How Orthodontic Braces Work

Metal Braces

Metal Braces

Clear Orthodontic Braces

Clear Orthodontic Braces

How Orthodontic Braces Work

Orthodontic braces work by using brackets that are glued onto you teeth.  These brackets have small slots in the front surfaces of them and it is into these slots that the orthodontic wires fit into place.  These wires are held in place by small elastic ties that fit around the brackets.  Over time, these wires put pressure on your teeth and this moves your teeth into their proper positions.

The brackets (braces) that most orthodontists use these days are not all the same.  Each of your teeth has a different size and shape to them.  The brackets do as well.  So, for instance, a bracket that is made for an upper front tooth (incisor) would not fit correctly on a lower side tooth (bicuspid).  Each of these brackets is custom made for the particular tooth it is supposed to fit on.  They have different thicknesses, and the slots that the wire fits into are made at just the right angle for that particular tooth.

This system of making the braces to fit individual teeth and to have the slots made at just the right angle to move the teeth to their ideal final positions was developed by an orthodontist named Lawrence (Larry) Andrews in the 1970’s.  He is a really smart guy, and very nice by the way.  Anyway, this is the type of system that most orthodontists use these days.  Before Dr. Andrews developed this system, all of the brackets had the same sized slot cut into them.  That meant that the orthodontist had to put individual bends into the wires for every individual tooth in the mouth.  That system worked, but it was a total pain for both the orthodontist and the patient.  It takes a long time to put all those bends into the wires, and it hurts when one of these wires with all these bend on it is pushed into the brackets.

The other aspect to how braces move your teeth is the wires that are used.  Back in the day, orthodontists had stainless steel wires and that was about it.  These days, orthodontists have a number of different high-tech wires to use that move your teeth faster and more comfortably.  The first wire or two that an orthodontist will use on your teeth are very flexible.  They almost feel like rubber.  This is beneficial in a number of ways.  These flexible wires put a more regulated and constant force on your teeth.  This means they are not only more comfortable, but they also move your teeth faster and you don’t need to get them adjusted as often.  As the teeth straighten out, the orthodontist is able to put in progressively thicker and stiffer wires until you get to those stainless steel wires mentioned earlier.

Most people that have braces will need to wear elastics or rubber bands.  These typically go from one or more of the upper braces to one or more of the lower braces.  These elastics pull on your teeth and move them in the direction that the need to move.

I’ve mentioned several times in this post about how the braces/wires/elastic put pressure on your teeth.  This pressure is transmitted from the teeth to the bone that surrounds them.  The bone responds to this pressure and ‘remodels’ around the tooth.  Some bone is taken away in some areas and added in other areas around the tooth, depending on the direction it is being pushed.

That is pretty much how braces move teeth.  If you are interested, you can check out our website for more information.


11 thoughts on “How Orthodontic Braces Work

    • Thanks for the note! We hope this information can give patients a better understanding of how their treatment actually works.

  1. This was really good info to read! I am an adult in braces (and a metallurgist!) and I didn’t realize the brackets themselves were so highly engineered.

  2. Are the wires suppose to move during your treatment? I know everyone’s progress is different but I’ve had my braces for over a year and my teeth still are not straight and other peoples are.

    • Without seeing your teeth that question is a little hard to answer. Sometimes we need to do some work on the back teeth before we can effectively move the front teeth. Having said that, most people will have their front teeth straight w/in a year. If you have some concerns I suggest you bring them up at your checkup w/ your orthodontist. Take care!
      Dr K

    • I don’t know! 🙂 Everyone is different, so the type of elastics they wear, the direction they wear them, and when they start wearing them depends on how your teeth are positioned. I can tell you that most of my patients do end up wearing elastics, but some of them don’t get them until the last few months of treatment. Hope that helps. Dr K

  3. I’m am supposed to be getting braces in like a month …… But I just want to know like how does it feel . Like does it hurt or it’s just normal ?

    • When you first get your braces on your teeth will be achy for a few days, up to about a week for some people. The good news is, typically, you feel the braces the most when you first start moving the teeth. So even at future appointments, even if you get a new wire placed, you probably will not be as achy as you were with the first wire. It gets easier. Hope your treatment goes well. Dr K

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