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Braces are impressive little tools. Over time, they move your teeth…but how do they accomplish that?  Today we’re going to discuss just how metal braces for teeth actually work.

Braces have four basic parts:

  • Brackets, which are made of metal or ceramic and are attached to each tooth;
  • Bonding material (glue) or a metal band that attaches the bracket to the tooth;
  • Arch wire, which is a thin metal wire that runs from bracket to bracket and puts pressure on the teeth;
  • Ligature elastic, which are small colored elastic bands that hold the bracket onto the arch wire and are typically changed at each visit.

Bracket Design

A bracket is placed on every tooth that needs to be moved.  It is a rectangular object that is attached to the tooth and has a slot where the wire goes through. We use many different types of brackets – most brackets are made of stainless steel, but some are made of ceramic or a glass material for aesthetic purposes.

When using metal braces for teeth, the bracket is attached to each tooth’s enamel with a very special adhesive that will leak flouride to help prevent cavities from forming.

The slot of the bracket is a very important part of metal braces for teeth.  Studies have determined how each tooth should be tipped to obtain proper alignment.  That tip and torque is placed into the slot, so as the wire fills the slot, the bracket moves the tooth to a predestined position.

A specific bracket is made for each tooth and it has its own tip and torque.  When the wire is placed into the slot of the bracket, the wire begins to move the tooth to that position.  If the tooth doesn’t move to the correct position, we will place bends in the wire to properly move it.

Arch Wire

The wire we use with metal braces for teeth is called an arch wire and it is held in place with an elastic tie that is available in different colors.  (Many patients – especially younger ones – get excited about the opportunity to choose their own colors.) We want to use a wire that easily returns to its original shape.

Arch wires come in different sizes and materials.  In the very beginning of treatment, we will want to rotate the teeth and start to align the tops of the teeth into one plane.  We use light wires that deflect easily but do not attain permanent deformation.  As the wire that is deflected returns to its original shape, it moves the tooth into a better position.

You will notice that we change the wires often, slowly moving from small wires that are round in cross section to heavy thick wires that are rectangular.  We are slowly filling up the slot of the bracket with each change of the wire until the bracket and wire moves the tooth into its correct position.

We can’t use a heavy wire in the beginning because it won’t fit into the slot and the patient would experience a lot of discomfort.

Once we have a better alignment of the teeth, we will change the wire to a material that can be bent, such as stainless steel.  At this point we will begin to bend the wire to fine-tune the occlusion.

Bone Response

The bone that contains the tooth sockets is very precise in allowing tooth movement to occur.  When pressure is placed on the teeth, the pressure is applied to gum tissue around the root, and during that pressure, certain cells – called osteoblasts and osteoclasts – move into place so the tooth will move.

So we have learned that:

  • The brackets have a predetermined prescription of tip and torque;
  • As the wire is placed into the bracket slot, pressure is created around the roots;
  • The gum tissue that is around the roots signals certain cells to move to the sides of the bone surrounding the roots to start resorption and deposition of bone;
  • That bone remodeling allows for tooth movement.

If you would like more information – or want to see if metal braces for teeth are right for you – call our office today to schedule a consultation!

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