Love them or hate them, braces have been around for ages, but how do braces work? Sure, they align your teeth, but what sort of orthodontic wizardry is involved? Well, your orthodontist doesn’t cast spells before, during, or after your appointment to get them done, but they do put a lot of work into aligning your smile.
We break down just how they do that through braces below.
How Do Braces Work: Types of Braces
Braces come in several types; like a lot of orthodontic work, there’s not a one-size-fits-all for them. All braces are custom-made for every person’s mouth.
Here are the most common types of braces:
- Traditional braces—made from metal brackets that are glued individually to each one of your teeth. An archwire puts pressure on your teeth and jawline, and elastic O-rings connect the archwire to the brackets. The archwire is also the main way your orthodontist adjusts your braces as your teeth move.
- Ceramic braces—these function mainly the same as traditional braces. However, they have the benefit of being “clear” so that your braces aren’t as noticeable when you smile.
- Invisalign—While these aren’t technically braces, Invisalign is a popular alternative to them. Using a series of clear trays that fit over the upper or lower teeth, they slowly push teeth back into alignment.
Retainers are also commonly provided after your use of braces to ensure your teeth settle into their new location properly.
How Do Braces Work? How Braces Move Teeth
Braces move your teeth by exerting small amounts of constant pressure on each tooth over an extended period of time. Over time, your teeth will move into the proper place and alignment to give you a better smile.
This works because your jaw can adapt to this pressure. We all have a membrane underneath our gums that is surrounded by bones that roots our teeth to our jaw. This membrane isn’t fixed, and when it has constant pressure placed on it, the placement of your teeth can be adjusted.
Classic braces are made up of the following components:
- Brackets—metal, plastic, or ceramic brackets distribute pressure on your teeth to push them back into alignment.
- Bracket adhesive—glue that keeps your brackets in the right place on your teeth.
- Elastic Bands—placed around your brackets, elastic bands help apply the right amount of pressure on your jaw.
- Rubber or metal ring spacers—spacers apply pressure and push your jaw forward to add more space to the back of your mouth. Not everyone needs spacers.
- Archwires—connect to each one of your brackets and help keep them in place with the right pressure.
- Buccal tubes—metal parts that anchors the other parts of your braces together at the back of your mouth which is typically around your molars. They also will be adjusted over time to ensure your teeth are moving back into the proper positions.
- Springs—in some cases, springs are placed on the archwires of your braces to add spaced between two teeth.
Do Braces Hurt?
Braces may give you some discomfort when they are put on. However, once they are in place it’s completely normal to feel some discomfort since your mouth likely won’t be used to the pressure that’s now in place.
Many people describe this discomfort as a dull soreness or low throbbing pain. If it’s ever too much, simply use an over-the-counter pain reliever to treat it.
Braces continue to be one of the most effective ways to realign teeth to give you a great smile. Although they often need to be put on for extended periods of time the results, they help many people regain confidence in their smile once again.