your old habit of brushing teeth when you remove the appliance.
  • Do not play sports or do hard physical work when you are wearing the activator appliances.
  • If you feel continuous pains in the mouth and jaw muscles, consult with the orthodontist about that.
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