How Do Braces Straighten Teeth?

At Beaches Orthodontics we often get asked how we create the brightest smiles at the beach.  This is a great question that we’re happy to answer.  For those of us who have had braces we can feel and see our teeth move over time but don’t always know quite how it’s done.  So let’s answer the question, “how do braces work?”

The components and treatments outlined here are examples of the types of appliances and techniques Dr. Patel can use to correct orthodontic issues.

Brackets – The primary pieces you see attached to each tooth are called brackets.  While these are usually made from specialized metals, sometimes we use ceramic brackets.  The brackets are held to the teeth using a bonding material which is a type of medical-grade glue that keeps the brackets firmly in place over the course of treatment.

Arch Wire – The thin piece of metal (often called a “wire”) seen over the teeth and held by the brackets is called the arch wire.  This wire puts the necessary pressure on the teeth to move them in the direction Dr. Patel wants based on your treatment plan.

O-Rings – The colorful “rubber bands” our younger patients enjoy changing every month are called O-Rings.  These help hold the wire in place inside the bracket on traditional braces.  Patients using the Damon System or Insignia do not have O-Rings.  Instead their wires are held to their brackets via small locking doors built into the brackets.

Elastics – To correct the mid-lines, overbites or under bites, elastics are used.  These are the bands seen connecting the top teeth brackets to the bottom teeth brackets typically fastened to small hooks or wires added to the brackets.  The elastics add more pressure at specific points to increase needed tension on the direction of teeth movement.

Once all the necessary components are attached and working together, needed pressure is applied to the teeth to move them in specific directions.  The teeth loosen and move in the mouth, also moving bone and surrounding tissue to accommodate.  As the teeth become straighter they tend to move less and the bone begins to firm up to support the new tooth position.  The movement process must be slow; if done to fast the patient can run the risk of losing a tooth or two.

So what happens near the end of treatment once the teeth are straight?  Once Dr. Patel has achieved the desired position she removes the wires, bands and brackets.  The bonding material is removed with a high-speed tool leaving you with slick clean surfaces.  The final step is the retainer, though most patients tend to think of this as “optional.”  The retainer is typically prescribed to be worn 24 hours a day at first then may be moved to night-time wear only.  The retainer is necessary to hold the teeth in their new positions while the bones of the mouth and jaw solidify to full strength and support the teeth independent of any appliances.  If the retainer is not worn the patient runs the risk of their teeth moving back to their original positions making the time and money spent a complete waste.

In some cases Dr. Patel may choose to move the teeth without the metal components listed above.  For this she uses the Invisalign system.  Invisalign is a well known brand of clear braces that use custom designed plastic trays to align the teeth over time.  Each set of trays is designed to pick up where the last one left off and shift the teeth week by week toward a straighter smile.

We hope this answers the basic question of “how do braces work?”  If you have any specific questions about your treatment plan be sure to ask Dr. Patel or the staff at Beaches Orthodontics during your next visit.  Can’t wait and want to know right away?  Send us a quick message via the website’s contact form.


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