How Do Braces Work?

Aug 29, 2023

A teen wearing a straw hat and glasses smiles, revealing braces and blue elastics.

Dental braces are orthodontic devices used to straighten and align teeth to improve their appearance. Braces are also used for correcting the bite or jaw function.  Braces are fitted by an orthodontist who is a dentist with specialist training in diagnosing and treating issues with teeth and jaw alignment.

What are braces made of?

Braces are made of metal or ceramic brackets, which are bonded to the teeth and connected by wire. In some instances, small rubber bands are used between upper and lower braces to create extra pressure to move the teeth.

How are braces fitted?

Before your braces are fitted, your orthodontist will clean and dry your teeth thoroughly. Next, they will bond the metal brackets to each tooth using a special glue. After this, the orthodontist will thread the archwire through the brackets and small elastic bands known as ligatures will secure everything in place.

The process usually takes 30-60 minutes. It’s common to experience some discomfort for 1 to 2 days afterwards because the wires will start to exert pressure on the teeth. Pain relief (such as paracetamol), and icy cold water can help.

How do braces move teeth?

Braces work by placing constant pressure on the teeth and jaws to alter their position. The soft tissue in the jaw that surrounds the teeth and bone stretches and compresses as teeth move, changing the shape of your jaw.

Tightening Braces

Braces generally need to be tightened or adjusted every 4-6 weeks to ensure the correct amount of pressure is consistently being placed on the right teeth.

As your teeth move, the pressure from the wires and elastics will change. Without regular adjustment this can result in pressure being increased or decreased on the wrong teeth. Your orthodontist will schedule adjustment appointments depending on your individual needs. 

You may experience some discomfort for a day or two after your braces have been tightened.

How long do I have to wear braces?

The length of time you wear braces for depends on your individual needs. You might wear them for 12 to 24 months and then wear a retainer for a further 24 months or longer.

A retainer keeps your teeth in their new position once your braces are removed, reducing the risk of any movement or your teeth returning to their original position.

How do I care for my teeth with braces?

When you have braces, it’s important to clean your teeth thoroughly. Brackets and wires trap food and plaque easier which, if not removed properly, can cause decay.

Cleaning teeth using an interdental toothbrush or a toothbrush with a small soft head can help you reach in and around brackets and gaps between teeth.  Floss threaders for braces are a good alternative to traditional floss for the same reason.

By HBF Health Insurance www.hbf.com.au

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