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How do orthodontic brackets (braces) work?

Posted in Adults, Alberta, Braces, British Columbia, General, Orthodontics, Teens, Tips & Advice, Treatment Process

Our BC and Alberta orthodontists may recommend braces to help correct some orthodontic issues. But how do orthodontic brackets and braces actually work? We explain in this post. 

How do braces move teeth? 

Braces can help correct orthodontic issues for people who have crowded or misaligned teeth, or certain conditions such as an overbite. This is important for both short-term and long-term oral health, as straight teeth are not only easier to brush, clean and floss, they contribute to a better bite and improved ability to speak and chew. 

If your orthodontist has recommended braces, you might be wondering just how they work to change your smile. In this post, our orthodontists at myORTHODONTIST explain the process. 

Braces exert continual pressure on a patient's jaws and teeth to shift their position to precise locations specified in the patient's custom treatment plan. Brackets are glued to teeth to hold the archwire in place. This places the correct amount of pressure on the teeth to gradually move them into the positions prescribed by your orthodontist. 

Periodontal ligaments are the soft tissue that surround the teeth and bone. These ligaments hold your teeth in place and can compress or stretch as your teeth move. When braces shift a tooth to the right, the ligament on the right compresses. New bone grows on the left to fill the gap. 

Moving Teeth Forward

While most people think of braces as working to push teeth towards the palate, these orthodontic devices can also pull teeth out towards the lips when required. A nickel-titanium archwire is bent to meet the bracket on the tooth and pulls the teeth forward. Over time, the wire returns to its original 'U' shape, shifting the tooth forward. 

Correcting Overcrowding 

If your jaw is too small and/or your teeth are too large, overcrowding can occur and cause significant orthodontic problems if not treated effectively. Braces can help resolve this issue by moving individual teeth forward, across and back to leave enough room for all of your teeth to sit side by side in your mouth. 

For some younger patients who experience overcrowding, we may recommend a palatal expander to increase the size of their jaw. At  myORTHODONTIST, we can assess patients and potentially take a 2-phase approach to treatment, developing a plan for early orthodontic intervention and perhaps using braces or other orthodontic treatment options later on.

Correcting an Overbite

An overbite occurs when the top and lower teeth overlap vertically (conversely, overjet involves protruding top teeth relative to lower teeth). Both cases may require both the top and/or bottom teeth to move. 

Depending on your specific case, our orthodontists may recommend braces to apply constant pressure, so the teeth will gradually move into their corrected positions. The bone surrounding the teeth will change shape as they move to accommodate the new position of your teeth. 

What problems can be fixed with braces?

Braces can straighten your teeth so they are level and aligned with one another. They can also correct bite issues such as overbite, underbite and crossbite, in addition to gaps. In the final phase of a patient's treatment, we might do some 'fine tuning' to finish correcting any issues and tidy up a smile so the patient's teeth are sitting in the exact specified positions before braces are removed. 

What are the main parts of braces?

Several different components must work together so your braces will work properly. The more complex a patient's orthodontic case, the more parts may be required. 

Archwire 

This is the part of the braces that does most of the hard work of moving your teeth, and it can be constructed from tooth-coloured materials or stainless steel. While the archwire may be flexible at first, a more rigid wire may be needed to apply more pressure later in the orthodontic treatment process. 

Orthodontic Brackets 

Typically made of stainless steel, plastic or tooth-coloured ceramic, the brackets that are bonded to the front of each tooth are sometimes referred to as ortho brackets, and they hold the archwire in place. You might find that elastics need to be attached to your brackets on the upper and lower arches. Brackets on lingual braces are bonded to the backs of a patient's teeth.

Elastic Bands

These rubber bands are attached to the brackets of the braces and can help to move teeth depending on your needs. Elastic bands are attached from one jaw to the other and apply pressure to shift an indvidual tooth or group of teeth in a specific direction as prescribed by your orthodontist. 

Metal Bands

A metal ring is applied over the back teeth to act as an anchor for the braces, and to hold the archwire in its place.

A-Chains 

Connected strings of elastic, a-chains are attached to brackets to apply more force than the archwire alone. Treatment time can help shorten the duration of treatment time. 

Retainers 

A retainer is an important element of orthodontic treatment and acts to hold your teeth in place after an orthodontist removes the braces. This helps ensure your teeth and surrounding gums, bones and ligaments have all settled into their new, correct positions. 

Do you have questions about how orthodontic brackets and braces work? Contact our BC and Alberta orthodontists for a consultation and to have your questions addressed.

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