The Science and Engineering of How Braces Work

The science and engineering of how braces work can be very interesting, especially if you are a STEM kid or a gearhead. And that has nothing to do with the fact that you are getting braces. In this case, we are referring to those who just like to talk about the nuts and bolts of what makes things work.

How braces work

Understanding How Braces Work

Braces consist of brackets (the individual brace for each tooth) that are glued to the teeth. This gives us a handle to grab onto the tooth and apply proper forces. Wires are attached to the brackets, using small colored elastics or o-rings.

At Sky Ortho, we start with thin, flexible wires that are pre-formed into an ideal arch form (or a broad “U” shape). When the wire is tied into all of the brackets, it immediately starts bending back into it’s original “U” shape. So imagine that you have an almost ideal arch of teeth, except one tooth is set back from the others. When the wire is inserted and engaged, the wire is mostly relaxed except in the area where we forced it to go back to engage that tooth that is set back. In this area, the wire will be trying to relax forward into the original “U” shape.

As a result, the wires apply a light force to the tooth which will have the effect of gently dragging that tooth forward into position. Similarly, the same idea works with teeth that are rotated, too high or low, etc. We start with extremely light, flexible wires. However, as the teeth get into better alignment, we are able to use stronger, thicker, and stiffer wires. This accomplishes smaller and more precise movements.

How Braces Work

Retaining Those Beautiful Results

Finally, when all the teeth are aligned on very strong wires, we can use elastics (rubber bands) with the braces to align the bite. When both the teeth and the bite align, it is time to remove the braces! Teeth will always want to go back to where they came from originally. That is why retainers are important after we remove the braces.

Want to get even geekier? Ask Dr. Larson or Dr. Fitzgerald about 3D printing and its role in orthodontics.