You’ve recently found out that you need braces, or you’ve finally taken the leap and made the decision to get a straight, healthy smile. You know you’re in for a bit of a journey – after all, a brand-new smile takes some work. At this point of the process, you might be wondering how braces work. What will they do to give you the smile you’ve been waiting for?

First, braces are a tool made up of four parts:

  1. Brackets These can be metal or ceramic and are attached to each one of your teeth.
  2. Bonding material This is a type of glue that attaches the bracket to your tooth.
  3. Arch wire A thin metal wire that connects each bracket and helps put pressure on your teeth to move.
  4. Ligature elastics, a.k.a O-rings are small, coloured or clear elastics that connect your brackets to the arch wire in some bracket systems. You’ll notice that these are changed each time you visit the orthodontist.

The goal of this tool is to move your teeth through constant, light, gradual pressure. The arch wire in place is what helps move your teeth slowly over time, (approximately a half to one millimetre a month!). You might also notice that certain elastics are used at different times to make your teeth move in a specific direction.

Now, you’re probably curious as to how this is even possible: how does your mouth know to move your teeth?  Your teeth are connected to the bone by miniscule ligaments that form a membrane. This membrane acts as a shock- absorber when you chew and sends messages to the brain. When pressure is applied to the teeth by the arch wire and elastics, the body will aid the tooth in repositioning the bone. The result of the continuous, gradual pressure is the teeth are repositioned to their ideal positions. The pressure placed on the membrane causes the bone to change and grows new bone to support the teeth in their new position.

Your orthodontist spends a lot of time devising the perfect course of treatment for each patient as every individual and situation is unique!