How do braces work?

Jim Woods
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Most patients call Orthodontic appliances "braces". This the common term used for the parts that your orthodontist uses to straighten your teeth. Braces actually consist of Stainless Steel brackets attached to the teeth, with dental adhesive, and wires that attach to the brackets. The interaction between the brackets and the wires create the forces that move the teeth. The wires are held in place with "ties" or ligatures that attach the wires to the brackets. These "ties" can be either made of plastic or metal. The brackets function as "handles" on the teeth. Your Orthodontist can attach wires, elastics, also known as rubber bands, springs, and other force producing items to the brackets.

There are many types of braces, but they all have the same goal. They all allow the orthodontist to place precise pressure on your teeth in order to not only straightens your teeth but to create a proper bite, allowing your teeth to function as designed. Without proper functioning of your teeth, numerous bad things can happen over time. It is very important to know the qualifications of who is performing your Orthodontic treatment. An Orthodontist has spent 4 years in dental school but has chosen to further his education with an additional 2-3 years of specialty training. He also limits his practice to Orthodontics allowing him to focus only on Orthodontic treatment.
Many Family Dentists now try to perform Orthodontics, but they do not have the training an Orthodontist has! Always choose an Orthodontist for your Orthodontic treatment!
Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Braces are the appliances that orthodontists use to straighten the teeth and correct the bite. They are cemented onto the surface of the teeth, however, the braces alone do not move the teeth. It is the wire, springs, or elastics (rubberbands) that provide the force that moves the teeth. The wires and springs and elastics have elastic memory that provides a continuous force on the teeth. The force from the tooth is then translated to the bone and causes the bone to change around the tooth and allow it to move.
Gregory J. Jorgensen, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics

"Braces" is the generic term for the hardware that is attached to your teeth by your orthodontist to straighten your teeth. There are three main components:

  1. the bracket which serves as a handle on the tooth,
  2. the wire which moves and positions the tooth, and
  3. the ligature that holds the wire and the bracket together.

The forces that move the teeth can be provided by the wires themselves or by other forces attached to the wires or the teeth (springs, elastics, etc.). Braces work by putting pressure on the teeth which causes the body to respond by shifting the teeth to relieve that pressure.

Braces or orthodontics straighten teeth by applying pressure on the teeth over a certain period of time, causing them to shift position. These mouth appliances correct crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, and malocclusions (bad bites). The wires on the braces move the teeth, and the rubber bands line the teeth up properly. While braces may be painful initially, the pain goes away as you live with them.

Continue Learning about Oral Health

Eat This Bread for a Healthier Smile
Eat This Bread for a Healthier Smile
What you pick from the bread basket might have an impact on your pearly whites. You're probably (hopefully) already grabbing the whole-grain goodies ...
Read More
What is an oral surgeon (maxillofacial surgeon)?
Dante A. Gonzales, DMDDante A. Gonzales, DMD
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the only dental specialists recognized by the American Dental As...
More Answers
7 Steps to a Beautiful Smile
7 Steps to a Beautiful Smile7 Steps to a Beautiful Smile7 Steps to a Beautiful Smile7 Steps to a Beautiful Smile
Get a gorgeous grin with these simple tips from leading dentists.
Start Slideshow
How Can I Help Someone Get Over a Fear of Going to the Dentist?
How Can I Help Someone Get Over a Fear of Going to the Dentist?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.