Dental braces are devices used to correct crowded or crooked teeth, or a misaligned jaw, known as malocclusion.
Braces are most often used during adolescence, but more and more adults are getting corrective dental braces later in life.
Braces are made of metal or ceramic, wires, and bonding material that attaches them to your teeth. An orthodontist is a doctor who specializes in this kind of device and treatment for misaligned teeth.
Success rates of braces vary depending on your age when treatment begins and what your treatment goals are.
The Mayo Clinic points out that braces are generally very effective for people who use them, but their effectiveness depends on the person and their ability to carefully follow their orthodontist’s instructions.
The type of braces that your orthodontist recommends will depend on several factors, such as your age and whether you have an overbite in addition to having crooked teeth. Braces are custom-made and individual to the needs of each person.
Classic braces that come to mind for most people are made of metal brackets that are glued individually to each of your teeth. An archwire puts pressure on your teeth and jawline, and elastic O-rings connect the archwire to the brackets.
The archwire is adjusted periodically as your teeth slowly move into the desired place, and the elastic bands are switched out at orthodontist appointments.
Other types of braces include:
- ceramic “clear” braces, which are less visible
- lingual braces, which are placed completely behind your teeth
- invisible braces, also called aligner trays, which can be taken off and placed back on throughout the day
Retainers are aligner trays you’re usually given after completing treatment with traditional braces. They’re used to keep your teeth in their new place.
Braces move your teeth by exerting constant pressure on them for extended periods of time. The shape of your jaw gradually adapts to conform to this pressure.
We tend to think of our teeth as being connected directly to our jawbone, making it hard to imagine how they can be moved. But underneath your gums is a membrane surrounded by your bones that roots your teeth to your jaw. This membrane controls the position of your teeth, and it responds to the pressure being put on your teeth by braces.
Getting braces doesn’t hurt during the appointment, and it takes between one to two hours for them to be installed. You may experience soreness for the first week you have braces as you adjust. Each time your braces are adjusted by your orthodontist, you may also be sore for a few days.
After your teeth are clean and dry, ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel brackets are applied to your teeth using glue. Having the brackets applied may be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t cause pain.
These brackets will make it possible for pressure to be applied evenly to your teeth. They’re connected and surrounded by wires made of stainless steel, nickel titanium, or copper titanium.
Elastic bands, called O-rings or ligatures, are placed around the brackets once they’re on your teeth. They add to the pressure on your jaw and are typical of most traditional brace treatments.
Spacers are made of rubber bands or metal rings. Your orthodontist may place them between your molars during an appointment.
Spacers push your jaw forward by adding space at the back of your mouth. They also make room for your braces if the back of your mouth is too tight to fit them properly.
Not everyone needs spacers. They’re typically only used for a week or two at a time.
Archwires connect the brackets on your teeth. They’re the mechanism by which pressure is applied for your teeth to move into place. Archwires can be made of stainless steel as well as nickel titanium or copper titanium.
Buccal tubes are metal parts that can be attached to one of your molars. The buccal tube anchors the other parts of the braces together at the back of your mouth. Your orthodontist can then tighten and release different parts of your braces.
Coil springs are sometimes placed on the archwire of your braces. They apply pressure between two of your teeth, pressing them apart and adding space.
The need for headgear is rare, and it’s typically worn only at night. Headgear is a band that attaches to your braces to put extra pressure on your teeth when special correction is needed.