How Do Braces Work?

Braces are metal fixtures that are attached to the teeth that move the position of the teeth over time. But how do these incredible devices work? Let’s take a look.

An orthodontist will attach the braces to the teeth permanently with a strong adhesive. By “permanent” we just mean that you can’t take them off at will. Only the orthodontist will be able to take them off using a specialized dissolvent. As the braces are meant to stay on for the duration of the straightening process.

The brackets are the part that attaches to the teeth. These hold the other apparatus, such as wires and bands (or ligature elastic) that do all the real work. While the brackets will stay in place during the entirety of the straightening process (anywhere from 6 months to 2 years), the wires and bands will be routinely replaced.

The orthodontist will usually replace them every few months to make minor adjustments and ensure that the teeth are moving where they should be.

The wires and bands are designed to force the teeth slowly into new positions. They aren’t just moving the teeth, though. Your facial bones and soft tissue will be moving as well, and over a period of months and years, they will settle into their new positions and eventually solidify into their new places. Once that happens, then the teeth will stay where they are supposed to.

All this is possible because the wires and bands are pulling the teeth in specific directions. This can case discomfort for the person wearing the braces, but that discomfort will lessen in time following each new adjustment. So when the adjustments are made, the pain will be most severe. That’s because the teeth, bones and tissue are all being forced to move again after starting to settle in for a while. But the pain will subside and the discomfort will go away as the parts of the mouth get closer to where they are supposed to be.

Not all the teeth may need to move. In those cases, headgear may be worn to keep certain teeth right where they are. This will allow the crooked teeth to be straightened and the straight teeth to stay where they ought to be.

If done correctly, your teeth will move into the correct position and the bone will grow around it to provide support. The orthodontist will monitor your teeth’s movement over time and make adjustments as necessary. Even after the teeth have moved to their proper position, the braces may need to remain on to allow the bone time to form properly and give the necessary support.