Dental Braces (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

How do braces work?

Braces work by a slow and controlled process using force and constant pressure. For traditional braces, the wire that is attached to the brackets works to put pressure on the teeth to move to a specified direction.

Teeth move through a biomechanical process called "bone remodeling." When braces put pressure on a tooth, the "periodontal membrane" and bone surrounding this tooth are affected. The periodontal membrane completely surrounds a tooth in its socket and it essentially helps anchor the tooth to bone. With pressure from braces, the periodontal membrane of a tooth is stretched on one side and compressed on the other side. This effectively loosens the tooth out of its socket. The compressed side (the direction of pressure) is where bone is broken down to accommodate the new position of the tooth while the stretched side is where new bone is made. This process needs to be done very slowly and explains why wearing braces can take some time to achieve the desired results.

What is the procedure for getting braces?

Comment on this

The initial step for obtaining braces involves a thorough evaluation and record-taking with an experienced clinician. Dental impressions (molds) are taken to make models for study and X-rays are taken to look at teeth positions. Measurements are taken in the mouth as well. Once thoroughly evaluated, a treatment plan is created. This plan will specify what has been diagnosed for correction, treatment recommendations, and an estimated time for how long treatment will take. A discussion between the clinician and patient takes place where all the risks, benefits, and alternatives of treatment are reviewed.

If necessary, all dental extractions are performed prior to the placement of braces or other orthodontic appliances. For the two-phase process, appliances such as palatal expanders and headgear are used during the "phase-one" treatment to correct any developing skeletal growth problem.

For placement of traditional braces, brackets are bonded with special dental cement to all the teeth in the arch. For some clinicians, elastic spacers are placed between the molars for 1 to 2 weeks prior to placement of the brackets to make room for metal bands with attached brackets. These metal bands are typically placed around the last molars and are able to withstand the forces of chewing better than bonded brackets in the back teeth.

After the brackets and/or metal bands are in place, a metal wire (or "archwire") is placed in the brackets and secured with elastic rubber bands (or clipped into place with self-ligating brackets). As a side note, elastic rubber bands come in a variety of colors and can be an appealing component of a child's orthodontic experience.

For clear aligner braces, accurate dental impressions (molds) are taken in order to have a set of aligners made. The aligners are a sequence of clear trays that fit over the teeth to achieve movement. Each tray is worn for a period of time before progressing to the next tray.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Braces - Cost Question: How much did your braces cost? Did insurance cover the treatment?
Braces - Pain Question: Do you have mouth pain because of your braces?
Braces- Types Question: What type of braces do you have?
Braces - Procedure Question: Please describe your procedure for getting fitted with braces.