Metal Wire Braces: Use, Care & Expectations

Metal wire braces continue to remain one of the most popular ways to straighten teeth safely and effectively. In our article, we’re going to explain what metal wire braces are and compare them to their clear alternatives. In addition, we’re also going to cover what you can expect during your treatment plan, and offer a few braces cleaning tips as well.

What Are Metal Braces?

Metal wire braces are one of the most common types of braces for orthodontic patients. Compared to when they first came out, the metal braces of today are significantly smaller and much more comfortable.

One of the most common questions people want to ask is what metal are braces made out of? Although they can be made from a wide range of metals and metal composites, the two main materials that are used today are stainless steel and titanium. The type your dentist decides to use will be determined by a wide range of factors including your overall budget, the degree of teeth straightening required, and the length of your treatment plan.

Metal braces are typically comprised of three different components. The first component is the brackets. These small squares are attached to each tooth’s surface using a special bonding agent. They help distribute pressure and are used to mount the rest of the braces components.

The next part is called the archwire. This is the main driving force that exerts pressure constantly on your teeth. Your dentist will adjust this occasionally to apply varying amounts of force to encourage your teeth to move in the proper direction.

The last part of metal braces is called ligature elastics. For patients, we typically just call them rubber bands. This part is used to hold the archwire to the brackets. During each appointment, your dentist will change these out to ensure that the proper amount of force is being maintained.

Metal Wire Braces vs the Alternatives

When it comes to teeth straightening, metal wire braces are not the only option available. There are also clear aligners like Invisalign as well. Each of these types of products has their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start with the main benefits of traditional metal braces. For starters, metal braces are much more effective at treating various bite and jaw problems than clear aligners. The degree of tooth movement that can be achieved with metal braces is also significantly better as well. However, metal braces do tend to be much more noticeable.

Another issue that is associated with metal braces is that your food choices are a bit more limited. Patients who love to chew gum will be sorely disappointed to find that these types of items are strictly forbidden while you are undergoing treatment.

For clear aligners, their main benefit is that they are virtually undetectable. Another huge plus is that they tend to produce faster results and you can take them out to eat your favorite foods without limitation. It’s also much easier to clean your teeth normally, since the aligners can be removed as well.

woman wearing invisalign braces

However, the range of bite and teeth straightening issues that clear aligners can address is much more limited than with traditional metal braces. They also tend to cost significantly more and some insurance plans may opt to cover a smaller portion of the total treatment costs. Ultimately, the best bet is to talk with your orthodontist to determine which option is best for your unique needs.

What to Expect With Metal Braces

One of the biggest things to expect initially with metal braces is an adjustment period for talking. During this time, you will experience slurred speech and will find certain words and sounds difficult to say at first. However, this is often short-lived and you will adjust to the feeling of your new orthodontic appliances over the next few days.

Another issue that you will experience at first is an increase in sensitivity and overall mouth pain. This is common for all types of braces and occurs as a result of the increased pressure that is being applied. As your teeth shift successfully and adjust to their new positions, the pain will decrease with time.

However, keep in mind that the pain and sensitivity will likely return each time you visit your orthodontist to receive an adjustment to your braces. This is due to your teeth shifting again to a new position. As your body adjusts to the process, the degree of pain often decreases with each visit and the recovery period tends to improve.

As for the total treatment time, this will vary based on your age, the degree of teeth straightening required, and any underlying jaw issues that may be present. In most cases, a typical adult’s treatment plan last anywhere from 18 months to three years.

However, once your treatment plan is over, you are left with a perfect smile. Although some users may report temporary staining where the brackets were once bonded, your hygienist can typically resolve this with a thorough cleaning. Just remember to wear your retainer for the required amount of time once your braces are off. This ensures that your teeth stay in their new position and that your new smile is correctly maintained.

How to Care for Braces

Now that you know how braces work and understand what to expect, it’s time to learn how to care for them. One of the most important things to start with when wearing braces is the type of toothpaste you should use.

While it may be tempting to stick with your favorite whitening toothpaste, most orthodontists will strongly recommend against this. The reason for this is that whitening toothpaste can leave unsightly marks where your brackets are bonded to your teeth. Instead, opt for a toothpaste that has the ADA seal of approval with anticavity ingredients like fluoride.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the type of toothpaste to use, remember to practice good brushing and flossing habits. There are a wide variety of flossers that are designed for users with braces that you can use as well. When in doubt, ask your orthodontist for any recommendations that they may have. These products can help you reach between your brackets and other hard to reach places.

As for foods, your orthodontist will likely instruct you on the types you should avoid. In general, this will include hard candies, popcorn, gum, hard taco shells, and more. Just remember to always follow their advice to ensure you get the best results possible.


Metal wire braces provide the perfect way to straighten your teeth safely and affordably. Now that you have a basic understanding of how the process works, you’re ready to find an orthodontist in your area to start your personalized treatment plan. Just remember to follow their instructions to ensure you get the best results. If you have any thoughts that you would like to share, feel free to post them in the comments section.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.