Braces Explained


These are thin bands of metal carefully fitted to each tooth and then cemented
into place. Each band is fitted with brackets or tubes, offering us a way to grasp and control each individual tooth. Imagine bands as small handles on each
your teeth.


Brackets are the parts of the braces that hold the archwires, which control the movement of your teeth. Traditionally, these are affixed to the bands that encircle your tooth. However, recent methods and materials have been perfected that often allow these brackets to be cemented/bonded directly to the tooth surfaces without using the band. Once treatment is complete, the brackets are removed and the tooth surface is polished free of the cementing materials.


These are attached to the brackets and act as guides or tracks along which
your teeth are moved. They are changed continually throughout your treatment, with each change bringing us closer to the ideal tooth position.

Rubber Bands

These provide additional force to help your teeth move, usually by employing one group of teeth against another.

Braces, also called orthodontic appliances, are mechanical devices that
are attached to the teeth and permit specific forces causing them to move.
At the cellular level, when orthodontic forces are applied to a tooth a
corresponding force is transmitted to the underlying bone. Certain types of
cells respond by softening the bone on the “pressure” side, while other cells lay down new bone on the “tension” side as the tooth moves in the desired direction. Braces come in many different designs, the two most common are removable and fixed.

Removable Braces

Removable braces – often called retainers, aligners, bite plates or functionals – serve several purposes. Some keep the jaws apart during tooth movement. Others actually reposition the jaws allowing the orthodontist to modify jaw growth. Many have the ability to move teeth, but they lack the precision that occurs when fixed appliances are used. Finally, removable appliances are most often used to help stabilize the finished orthodontic result. Depending on why they are used, these types of braces need to be worn anywhere from full to part time.

Fixed Appliances

Fixed appliances comprise two parts. The part that attaches to the tooth is called either a band or a bracket. Both bands and brackets have specifically designed attachments welded to them so that the second part – the wire – can be secured to the fixed appliance. Bands are made of metal, but brackets can be made from either clear or toothcolored plastic, ceramic material, or porcelain, as well as from metal. The bands are cemented around the teeth while brackets are bonded by various methods to a small part of the tooth’s surface. The bonding materials can be easily removed when the orthodontic therapy is completed. The wire has two functions. By virtue of its shape, or by your doctor placing certain bends into it, the wire has the ability to move your teeth in a desired direction. Because of the type of metal employed, the process used in manufacturing, and the size of the wire; very specific forces can be applied to the teeth. Thus, the wire has the potential to precisely move the teeth according to your doctor’s treatment plan.

The second function of a wire is to act as a track for the teeth to move along. Tooth movement is accomplished by using different springs or elastics with varying force levels. Again, detailed control is the main feature of the fixed appliance. Returning for periodic visits to adjust the force levels used, and by carefully monitoring the progress achieved, orthodontic correction occurs.

Your Part

It is important to understand that tooth movement should be a smooth, uninterrupted process if the best results are to occur. For this to happen, your doctor will often depend on you to help effect the desired changes. This will occur through your cooperation with such things as:

  • keeping regularly scheduled appointments wearing and changing rubber bands as instructed
  • using a headgear in a certain way being careful not to break or bend the fixed appliances
  • keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy

A successful outcome is not achieved by chance. It comes from your doctor’s continuing education; technical excellence of your dental team; stringent cooperation from the patient;
and last but not least, patience. It takes time for your teeth and their surrounding structures to change from a malocclusion into a beautiful smile.

Posted in Braces 101