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How do braces work?

Feb 23, 2024

Braces stand as one of the most common and effective solutions for achieving proper dental alignment. But have you ever wondered, "How do braces work?" From correcting overbites to realigning crowded teeth, braces play a pivotal role in enhancing both oral health and aesthetics. Understanding how braces work empowers individuals embarking on their orthodontic journey to make informed decisions about their dental care

Let us uncover the secrets behind "how do braces work" and how they help create beautiful, healthy smiles.

How do braces work to straighten teeth?

Orthodontic braces actively shift teeth and jaws by applying constant pressure, thereby altering the appearance of the smile. Brackets affixed to the teeth hold an archwire, which applies pressure to shift the teeth. Over time, this pressure forces crooked teeth to move into alignment.

Understanding the construction of teeth is key to comprehending the mechanism of braces. Gum tissue called gingiva surrounds the visible portion of the tooth, while the tooth's lower part is encased in soft tissue known as the periodontal membrane or ligament.

As pressure is applied, the periodontal membrane stretches on one side and compresses on the other, causing the tooth to loosen slightly. New bone then forms to support the tooth. This process, called bone remodeling, is where the magic happens to straighten crooked teeth.

Orthodontists periodically adjust braces by tightening or replacing the archwire to maintain consistent pressure and guide the teeth into their desired positions. Retainers are often used afterward to preserve the new alignment. With regular orthodontic care, individuals can achieve the straight, healthy smiles they desire.

What types of braces are available?

There are several varieties of braces to consider, and the best type for you depends on factors like your specific dental issue, the severity of your condition, and your personal preferences.

Metal braces

Traditional metal braces often come to mind when envisioning braces. They utilize stainless steel bands, brackets, and wires to gradually shift teeth into alignment.

Your dentist or orthodontist will affix a bracket to each tooth using bonding material and then thread a thin, flexible archwire through the brackets. Small elastic bands, known as ligatures, firmly secure the wire.

Metal braces are noticeable when you smile. However, you can opt for clear or tooth-colored ligatures to minimize their visibility. Alternatively, you can embrace a festive flair by choosing brightly colored ligatures.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces, also called clear braces, function similarly to metal braces. The primary distinction lies in the tooth-colored brackets, wires, and ligatures, which blend in with your smile. While ceramic braces are still visible, they're less conspicuous than metal ones. One downside to ceramic braces is their increased fragility compared to metal braces, making them more prone to breakage.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces resemble traditional braces, but they are positioned on the back surfaces of your teeth instead of the front. Many individuals opt for lingual braces because they prefer their braces to be less visible to others.

Self-Ligating Bracestypes of braces

Self-ligating braces bear a striking resemblance to traditional metal braces. The primary distinction lies in their mechanism for holding the archwire in place. Unlike traditional braces, self-ligating braces utilize a built-in system instead of ligatures (tiny elastic bands).

Clear Aligners

Commonly known as "invisible braces," clear aligners offer an alternative to traditional braces. Instead of brackets and wires, clear aligners consist of a series of custom-made trays designed to gradually straighten your teeth. Notable brands include Invisalign® and ClearCorrect®.

With clear aligners, you wear each set of trays for approximately two weeks before progressing to the next set in the series. Unlike metal braces, clear aligners are removable. However, to ensure effectiveness, they should be worn for at least 22 hours each day, with removal only for eating, drinking, and teeth brushing.

How do Braces Work? – Which Issues Are Addressed First?

Braces treatment typically unfolds in three distinct phases:

Phase One – Alignment and Leveling

Orthodontists initiate the process by repositioning the teeth to sit uniformly side by side. This involves moving teeth vertically, horizontally, or diagonally to align their edges into a straight line.

Phase Two – Bite Correction

In the second stage, orthodontists adjust braces to rectify bite irregularities such as underbites, overbites, and crossbites. Any gaps in the patient's smile are typically closed during this phase.

Phase Three – Refinement

During the final months of treatment, dentists perform refinements and adjustments to ensure each tooth settles into its optimal position before removing the braces. This phase is crucial for achieving a perfectly aligned smile.

How do braces work differently for adults compared to children?

Although individuals of any age can benefit from wearing braces, there are advantages to initiating treatment at a younger age.

During adolescence, the jaw continues to grow, and the underlying tissues shift as a person transitions into adulthood. The jaw exhibits greater flexibility at this stage, and teeth are more receptive to movement. Consequently, braces are particularly effective in addressing crooked teeth in young patients, with treatment duration typically shorter than in adults.

When will you see changes with braces?

Even though braces constantly push on your teeth, you won't notice your teeth moving every day. After the dentist adjusts your braces, your teeth might feel a little sore for a few days until you get used to the new pressure. The braces keep your teeth in place between visits until your next appointment.

Braces have to move teeth slowly to avoid hurting you and damaging the roots and bone around your teeth. It takes time for teeth to shift and for the bone to adjust to the new positions.

Everyone's orthodontic journey is different. Some people might only need braces for six months for minor fixes, while others with more complex problems might need them for up to three years. It all depends on what your teeth need to look and feel their best.


Understanding how braces work demystifies the process of orthodontic treatment. The mechanisms may vary from metal braces to clear aligners, but the goal remains the same: to align teeth and enhance smiles. Embracing the journey of orthodontic treatment means embracing the transformation it brings. So, if you're considering braces, take the first step towards a confident smile today!

Are you prepared to start your path to a straighter smile? Book an appointment with Dr. Afroz Burges DDS, PA. New patients can call 281-547-2632, while existing patients can reach us at 713-340-2889.


How Quickly Do Teeth Move with Braces?

You can anticipate seeing small changes in your teeth about 4 weeks after getting your braces. Bigger shifts that are more noticeable take longer to become apparent, usually around 2-3 months after bonding.

How do Braces Actually Work?

Metal braces work by utilizing stainless steel bands, brackets, and wires to gradually move your teeth. Your dentist or orthodontist will attach a bracket to each tooth using a bonding material, then place a thin, flexible archwire over the brackets. Small elastic bands, known as ligatures, securely hold the wire.

Is Getting Braces Painful?

Getting braces doesn't typically cause pain, but you might feel some discomfort. As your mouth adjusts to the braces, some patients experience soreness or achiness in their jaw. Simple remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers and saltwater rinses can effectively ease braces discomfort.



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