How do braces work and why are they important?

Let’s face it, orthodontics (teeth straightening), can be a pretty dry field to read or talk about! It can be a challenge to make people understand the importance of having a straight smile and appreciate the self-confidence and happiness this can bring. Orthodontics and braces can also be a bit of a mystery too and it’s no wonder when specialist orthodontists require 8 years of training to become qualified!

Here, we explain how braces work….

Pressure.

A brace applies gentle and gradual pressure to your teeth so that they can slowly move into the desired position. The process of moving your teeth into place is actually called ‘bone remodelling’. Underneath your gum line where you teeth sit in the bone of your jaws, your teeth are surrounded by a small gap called the periodontal membrane (also known as the periodontal ligament – PDL – see below for definition*). The brace is designed to put gentle pressure on your teeth and in turn, the PDL is compressed on one side and compressed on the other which helps change the bone around the teeth allowing them to move into a new position.

*Periodontal ligament – a group of elastic fibres attaching the teeth to the bone around your teeth.

There are 3 main elements that make up a brace:

Brackets – These are (typically) attached to each individual tooth to which the archwire is secured. They are designed to move each tooth into the desired position with a specific “prescription” to move the teeth so they end up at the correct angle, height and position within the jaw. There are many different varieties of bracket.

Archwire – These are placed through the brackets and fixed to the bands. The distortion of the wire and it’s movement back to the “normal” shape is what help move teeth in the early stages. Later on when the wires are bigger, they are designed to fine tune the result and are essential if you are trying to improve the bite.

Bands – These can be attached around your back teeth (or tooth) and act as the foundation for your appliance. Bands can be made of stainless steel. Most orthodontists now don’t use these unless specifically needed.

Elastics – There are 3 ways are used in braces. Firstly they are use to help secure the wire into the brace (unless the brace is “self ligating”). Second they are used to close spaces (a chain is stretched around the braces and secured to each bracket). And lastly they are used for bite corrections (these ones are worn usually between the jaws).

Extreme close up of hands working on dental braces with hatchet and mouth mirror. Macro close up of female mouth showing dental braces.

What are the benefits of braces?

Orthodontic treatment has many benefits, the most obvious better aesthetics however, but improved dental health is arguably more important than this. One benefit we always see in patients is improved self-confidence.  The fact you may be judged on how your teeth look, with some believing that having straighter teeth makes you more likely to be sucessful, trustworthy and more likely to be in a good job has meant more adults are now looking to have orthodontic treatment to boost confidence and keep them looking younger for longer.

If left untreated, misaligned teeth could cause repercussions such as tooth decay or gum problems because it is difficult to thoroughly brush teeth that are very overlapped. Over time, crowding of teeth often gets worse as there is no longer good contact between allowing them to drift further out of line.

With advances in orthodontic treatment, there are now more treatment options for patients than in the past. The aesthetics of braces have come a long way since the designs of previous years. With clear brackets, braces fitted on the inside (tongue side) of the teeth and Invisalign there is better choice for patients where a discreet brace is required. That means more adults can say yes to straighter, healthy smiles.

If you would like to know more about the types of braces we offer, please contact us.

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