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How Do Braces Work?



February 13, 2023

Braces are one of the most common orthodontic treatments available, and approximately 4 million people throughout the United States have braces at any moment in time. While most people understand that they transform your smile into something straighter and more attractive, many people don’t quite understand how exactly the brackets and wires on their teeth work.

What Are Braces Used For?

Before diving into exactly how braces work, it’s important to know what they are used for in the first place! Braces are one way to shift crowded, crooked, or improperly aligned teeth back into an optimal position. While they are often associated with children and teens, millions of adults wear braces as well.

Braces can be constructed from wires, ceramic or metal, and material that attaches them to the surface of the tooth. Unlike Invisalign, which is also used to correct a crooked smile, braces are permanently attached to the surface of the tooth for the duration of the treatment.

How Do Braces Work?

Braces gradually move teeth with a pressure that is created from adjustments to the wires and brackets over time. As the shifting happens, your bite will shift as well. How is this process possible? Your gums are more like a membrane than an impermeable surface. By putting force on the teeth through braces, the teeth can be shifted and moved into new positions.

Working with an experienced orthodontist is important, as they will be responsible for determining the course of your treatment and how each wire should be tightened. Depending on the severity of your current bite or correctional needs, your treatment might take a year or multiple years.

The Brackets Are Bonded to the Teeth

When braces are first placed on the teeth, brackets will be attached to the surface of each tooth using a specialized material. The brackets can be made from metal, ceramic, or plastic. Brackets do not actually push on your teeth themselves, but they instead are a way to ensure that pressure from the wires is evenly distributed across the surface of the tooth. Brackets are connected with wires that might be copper titanium, stainless steel, or nickel titanium.

Elastic Bands Secure the Brackets

Elastic bands are also used to secure the brackets and help to make sure that your bite is properly lined up. They are available in any color of the rainbow, so they also serve as a fun and functional way to customize your smile.

Spacers Adjust Your Jaw

Spaces are one of the more temporary parts of braces, and they can be used for as little as one week to get their intended effect. Spacers might be rubber bands or metal, and an orthodontist will place them in the back of the mouth in most cases. Spacers work by adding more space in the rear of the mouth. Some patients never need to use spacers.

Archwires Connect the Brackets

The wires that you are used to seeing in the mouths of patients with braces are called archwires. They pass through the brackets on each tooth and are the source of most of the pressure that aligns your bite.

Springs That Add Additional Pressure

Sometimes, you need more precise pressure than the archwire can provide. Springs are one way to apply more targeted pressure. They can be added to the archwire and focus the pressure between two teeth to separate them.

Headgear For Maximum Pressure

In some cases, headgear will need to be worn overnight to ensure that the braces are working as efficiently as possible. This headgear will attach to the braces so that even more pressure can be added. Headgear is not typically worn during the day, and it is not needed in the majority of cases.

Are Braces Painful?

One of the biggest concerns that people have about having braces installed is that they will be painful. Because pressure is being applied to your teeth and the brackets in your mouth are not always comfortable, you can expect to feel occasional discomfort throughout the course of your braces. The discomfort is typically most noticeable right after an adjustment or tightening of the wires. There are some ways to ease discomfort, like wax, and you can also ask our team for tips on how to feel more comfortable.

How Long Do Braces Take to Work?

The length of your treatment will depend on a variety of factors. On average, most patients need to wear braces for one to three years. The most important factor in shortening your treatment duration is following all instructions precisely. Breaking off brackets due to dietary choices or not returning regularly for your adjustments will prolong the amount of time that you need to wear them.

Contact the team at Rykiss Orthodontics in Winnipeg to learn more about the different orthodontic options available to you. We can’t wait to meet you!


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