These are almost invisible clear removable braces or aligners that are made of soft colourless plastic and have no wire components. The commonest version is Invisalign which we use extensively at Elite Orthodontics. Clear plastic aligners are designed in a way such that each individual tooth has a certain amount of pressure applied to it which causes it to move gently and slightly. The patient is given a series of these aligners designed to be worn in stepwise sequence. Each aligner moves the teeth by a small amount in the desired directions.
The aligners are created from scans and by using special digital software that determines the entire tooth movement sequence. Then the full movement is broken down into smaller stages. A sequence of aligners is created to match these smaller stages.
These types of braces only remain “active” as long as the aligner or removable brace is worn. The action stops when they are taken out to either eat or clean the teeth. For this reason, it is important they are worn all the time for as long as possible and only taken out briefly to eat or to clean the teeth.
Removable braces have a plastic base plate with a few wire components attached to them. Each of these components either fit the plate to the teeth or gently put pressure on the teeth to move them. Removable braces are still used for very specific purposes in orthodontics.
Fixed braces have two main components: the brackets that are glued to your teeth and the main archwire that connects them.
Each bracket is precisely engineered and shaped to customise the movements for each tooth. Brackets could be made of steel (silver) or ceramic (tooth-coloured). They can go on the outside of the teeth, or they can be fitted on the inside (lingual braces).
The archwire is a thin wire that threads through each bracket and connects a tooth to the wire. The archwire is a bi-product of NASA research and has perfect shape memory. For this reason, the wire then pulls or pushes the teeth into the correct alignment and proper position.
The brackets need to be positioned in a precise and intricate manner by the orthodontist as this can affect the dynamics of each tooth movement. When braces are first placed, the teeth are all irregular and crooked, and the archwire thus follows the ins and outs and ups and downs of the tooth positions.
However, as the wire gently and slowly straightens out due to its shape memory, the teeth begin to follow the archwire’s return to a perfect arch shape and become aligned.