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How Do Braces Work?

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Orthodontic treatment has come a long way, and braces remain one of the most effective ways to achieve a healthy, straight smile. Whether you are a teen or an adult curious about how braces work, understanding the science and mechanics behind this dental treatment can help make it seem less intimidating. 

Braces straighten teeth by exerting continuous pressure over time, gradually shifting them into desired positions. Braces comprise a few parts that help them work effectively, including brackets, archwires, bands, spacers, and ligatures.

With any new dental treatment, you’ll likely have questions. If you’re considering braces, we recommend visiting your dentist or orthodontist for a consultation to discuss your options and learn more about what you can expect from your treatment.

The Basics of Braces

At their core, braces are orthodontic devices designed to correct misaligned teeth and jaws. They consist of several key components:

  • Brackets: These are small squares bonded directly to the front of each tooth. They hold the archwire in place.
  • Archwire: This thin metal wire runs through the brackets and applies pressure to move the teeth into the desired position.
  • Bands: These stainless steel rings are cemented to your molars, and help anchor the archwire.
  • Spacers: Small rubber bands or metal rings placed between teeth to create space for bands.
  • Ligatures: These tiny rubber bands or wires hold the archwire to the brackets.
  • Elastic Bands: They exert additional pressure on the teeth, aiding in jaw and bite alignment.

How Exactly Do Braces Work?

Braces work by applying continuous pressure over a period of time to move teeth slowly in a specific direction. As the teeth move, the bone changes shape to accommodate their new positions. 

1. Initial Placement

The first step involves placing the brackets on your teeth using a special adhesive. Once the brackets are in place, the archwire is threaded through them and secured with ligatures or elastic bands.

2. Gentle Pressure

Once in place, the archwire exerts gentle, constant pressure on the teeth. This pressure encourages the periodontal membrane (the tissue surrounding the teeth and bone) to stretch on one side and compress, allowing the teeth to shift.

3. Bone Remodelling

As the teeth move, the bone around them changes shape through a process called bone remodeling. Osteoclasts break down bone on the compressed side, while osteoblasts build new bone on the stretched side. This process allows the teeth to settle into their new positions.

4. Regular Adjustments

Regular visits to your dentist or orthodontist are crucial for the success of your braces. During these visits, the orthodontist will adjust the archwire and possibly change the ligatures, ensuring that the right amount of pressure is applied to continue moving the teeth in the desired direction.

5. Retention

Once your teeth have moved into their final positions, the braces are removed, and a retainer is often used to keep your teeth in place. This step is essential to prevent teeth from returning to their original positions.

How Long Do Braces Take to Work?

The duration of orthodontic treatment with braces varies depending on individual cases. Factors such as the severity of misalignment, the type of braces used, and the patient’s age can all influence treatment time. On average, most patients wear braces for 2 to 3 years, but some may require shorter or longer periods.

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment

The benefits of braces can extend beyond achieving a beautiful smile. Orthodontic treatment can help address dental issues that–if left untreated–could lead to more severe problems. 

Here are a few additional advantages of braces:

  • Improved Oral Health: Individuals with misaligned bites may have trouble chewing some foods. Crooked and crowded teeth can create challenges when it comes to maintaining good oral hygiene. Straight teeth can be easier to clean, helping to reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.
  • Better Functionality: Protruding teeth are also more prone to becoming chipped or broken. Properly aligned teeth can reduce this risk and improve biting, chewing, and speaking.

Are Braces Painful?

One of the most common questions from those considering braces is whether the treatment is painful. The experience of wearing braces can vary significantly from person to person, but here are some general points to consider:

Initial Discomfort

When braces are first positioned, it is normal to experience some discomfort or soreness in the teeth and gums. Discomfort can occur because your mouth is not accustomed to the braces, and the appliance has started exerting pressure on the teeth. Discomfort is typically mild and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Adjustments & Tightening

During regular orthodontic appointments, the orthodontist adjusts the archwire and sometimes replaces the ligatures. Although adjustments are necessary to keep the treatment on track, they can cause temporary soreness as the teeth respond to the newly applied pressure. The discomfort usually subsides within a few days.

Let’s Talk About Braces

Understanding how braces work can demystify the orthodontic process and help you feel more prepared if you’re just starting your braces journey. By applying gentle, continuous pressure, braces gradually move teeth into ideal positions, resulting in a healthier, straighter smile.

If you’re considering braces or are already undergoing orthodontic treatment, remember that patience and regular visits to your orthodontist are key. At Shawnessy Dental Centre, we’re committed to helping you achieve a brighter smile through experienced orthodontic care.

Ready to start your journey to a straighter smile? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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