How Braces Move Teeth

March 22, 2024

Whether you are a child or an adult looking to treat your malocclusions or orthodontic issues, dental braces are often the solution to your issues. While it may seem daunting to start with this treatment, you should know that getting braces makes you a part of a long and fascinating history of dental realignment that ranges back almost 5000 years to civilizations as ancient as the Roman and Greek empires, and the ancient Egyptians! The so-called traditional braces that we know today are quite modern as they were only introduced in the late 1970s, after developments that had been happening since 1819 when Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented the first “modern braces”.

We all know that braces move and realign teeth by putting consistent pressure on them, which is aided by brackets and an archwire that guides the teeth in the correct positions. But, do we understand the intricate biological and technical processes behind it? In this article we will aim to understand just how braces move teeth, the various components of modern braces, how they work, how fast braces move teeth once treatment has started, and how to care for your braces once you have been fitted with them.

How Do Braces Move Teeth?

To understand how braces move teeth, we first need to understand the underlying biological process behind them. The visible part of your teeth is referred to as the crown, and the roots of your teeth often extend inwards to at least double the length of the crown of the tooth. These roots are attached to the tooth socket, the jaw bone, and the adjacent teeth with the help of periodontal ligaments. These ligaments act as the connective tissue between your bone structures and your teeth and also help reduce the stress of chewing on your teeth and jaw.

As we know, braces are attached to one surface of the crown of your teeth, and the brace brackets are held together with an archwire that can be tightened to control the amount of gradual pressure that is applied to the teeth. But this process isn't just about the exertion of force. When this force is exerted to guide your teeth in a certain direction, your ligaments get stretched on one side and are compressed on another side. This is detected by the cells in your jaw bones, which dissolve the bone near the area where the ligament is compressed to create more space and form a new bone near where the ligament is stretched, to prevent the strain. This process of literally reshaping your jaw and teeth structure is known as bone remodeling and is the scientific process behind the concept of braces treatments in the modern age.

Now that we understand how do braces move teeth in a certain position, let us elaborate upon the various parts of braces that make this realignment possible.

Parts of Braces and How They Work

Now that we have understood what are orthodontic braces, let us dive deep into the various components of braces and what roles they play in the dental realignment process.

  • Brackets: Brackets are tiny, square-shaped parts that are attached to the surface of your teeth with dental glue or adhesives. They can be made of metal or ceramic and can be attached either to the front of your teeth or the back of your teeth, in the case of lingual braces. Brackets often have hooks to attach dental elastics to them or clips to secure the archwire to the bracket.
  • Archwires: Archwires are metal bands of varying widths used to exert force on the teeth. These wires are held in place by clips on your brackets or ligature bands and are used to put consistent pressure across the entire arch of your upper or lower teeth, which are then moved gradually to follow the shape of the curvature of the wire.
  • Springs: In rare cases, you need to create extra room between teeth to accommodate a new growing tooth or a preexisting misaligned one. In these scenarios, orthodontists use small metal springs to help widen gaps between adjacent teeth. These springs push open when placed between brackets of two adjacent teeth, and are used in cases of severe overcrowding or misalignment in teeth.
  • Rubber Bands: Rubber bands or dental elastics are used to attach the upper jaw to the lower jaw in case of severe malocclusions like overbite or underwire, where the jaw structure is itself misaligned. These rubber bands can be clear or colorful and are used to exert added force onto the teeth to promote realigning the bite faster, and need to be changed at regular intervals, and worn according to the instructions of your orthodontist.
  • Other Appliances: Several other appliances like palate expanders, lingual arches, Herbst appliances, orthodontic headgears, etc., are used to aid the realignment of teeth. These are often used when the cause of malocclusions is not just dental, but skeletal. This process of orthodontic correction is used to manipulate and restructure the shape of the jaw to give the patient a better bite and an easier time with their bite.

How Fast Do Braces Straighten Teeth?

There is no set time for how fast can braces move teeth. In most cases, traditional braces are responsible for moving your teeth bit by bit daily. Braces help ensure that the movement is neither too fast nor too slow, as either situation could lead to pain, discomfort, and permanent damage to your teeth and attached tissue. Usually, regular dental braces take anywhere up to 18-24 months to fully align your smile in cases of mild to moderate malocclusions. In some severe cases, the treatment can last up to 36 months as well.

How Do Braces Work for Children vs Adults?

When you are fitting braces for children, their treatment process is significantly faster as compared to when you are fitting them for adults. This is the case as the jaws and teeth of children are softer and more malleable as they are still growing and developing. As the jaw is still not fully developed, it is easier to guide it to a proper shape so that the children can avoid any major dental issues in the future. For adults, as their jaw is fully developed, realignment takes more time, effort, and force, but it is still possible! Hence, the effectiveness of traditional braces for adult patients may be less, but options like orthodontic surgery are always available to correct minor dental or skeletal malocclusions for grown-ups.

How Should I Care for My Braces?

Taking proper care of your braces and your oral hygiene during your braces treatment will not only help increase the effectiveness of the process but also help you maintain a healthy smile throughout your dental realignment journey. Some general oral care tips to keep in mind when taking care of your braces are listed below. For more specific instructions, always ask your orthodontist for advice.

  • Always brush your teeth a minimum of two times a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to maintain teeth health. When you have traditional braces, you may need to brush your teeth more often, like after meals, to ensure that your teeth remain free of food residue and debris.
  • After brushing, always floss your teeth and in-between your braces to clean any food residue that is trapped in the various brackets and hooks of your braces.
  • If you have clear aligners, clean them every day and store them properly when you’re not wearing them. If you are using clear aligners to help your alignment journey, then make sure you rinse and clean them properly every day, just like your teeth, and store them in a clean airtight container.
  • Always rinse your mouth with anti-bacterial and alcohol-free mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods, as they may lead to damage to your braces brackets or lead to food debris being trapped between your brackets, which can lead to dental issues like cavities or plaque formation.
  • Make it a point to visit your orthodontist regularly for tightening and maintenance of your braces, to check the progress of your realignment treatment.
  • Visit your general dentist regularly for cleanings and routine dental care, to ensure a hassle-free dental treatment.

Now that we have reached the end of this article, we hope that you have understood how braces move teeth, what the various parts of braces are, and how braces help you achieve that perfect, aligned smile! If you are looking for orthodontic solutions in NY, do check out Central Park North Orthodontics for professional and dedicated treatment solutions for your dental needs.

FAQs

Yes, braces do move your teeth every day. You will notice some minor shifts in alignment after a month of starting treatment, and more noticeable changes after 2-3 months of treatment.

Yes, they do! Braces treatment is almost always effective for most people and helps them permanently straighten their teeth.

Braces help to make your teeth easier to clean, prevent cavities, and gum diseases, and correct temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Braces also help align your smile, keep it healthy, and improve the general functionality of your teeth by aiding chewing and speaking.

Braces do not hurt your teeth, but patients may experience some soreness and slight discomfort when the archwire has been tightened or just after fitting. These problems can easily be dealt with by applying some ointments to the sore areas or any over-the-counter pain medications that can be prescribed by your orthodontist.

All you have to do is wear a retainer! Retainers help to prevent the teeth from moving back into their old positions and for the malocclusions to stay realigned.

Periodontal ligaments have memory, and after the braces treatment is done, the teeth can drift back to their original position. Furthermore, due to a concept known as mesial drift, teeth can shift and move over time, and hence regular retainer wear can help prevent reverse any effective treatment that has taken place.
Dr. Patel

Dr. Patel is an orthodontist and maintains a private practice in Rome, NY. He completed his undergraduate education at the Ohio State University. Then, he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. After earning his doctorate, Dr. Patel attended a three-year, dual-degree residency at Columbia University in New York City. Here, he earned his certificate in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics as well as earning a Masters in Oral Biology. During his time off, Dr. Patel likes to stay active by jogging, biking, and hiking.

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