How do braces work

When thinking about braces, do you think about Frankenstein? Many people do.

Never fear though! Technology has progressed since the 1980s and braces look far different than they did just a decade ago.

Though they look different, they still accomplish things the same way. They move your teeth over time. Your New York Orthodontist can tell you more, but here are the basics.

Braces are made up of four basic parts:

  • The bracket is made up of metal or ceramic and is the piece that is attached to each tooth.
  • Brackets are attached to your teeth using glue or a metal band.
  • The arch wire connects each bracket and is what puts pressure on your teeth.
  • Finally, we have the ligature elastic (o-ring) that’s a small elastic that holds brackets onto the arch wire.

Together, the parts are used to help straighten people’s teeth, correct bites and fix irregular teeth.

The constant pressure applied by the braces is done through the arch wire which has a natural tendency to be straight. Activated by your mouth’s temperature, the curved arch wire attempts to straighten out, bringing your teeth along for the ride.

New York orthodontists will use nickel titanium wires which react to the heat produced by your body. Normally extremely flexible (so much that you can tie a knot), they become stiff when put into your mouth. These wires are more efficient than stainless steel ones and patients have often reported having less pain as a result.

If needed, springs or rubber bands are installed to exert more force in a specific direction. In extreme cases, headgear is required to keep certain teeth from moving.

Remodeling your smile

The pressure that the braces exert on your teeth causes a process called bone remodeling to occur. The bones in your body are made up of bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) and bone-eating cells (osteoclasts). Your body will make bones stronger in load bearing areas and weaker in non-load bearing areas (this is why you should lift weights!).

Your teeth are surrounded by a membrane under your gum tissue called the Periodontal Membrane (or PDL for short). The PDL holds your bone into your jaw. When its stretched, it acts like a messenger in your mouth that tells your body to take bone away from certain areas and add bone to other areas in order to restore the normal spacing in your mouth. The force is what’s applied by your braces.

It takes about 72 hours for the bones in your mouth to start breaking down and another 90 days or so to rebuild everything. What takes the longest amount of time is for the bones to stabilize. That’s 10 months of wearing a retainer to avoid having all that hard work go to waste!

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