How do braces work?

     A lot of people wonder how braces work. It helps to first understand what the components of the actual braces are. After that, we will go over what happens on a biological level.

What braces are made of 

The first component of braces is the brackets, which are the small metal pieces cemented individually to each tooth. Each kind of tooth has a specific kind of bracket to help it move to its ideal position. This is why, for instance, the brackets on the incisors look different from the brackets on the molars. Dr. Peterson uses the newest and most innovative brackets on the market called the Pitts21 self-ligating brackets. Every bracket has a small door which is used to click the archwire into place. Self-ligating brackets don’t require the colored ties to hold the wire in place. This allows the teeth to move more freely. But don’t worry, if you have good hygiene you can still get fun colored ties on them. The archwire is the thin metal wire secured into each bracket and spanning the entire arch. The archwire is what does the heavy lifting in the business of moving teeth. Archwires want to move back to their original form, which creates constant pressure and causes the teeth to move. Other components such as springs, steel ties, or hooks may also be used, but not every treatment includes these.

The role of bone remodeling in orthodontic treatment

If you took anatomy & physiology in high school, you may recall learning about bone remodeling. In short, cells called osteoclasts destroy old bone, while osteoblasts are cells that form new bone. The root of each tooth is surrounded by the periodontal ligament. Constant pressure from the archwire causes one side of the tooth to compress against the periodontal ligament, which creates space on the opposite side. Osteoclasts destroy the now unnecessary bone on the compressed side, a process known as resorption. Meanwhile, osteoblasts fill in the empty space on the other side with fresh new bone tissue, a process known as deposition. Resorption takes only a few days, but deposition takes a couple months. That’s why it’s so essential that you wear retainers after treatment is over. The new bone needs some time to stabilize before it can help hold the teeth in their new positions.


Orthodontic treatment can sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. At Peterson Family Orthodontics in San Tan Valley AZ, we want every patient to feel that they have an active role in their orthodontic care. An understanding of how braces work helps you to be an informed patient. If you are ever interested in learning more, feel free to ask your orthodontist at your next appointment!

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