Braces are such a common treatment, we take it for granted that everyone knows how they work. However, we’ve realized that it may not be that obvious how this clever system of brackets and wires results in a straighter smile and a healthier bite alignment.
Traditional braces consist of brackets that are fixed on each tooth using a special dental cement, a curved wire that snaps into channels in those brackets, and bands that go around the brackets to keep the wire secure. Together, the wires and brackets put constant gentle pressure on the teeth that slowly moves them into the desired position.
As the braces start to shift your teeth into their new positions two processes begin. On the side of your tooth that’s toward the direction it is moving, your bone cells start to dissolve bone. On the opposite side, in the gap left where the tooth used to be, the bone cells start rebuilding bone. The dissolving of bone takes just a few days to complete but the rebuilding can take months, which is one of the reasons treatment times are counted in months, not days or weeks.
Braces are typically worn for a minimum of six months or a maximum of several years. The treatment process takes so long because the braces are essentially moving your teeth through your jawbone very, very slowly. Throughout treatment, the dentist will re-shape wires or replace them with wires of a new, stiffer material to fine-tune tooth positioning. Other orthodontic appliances such as rubber bands, springs, or headgear might be added depending on your treatment needs.
Once treatment is finished and the braces are removed, your new smile isn’t set in stone (or bone). You will need to wear a retainer everyday at first, and at night for several years, to discourage your teeth from going back to their old positions.