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How Do Braces Work?

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Medically reviewed by: Dr Anthony Lam BDS (Hons), MSc (Lond), MOrth RCS (Edin) Specialist Orthodontist and Clinical Lecturer at Guy's Hospital, London.

9th May 2022
how do braces work?

by Orthodontic Gallery on Invisalign, Adult Orthodontics and Cosmetic Braces


How Do Braces Work?

Braces are a pretty impressive invention. They gradually and safely move teeth, to improving common issues such as; crooked teeth, crowded teeth, or gaps in between teeth, along with serious bite problems, to create a healthier, more attractive smile.

If you’re considering getting braces you might be wondering how do braces work? It’s likely that you already know that pressure is applied to your teeth with little metal squares and a wire that is periodically tightened. But how exactly do they do that?

The Components of Braces

Traditional braces and even Lingual braces (not removable aligner systems like Invisalign) have three or four components.

The first component is the bracket; This is usually made out of metal, though also may be made out of ceramic if a more aesthetic option has been chosen. These brackets will have little hooks or doors, which the wire is threaded onto. The wire is held into the bracket by either closing the door (a self-ligating bracket) or by applying a tiny little elastic ligature over the top of the wire, to the four corner hooks on the bracket. (These are the colours you’ll be able to choose and have changed!)

The second component is the glue; This is what your Orthodontist will use to attach your bracket to your tooth.  In cases where more serious treatment is required, some metal bands and some glue may be used to give the braces more anchorage.

The third piece is the wire; Also know as an archwire, this is the thin, horse-shoe shaped piece of metal that runs from one bracket to another. This is actually what’s changed at your adjustment appointments.

The last common component is the elastic; For patients that need their bite to be corrected in some way, the elastic rubber band is essential. It is strung between a hook on an upper bracket to a hook on a lower bracket, pulling the upper jaw backwards to help fix an overbite or the lower jaw backwards to fix and under-bite.

Rubber bands can be used for a variety of different situations, especially for helping to improve bite discrepancies and off-centre midlines. Some patients will have lots of rubber bands, some might have no bands at all.

Of course, it is possible some patients will have other devices attached to their brace. For example, a very narrow arch might require an expander in order to widen it to fit the bottom arch.

Orthodontic Treatment

Great results depend on great bracket placement and how your braces work and provide perfectly aligned teeth can depend on a clinician’s skill.

Your orthodontic clinician will have undergone specialist training and have amassed years of experience in knowing precisely where to place the bracket on each of your teeth to ensure you get an outstanding result.

The brackets are placed in their ideal position on each tooth and a very thin, flexible wire is threaded and held into each of the brackets, resulting in a very higgledy-piggledy archwire.

Archwires start life as a horse-shoe shape and are made from different metals  all with ‘memory’ – the archwire is designed to want to spring back to its original shape and its this that applies the pressure to the teeth and encourage teeth to move into the newly aligned position, for example a tooth that is twisted will be pulled to turn and face the right way.

The process of teeth moving in this way is called remodelling. When pressure is put on the tooth, cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts form around the tooth’s root. The pressure of the wire and the osteoblasts and osteoclasts create a negative pressure on one side of the tooth. Here, bone is removed and on the other side of the tooth, bone is reformed. The tooth slowly moves into the correct position as the gentle pressure is put on the tooth and the bone of the tooth and the jaw remodel.

This process can only occur if constant pressure is applied to the tooth (which is why, when patients have Invisalign, it is so important to wear the aligners for 22hours a day and why orthodontists are often strict about their patients keeping their adjustment schedule).

As bone is absorbed on one side and deposited on the other side, the tooth can move. Once the pressure stops, like when the braces are removed, the tooth will begin to settle into its new position.

It is possible, however, that it could start to drift back to its old position. This is why patients are always given retainers, so that the teeth will be kept in their current position and are not allowed to relapse to their previous crooked state.

At Orthodontic Gallery we offer both fixed and removable retainers as a belt and braces (excuse the pun!) way of ensuring you are delighted with your result and that it lasts a lifetime.

The Cost of Braces

Now that you know how braces work, you can consider how you start your orthodontic journey and how much it will cost. The cost of braces can be a big factor for a lot of people when they are told they need braces. It is a big investment and can run anywhere from £1500 for a single arch of fixed brace to £6000 for specialist lingual braces.

We offer a 5% discount for payment upfront and offer a number of 0% finance options – so there will be an option that suits you!


Looking to get braces? Contact us for a Free Consultation with one our friendly treatment coordinators today.

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