How Do Braces Work?

Braces are incredibly common things to have, with 33% of the world’s population having undergone this orthodontic treatment, either to have a nicer smile, or to correct a malocclusion. Even still, many people, including those who wear braces, really want to know–how do braces work? They understand that they are used to realign teeth, but what exactly goes into play that brings them success in doing so?

This article will break down the aspects of braces and explain how braces work to give you that beautiful and straight smile.

What are the Parts of Braces?

The components of braces will be detailed here. They are as follows:

  • Brackets. Brackets can be crafted out of ceramic or metal. A bracket will be connected to each individual tooth.
  • Archwire. Archwire is a thin metal wire that goes from one bracket to the next to put pressure on the teeth.
  • Ligature elastics. Also called an o-ring, this little, colored elastic holds the bracket onto the archwire. The ligatures are typically switched out for new ones at each appointment for an adjustment. Some types of brackets don’t need elastic ligatures, but these elastics are very common.
  • Bands. Orthodontic bands are typically placed on the back teeth in order to secure the archwire and attach springs.

How Do Braces Work?

Brackets and the archwire do the most work of all of the parts of braces in regards to their function. Let’s take a look into how do braces work through brackets and archwire.

How Do Braces Work: the Role of Brackets

This section explains how brackets work to align your teeth.

A bracket is a rectangular metal item which is placed on each tooth, and it possesses a little slot in which the wire will run through. Orthodontists may use many different types of brackets, but the most common material used is stainless steel. Other materials may include glass or ceramic.

A bracket is attached to the enamel of every tooth that is to be moved with a special adhesive or cement. This adhesive even sucks in fluoride to help prevent cavities from popping up while wearing braces. The orthodontist will place a bracket on each tooth that is to be shifted.

Through studies, it has been made clear how each tooth needs to analyzed for its tip and torque measurements in order to properly align the teeth.  These measurements are needed in order know how far each tooth needs to move so that it ends up in its new corrected position. The brackets will then move the teeth as needed. A specific bracket gets made for each tooth with the knowledge of its individual tip and torque. When wire is put into the slots of each bracket, the wire will begin to move the tooth to its needed location. If the tooth isn’t moving as it should, the orthodontist will bend the wire in order to facilitate the proper movement.

How Do Braces Work: the Role of Archwire

The archwire is the wire that can be seen running along the braces, and its purpose is just as important as the brackets. Archwires are available in many sizes and materials, such as nickel titanium and stainless steel. The archwire is kept in position with an elastic band, available in many colors.

A tooth will move at its best when light forces are used opposed to rough ones. An orthodontist will use this archwire as it deforms easily, and will go back to its original shape afterwards. During the beginning phases of treatment, the orthodontist will want to turn the teeth, and begin to align the tops of your teeth into one level.

They will use a light wire that can bend easily, but will not be permanently altered. When the wire goes back to its original shape, it works to move the tooth into its rightful position slowly.

You might notice that the orthodontist will want to change your archwire often. This is done by moving from small, round wires to thick, rectangular ones. By doing this, they are slowly filling the slot in the bracket until the bracket and the wire moves the tooth into the desired space. Using heavy wire right away isn’t possible, as it wouldn’t fit, and the patient would be extremely uncomfortable.

With a better tooth alignment achieved, the orthodontist will change the wire out to something that can be bent, such as stainless steel. Then the orthodontist will go ahead, and bend the wire to polish up the movements.


Many components go into the function of braces such as brackets, archwire, elastics and adherent, but the two main forces that get the job of moving your teeth done are the brackets, and the archwire. These two work together in harmony to move the tooth into its predetermined location.

What has your experiences with braces been like? Do you have any clarifying questions regarding on how do braces work, and the movement of the teeth? Let us know in the “Comments” section.

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