How Do Braces Work?
Braces work by putting pressure on your teeth over a period of time to slowly move them in a specific direction. The bone under them changes shape, too.
Braces are made up of these things:
- Brackets are the small squares that go on the front of each tooth. The dentist uses a special bonding agent or attaches them with orthodontic bands. Brackets act like handles, holding the arch wires that move your teeth. There are several types of brackets, including stainless steel and tooth-colored ceramic or plastic. Dentists use these a lot because they’re harder to see. Sometimes the dentist will cement brackets to the backs of your teeth, in order to hide them from view.
- Orthodontic bands are stainless steel, clear, or tooth-colored materials cemented to your teeth. They wrap around each tooth to provide an anchor for the brackets. The clear or tooth-colored bands look better, but they also cost more than stainless steel. Not everyone gets bands. Some people have only brackets and no bands.
- Spacers fit between your teeth to create a small space for the orthodontic bands.
- Arch wires attach to the brackets and act as tracks to guide the movement of your teeth. Some arch wires are made of metal. Others are clear or tooth-colored.
- Ties are small rubber rings or fine wires that fasten the arch wire to the brackets. They can be clear, metal, or colored.
- A buccal tube on the band of the last tooth holds the end of the arch wire securely in place.
- Tiny elastic rubber bands, called ligatures, hold the arch wires to the brackets.
- The orthodontist may place springs on the arch wires between brackets to push, pull, open, or close the spaces between your teeth.
- Elastics or rubber bands attach to hooks on the brackets. They go between your upper and lower teeth in various ways. They apply pressure to move your upper teeth against the lower teeth to achieve a perfect fit.
- Some people need headgear, a wire gadget that moves your upper molars farther back in the mouth to correct bite problems or make more room for crowded teeth. The orthodontist will add headgear tubes to two bands on your upper teeth to hold the facebow part of your headgear in place. The rest of this horseshoe-shaped piece surrounds your face and connects to a strap at the back of your head.
Newer “mini-braces,” which are much smaller than traditional braces, may be an option for some. Another method of straightening teeth uses removable plastic retainers. This may also work if your teeth aren’t too crowded. Your orthodontist will discuss the various types of braces with you and figure out which option is best.
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