In their entirety, braces work by applying continuous pressure over a period of time to slowly move teeth in a specific direction. As the teeth move, the bony tooth socket reabsorbs and changes shape as pressure is applied.
Braces are made up of the following components:
- Brackets are the small squares that are bonded directly to each tooth with a special dental bonding agent or are attached to orthodontic bands. Brackets act like handles, holding the arch wires that move the teeth.
- Orthodontic bands are stainless steel, clear or tooth-colored materials that are cemented with dental bonding agents or cement to teeth. They wrap around each tooth to provide an anchor for the brackets. The clear or tooth-colored bands are more cosmetically appealing options but are more expensive than stainless steel. They are not used in all patients. Some people have only brackets and no bands.
- Spacers are separators that fit between teeth to create a small space prior to placement of orthodontic bands.
- Arch wires attach to the brackets and act as tracks to guide the movement of the teeth. Arch wires can be made of metal or be clear or tooth-colored.
- Ties are small rubber rings or fine wires that fasten the arch wire to the brackets. They can be clear, metal or colored.
- A buccal tube on the band of the last molar holds the end of the arch wire securely in place.
- Tiny elastic rubber bands, called ligatures, hold the arch wires to the brackets.
- Springs may be placed on the arch wires between brackets to push, pull, open or close the spaces between teeth.
- Two bands on the upper teeth may have headgear tubes on them to hold the facebow of the headgear in place. (A headgear is another tool used by orthodontists to aid in correcting irregularities of the teeth; see below)
- Elastics or rubber bands attach to hooks on brackets and are worn between the upper and lower teeth in various ways. They apply pressure to move the upper teeth against the lower teeth to achieve a perfect fit of individual teeth.
- Facebow headgear is the wire gadget that is used to move the upper molars back in the mouth to correct bite discrepancies and also to create room for crowded anterior teeth. The facebow consists of an inner metal part shaped like a horseshoe that goes in the mouth, attaching to buccal tubes, and an outer part that goes around the outside of the face and is connected to a headgear strap.