How Do Orthodontic Braces Work?

It’s true that one of the first things people notice about you is your smile, but having straight teeth is important for more reasons than a great first impression. Teeth that are crooked or misaligned can affect how you chew and talk, and because crooked teeth are harder to clean, they’re more likely to develop cavities. That’s why straightening your teeth is one of the best investments you’ll ever make, and orthodontic braces are one of the most effective and popular options for treatment. Here’s an overview explaining how orthodontic braces work:

Step 1: The orthodontic exam

Your first appointment will involve x-rays and impressions of your teeth so your orthodontist can plan each step of your eventual alignment. You’ll also get an estimated timeline for how long the process will take, make your first series of appointments, and take a “before” photo. At your next appointment, you’ll have your custom-made braces attached.

Step 2: Attaching the brackets on braces

Made of metal or ceramic, brackets are small rectangular objects that an orthodontist attaches to your teeth with a fluoride-enhanced adhesive. The slot on each bracket is designed specifically for each tooth with its own “tip and torque,” or the necessary alignment to move the tooth into its final position.

Step 3: Placing the archwire on orthodontic braces

After the brackets are affixed to your teeth, the orthodontist will insert archwires through the bracket slots on the top and bottom teeth, holding them in place with small rubber rings called o-rings. Thin, round wires are used first, and thicker, square-shaped wires are used near the end of process to better fill the slots. While the brackets are responsible for alignment, the archwires are responsible for putting pressure on the teeth—up or down, or side to side—in order to gently shift their position.

Step 4: Loosen and reposition teeth with braces

Saying that braces “move” your teeth is an understatement. They actually loosen and reposition your teeth within your jawbone, which is unlike the rest of the bones in your body—it’s an alveolar bone, allowing movement to occur. When pressure is placed on the teeth and gum tissue, certain cells remove bone on the positive pressure side while creating new bone on the negative pressure side. This is why treatment with orthodontic braces takes years. The only way to create tooth movement is with slow, constant pressure because the removal/creation process occurs at a very slow rate.

Step 5: Adjustment visits to your orthodontist

After your braces are attached, you’ll return to the orthodontist every 6-10 weeks to have your brackets adjusted and/or the wires changed. These appointments take approximately 15-20 minutes each, and your orthodontist will be able to check your progress and answer any questions you might have. You’ll also change out your o-rings, which come in a variety of colors to choose from.

Step 6: Braces off, retainers on

Eventually, the time will (finally) come to get those braces off. Scheduling a thorough cleaning with your dentist soon after is strongly recommended. The removal process takes between 60-90 minutes, and the only thing better than feeling the smooth surfaces of your teeth after so long is seeing your “before” photo next to your reflection in the mirror. All that time will be more than worth it! And to keep your smile straight and beautiful, the orthodontist will make you a set of retainers to wear (generally at night).

Ready to get your teeth in shape? We can help!

At Town Center Dentistry, we understand that getting braces is a big deal no matter how old you are. That’s why we’re proud to have an orthodontic specialist on staff. Dr. Sanner is a compassionate and skilled orthodontist who has spent decades providing excellent care for thousands of patients. He will do the same for you!

If you’re ready to make your first impressions unforgettable with a bright, straight smile, give us a call and schedule an orthodontic consultation with Dr. Sanner today.