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How Do Braces Work?

If there is an aspect of our general well-being that we never neglect and always take care of, it is our oral health. They are essential because any oral and dental problems may lead to further health problems.

And we also dream of that lovely smile. We want to warm up to others and want that charm associated with a lovely smile. We can win friends and lose enemies simply by disarming their defenses and aloofness with our shiny white teeth. It is not a stretch to say that beauty rests on the eye of the beholder and a fine set of teeth.

Dentistry is a prestigious field and, in medicine, a dentist is considered primus inter pares and not a physician's poor relations. It is the same with the orthodontist: a dentist’s partner in maintaining our dental health and curing some dental maladies.

With the pressing need to maintain oral and dental health, and the prestige associated with the discipline and field of dental care, it can command such a price. To have dental care is to invest in your health and the future. In investing, you need quite a sum.

The more famous “investment” for general well-being and dental health is having dental braces. More and more people are putting on dental braces. With the benefits of maintaining a set of shiny white teeth too obvious, it is not surprising many undergo the hassle of having them.

And it is quite taxing to have dental braces. But what are dental braces? What makes dental braces sort of a fad in the present era, and why do more people need them? How do dental braces work? Are dental braces safe and genuinely effective? And what are those teeth misalignment issues they are going to treat anyway?

And what are the types of dental braces available? These are the questions we are going to answer.

What are dental braces?

Dental braces are among the indispensable tools currently available in the drive to bring to anyone a friendly, lovely smile. They are a type of dental appliance specifically designed to move your teeth, put them into position, straighten them and align them.

Usually made of metal, steel, ceramic, or plastic, a patient wears them to correct malocclusions or teeth misalignment conditions. Depending on the severity of malocclusion, the dentist or orthodontist will design a specific treatment plan involving particular dental braces.

The patient will wear the dental braces for a specific period. The dental braces will then work on the teeth, moving them into position slowly but surely. After a specific period of wearing them, with teeth in the proper position, the patient will have straight teeth.

Not all patients that have teeth misalignment conditions would need to wear dental braces. Some who have extreme malocclusion may need to have surgery. Wearing dental braces will not in any way address the problem.

Some with only very minor teeth misalignment conditions might need to wear retainers instead of dental braces. There is no need to undergo the meticulous process of installing dental braces if a simple procedure would do the trick.

But for many teeth misalignment conditions and malocclusions, wearing dental braces will surely do the trick. Dental braces therapy applies to a wide range of teeth conditions. No wonder dental braces and the services of those who can make them are very much in demand today than at any other time.

To know whether one needs dental braces. A dentist and orthodontist will examine the patient. He will undergo a health examination, and a clinical exam to determine his overall health condition. Experts will have X-rays of his head and mouth and photos of their face and teeth taken.

Before, these were the common procedures. Now it is customary to have a digital scan of teeth. It is even now possible to apply 3d technology for creating dental braces. Even more so, remote technology or making dental braces without seeing a specialist, is also possible today.

If one finally wears dental braces, the treatment can last from four to six months to two years, maybe longer. A lot of factors will determine the length of the treatment: severity of mildness of the teeth condition, the particular dental braces you are using, and even age.

Why are dental braces so popular?

The advancement in dental technology allows for the wider use of dental braces today. Before, only those who are kids, or teenagers at the most, would benefit from wearing one. The science and technology behind dentistry precludes using dental braces to treat malocclusions and teeth misalignment conditions among adults.

But now, it is possible to treat those issues despite age. This gives hope to millions who can now benefit from its use. Many are now availing of teeth braces to correct various teeth misalignment conditions.

There is the need to address those issues because dental problems are connected to other health problems. Our mouth being the first line of defense, what happens there could impact what happens on the rest of the body. Dental problems, unaddressed, could lead to severe ailments and diseases.

Tooth decay, gingivitis, and other problems in teeth and the mouth could lead to severe ailments, such as brain or heart ailment. Teeth misalignment conditions could give rise to the condition known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJD), which can also lead to other health problems.

Our dental and oral health, therefore, is vital, if only to avoid other health problems that may arise due to poor oral health due to neglect. Part of taking care of our teeth is to straighten and align them.

Aside from health considerations, there is also a fixation on beauty among the present generation. Truth be told, crooked teeth are unappealing, to say the least. There is no reason for us not to do something about it, especially with treatment for crooked teeth and other malocclusions available for all ages.

The popularity is also due to the necessity of keeping our teeth healthy and having the lovely smile we all desire. And from then till now, having dental braces is one of the essential solutions to many dental problems. Although not a panacea, it has been proven effective in dealing with malocclusions, whether major or minor.

But how do dental braces work?

Despite dental braces being a fad and popular with people from all walks of life and all ages, creating and making them work is a meticulous, delicate process. But there is a strict science underlying the mechanism of dental braces that allows it to be effective in treating teeth misalignment conditions and various malocclusions.

The scientific principle behind it

As mentioned, dental braces work slowly and at the right pacing, putting them into proper position after a designated period. Sounds simple right? But it involves a very complex physiological process.

As your teeth slowly move, your physiology responds to those movements, allowing them to move without having adverse effects on your body or health.

As your teeth move, ligaments become compressed on one side and stretched on the other side. As the ligaments compress the bone on that side become necrotic, and the bone tissue dies. An inflammation process starts, and bone-eating cells, called osteoclasts, will eat the dead bone tissue.

The process removes the bone tissue. It clears the way for the tooth to move in that direction. On the other side of the tooth on the stretched ligament a new bone will start to form. This is due to bone-creating cells called osteoblasts. The tooth will be firmly in its new position once the new bone forms around it.

The process is a delicate one. It is easy to understand why dental braces therapy is tedious and involves severe discomfort and pain. It involves, after all, moving, stretching, and compressing ligaments, bone necrosis, and bone formation, none is relaxing and pleasurable.

The "no pain no glory" dictum surely applies when wearing dental braces. But the discomfort and pain do not last forever; it does not last that long. You might feel intense pain and discomfort during the first few days, but as the process starts “grinding” you can expect pain and discomfort to subside.

But it is for this reason, dental braces therapy needs to be as accurate as possible. Any simple misstep or error can lead to severe complications. Wrong calculations, of position, pace, and movement of the teeth, can result in permanent, lasting damage to the teeth. Malocclusions might remain untreated, and so does pain and discomfort.

And that is why this delicate process must always be in the hands of experts and specialists. It is because of the high-level skill, degree of difficulty or treatment, and high level of accuracy needed that making dental braces command such a price. For this reason, too, dental braces are specific and customized for a particular client.

Parts of dental braces

There are many types of dental braces, which we will discuss later. Whatever dental braces a patient may wear, it involves the same process and has the same underlying scientific principle.

Though there are several types of dental braces, the parts of the dental braces, except for clear aligners, are pretty much the same. They operate on the same principle and have the same function. To understand better how dental braces work, let us discuss the different parts and how the dental braces move the teeth.

Here are the parts of typical dental braces:


Brackets are the small square objects attached to the front of every tooth. The dentist could attach brackets to your teeth either by using bonding material to attach them to the tooth or by using orthodontic bands.

Brackets are usually made of metal, like stainless steel or even gold, or ceramics. Plastic material is also an option. The kind of brackets would ultimately depend on what type of braces one wears.

Brackets are like handles, holding the arch wires responsible for moving your teeth and putting them into proper position.

Arch wires

Arch wires are usually thin wires attached to the brackets. They are the ones moving your teeth in increments, slowly but at the right tempo. They do so by putting pressure on all of your teeth, resulting in movement. Arch wires are made of metal, but they could be tooth-colored or transparent too.

Ligature elastics

Popularly known as O-rings, ligature elastics are those colorful ties you see that link the arch wires to the brackets.

Bonding material/orthodontic bands

This is the material attached or cemented to your teeth, providing an anchor for your brackets. They could be of metal or colored materials attached to your teeth. They could also be bonding resin applied to your teeth, which will make the brackets stick to your teeth.

Having in mind the underlying science about dental braces, this is how they work. Brackets are attached to the teeth, through bonding material or orthodontic bands. The ligature elastics will attach the arch wires to the brackets. The arch wires attached to different brackets in the teeth, will cause the tooth to move in increments.

Applying the exact pressure is a must. Errors in the calculation might result in the teeth moving too fast or too slow, making the treatment ineffective. Worse, it can cause damage to the teeth, making the treatment worse than the condition it is trying to cure.

Depending on the nature of the teeth misalignment condition or severity of it, the dentist might require the patient to wear headgear. This is usually done to correct bite problems or address issues of crowding.

In essence, this is how dental braces work. Dentists recommend dental braces for teeth misalignment conditions and malocclusions, even those severe ones.

A particular type of dental braces are only for minor teeth misalignment conditions. They are the clear aligners. In materials and parts, they are entirely different from other types of dental braces. The underlying principle of treating teeth misalignment conditions remains the same, however.

But are dental braces safe and truly effective?

Despite the discomfort most people experience during the first few days of having dental braces, they are safe. All materials, metal and stainless steel, ceramics, and plastics, passed the standards. The plastics used are BPA-free; some even claim that the materials used are FDA-approved.

Some may be sensitive to certain chemical compounds and metals and may experience allergic reactions, on nickel, for instance. If the patient has specific allergies, the specialist can recommend other dental braces that contain materials safe for the patient.

There are some instances though of people having issues with dental braces. The situation might be due to circumstances peculiar to the patient, like tooth decay, gum disease, or improper oral hygiene. These things might impact the treatment negatively and affect the effectiveness of braces.

A poor treatment plan, which might result in poor execution and low level of accuracy, may also cause damage or render the treatment ineffective, at the very least. There is the possibility of relapse or tooth moving into the wrong position.

Generally, though, dental braces are effective in correcting a variety of malocclusions and teeth misalignment conditions. The success rate differs per person: a website suggests that for teens, or those aged 12-16, the success rate is perfect, whereas the success rate for adults up to 47 is around 70%.

But those are for severe teeth misalignment. For those with mild or moderate teeth conditions, the success rate could be 100 percent, regardless of age or other circumstances.

What do dental braces treat?

Dentists recommend dental braces for people with minor and even severe malocclusions and teeth misalignment conditions. Problems that are not severe, require surgery, and are never too mild, would be ideal for dental braces.

Crooked teeth are the most common malocclusion for which dental braces might be effective. Other conditions are overbite, underbite, crowding, gapped tooth, and open bite.

But the ultimate question as to who would need to wear dental braces must be left to the experts. Dentists and orthodontists are the best specialists to assess whether one needs dental braces or not. Any patient must also be carefully examined and wear dental braces only after careful consideration.

What are the types of dental braces?

In the past, there were only typical braces, and they were worn only by people of a certain age. Today, not only dental braces are available for most adults, but they can also make them aesthetically pleasing, fashionable, and stylish. Patients have more and better options, but they can also make it trendy and suitable to their liking.

There are four types of braces, each with distinct advantages and drawbacks. Patients and specialists can talk about the pros and cons and balance them to find suitable dental braces for teeth misalignment conditions.

Traditional braces

Traditional braces, or traditional metal braces, are your typical braces. Made of metal or stainless steel, with wires, they are what comes to mind when we talk of dental braces. Even now, they are the most common dental braces worldwide.

They are of metal, like stainless steel or titanium. They are the standard model for other dental braces, for they have been proven efficient in treating teeth misalignment conditions for decades now.

They are cheaper than other dental braces, though more expensive than clear, invisible aligners. Aside from the material and skill, those who wear traditional braces will need frequent intervention from a specialist.

The drawback of traditional braces is that it is more difficult to clean your teeth while wearing traditional braces. It is relatively expensive compared to clear aligners but not as fashionable as ceramic braces. On the other hand, it is more durable than ceramic braces or clear aligners because they are made of metal or stainless steel.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces are not that different from traditional braces, except for the brackets being made of ceramic. Ceramic braces are more fashionable, for they can have brackets of different colors. If one does not want to attract much attention to the dental braces, they can make them clear or transparent.

It is more popular among the hip and the trendy. The best thing about it is that you can undergo the treatment of traditional metal braces, but with a more stylish, aesthetic appeal.

The problem with ceramic braces is that they are less durable than traditional braces, for they are not made of metal but instead of ceramics. The brackets are noticeable: they are larger than those in the traditional braces.

Ceramic braces are harder to clean too, and did we say that they are more expensive than traditional braces, by almost a grand or two?

Lingual braces

Lingual braces are braces you put at the back of the teeth, beside the tongue, instead of the front. That is why they called it lingual braces. They are hidden and perfect for those who do not want unwanted attention for the treatment of their malocclusion. No one will notice if one is wearing lingual braces.

It requires a high level of skill and precision to install lingual braces. Installing them to a patient is a far more tedious, complicated, and delicate process than those used for traditional braces, ceramic braces, and even clear aligners. For this reason, they command a far higher price. Lingual braces are the most expensive dental braces of the four.

And despite braces being ideal for many malocclusions, such is not the case with lingual braces. A specialist must thoroughly examine the patient to determine whether one will benefit from having lingual braces. Due to the position of lingual braces, one may develop a temporary lisp at first.

Clear aligners

Clear or invisible aligners are among the recent trends in dental braces. Invisible are unlike the three dental braces mentioned, for they are made of plastic and completely removable. They are also transparent and almost invisible, hence, the term “clear aligners.”

They are the least expensive of the four and promise the shortest treatment. Invisible aligner therapy lasts from four months, to at least ten months, depending on the type of clear aligners and the teeth condition. Unlike the first three types of braces, clear aligners are only effective for mild and moderate teeth misalignment conditions.

Some offer remote treatment, meaning one need not go to any dental office as they undergo invisible aligner therapy. This, together with the price, makes clear aligners popular among some people.


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