FORMER AND CURRENT braces-wearers know firsthand how much of an effect a few pieces of metal can have on a smile with the help of a skilled orthodontist. It’s pretty incredible, but how does this process actually work? What do the different parts of the appliance do, and how do the tissues of the mouth respond?
The Anatomy of Braces
Let’s quickly go through a list of the basic parts of a typical orthodontic appliance: the archwires, the brackets, and the bands (sometimes called o-rings or ligatures). Depending on what the patient needs, they may have additional pieces to help with their treatment plan. A common addition is rubber bands, which help with correcting a bad bite. If your treatment includes rubber bands, make sure to follow the orthodontist’s instructions exactly! Don’t forget them or double them up, because either will result in your treatment taking longer!
Brackets are the metal pieces that are cemented onto each tooth. When the orthodontist places the brackets, the position has to be just right so that the pressure applied by the braces will be in the right direction and move the teeth where they’re supposed to be. That’s why a new orthodontic patient might look like their braces have a lot of zig-zags in their shape!
Once the brackets are in place, the archwires can go in. These are the strips of flexible metal that will attach to the brackets and be held in place by the colorful bands. The thickness of the archwire and the material it’s made of are important considerations in a patient’s treatment. Over time, archwires provide steady, gradual pressure to guide teeth into their correct positions.
The Biology of Moving Teeth
Now we know what the different parts of braces are for, but none of that would matter if the human body wasn’t as amazing as it is. Two critical types of bone cells are involved in reshaping a smile: osteoclasts and osteoblasts. When steady pressure is applied around a tooth, osteoclasts break down the bone tissue in the way to make room for the tooth to move. On the other side, osteoblasts build new bone tissue to keep the tooth’s root snugly encased within the jaw.
Just think about that. Our jaws are capable of literally reshaping themselves in response to the pressure from braces! It’s important to note that it takes more time for the new bone tissue to grow behind the teeth than it does for it to be broken down. That’s one reason why it’s so important to wear retainers after the braces come off. The new bone tissue needs time to finish growing so the teeth don’t shift back to a crooked position!
Check out this great time lapse video of braces in action!
Bring Us Your Braces Questions!
Braces are our passion, and we’re happy to answer any questions you have about how they do what they do. So whether you’re thinking of getting them or you’re a current patient who wants to learn more, just give us a call!
No one has better smiles than our patients!
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.