How do braces work?

Braces use constant, gentle pressure, which over time, move teeth into their proper positions. Your braces are at work every moment of your orthodontic treatment. Bone is remodelled as teeth move, so that specialised cells take bone away in the direction in which a tooth is moving, and other cells lay down new bone in the space where the tooth used to be.

Removable braces have thin flexible wires, and clear removable aligners such as Invisalign have plastic components ,which move either individual or whole groups of teeth.

Fixed braces have two main components: the brackets that are glued to your teeth and the main archwire that connects them. Each bracket is a tiny piece of metal or ceramic that is precisely engineered and shaped, customised for its corresponding tooth. The archwire is a thin wire bent to reflect your ‘ideal’ bite. In other words, it reflects the way we want you to look after treatment.

The brackets have to be positioned precisely by your orthodontist. The archwire threads through and connects the brackets. When braces are first placed, the teeth are all irregular and crooked, and the wire follows the ins and outs and ups and downs of the tooth positions. The archwire, a bi-product of NASA research, has perfect shape memory and will gradually return to its original shape, applying light pressure to the teeth and bringing them with it.

As treatment progresses and the teeth are aligned and levelled, stiffer wires can be fitted and these act as a monorail. At this time, tiny springs and elastics are also used to guide the teeth in the desired directions.

So teeth travel through bone in response to light continuous pressure. This is a biological process which takes time and it cannot be hurried. Everyone has a different biological response time, and treatment times may vary in different individuals.

Oral hygiene can influence the movement of the teeth, because teeth do not move well in the presence of gum infection. This is why our orthodontists will constantly monitor the brushing and plaque control habits of our patients. Other factors which affect treatment are habits such as tongue thrusting, and lip or finger sucking. These habits introduce forces which are far greater than the braces can overcome, and may complicate efforts made by the orthodontist.

If you want your braces off as soon as possible, stay positive, and follow our advice. Your commitment to orthodontic treatment will be a small price to pay to get that perfect smile!

Next: How Long Does Treatment Last?