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Ever wonder, “How do braces work?” A magnifying glass close-up won’t reveal the answer. Read on for a better understanding.

How Do Braces Work to Improve Your Smile?

When someone says they are getting braces, you might envision a metallic smile or maybe even someone in headgear. You may know they will need to visit an orthodontist. You may even know someone with braces, or have even had them once yourself. Chances are you know a lot about braces, but how do braces work? Here’s a look at the three main parts of traditional braces and how they work together to improve your smile. We’ll also explore one of the alternatives to traditional braces that can be an option for some depending on their circumstances and orthodontic needs.

The Components of Traditional Braces


The first thing many people picture when they think of braces are the series of brackets on a person’s teeth. Even if you didn’t know the name of these metal parts, they are what most people associate with braces. But how do braces work with these metal parts and what purpose do they serve?

Brackets come in several forms and sizes. They are even available in different materials like ceramics, not just metal, helping each person get the exact care they need to improve their smile. While each tooth has a bracket bonded to it, the brackets are not the part of braces that do the aligning. However, your orthodontic treatment wouldn’t be successful without them as they are the anchor points for all the other parts of your braces.


You may not realize it, but the actual “muscle” behind the braces process are the archwires. These wires are prepared for the unique needs of each patient’s treatment process. Then they are connected to each bracket. They are naturally “springy,” and the fact that they want to return to their original, straighter shape creates the tension which is actually what help shift your teeth into their ideal position along the way.

They work due to this springy nature. They’re positioned on your brackets according to your current tooth position. Since they naturally want to return to their original, straighter shape, they pull your teeth in the direction that your orthodontist desires them to go, resulting in the shifting of your teeth. There are various strengths and thicknesses of archwires and you’ll need to care for them and the rest of your braces as part of your brushing and flossing routine. It is likely your ultimate goal of an improved smile will mean progressing through several sets of archwires throughout your orthodontic journey.


The tiny rubber bands are called elastics and serve as support for the archwires. Elastics help provide additional force where necessary. While they can serve other very specific purposes in the orthodontic treatment, elastics are most frequently used to help correct misaligned jaws. The elastics may be small, but they are powerful and one of the last common parts of orthodontic treatment. Since each case is unique, each patient may have different numbers and positions of elastics, or none at all, depending on the desired movement of their teeth and bite. Elastics are an important part of your orthodontic treatment, and one that you will need to remove and replace when brushing your teeth with braces.

How Do Invisalign Braces Work?

Now that you have a better understanding of how traditional metal or ceramic braces work, you may be wondering how Invisalign aligners work. Increasing in popularity, particularly with older patients, Invisalign function similarly to traditional braces although they don’t include as much “hardware.”

Models of your mouth are used to prepare a series of clear aligners. Each set in the series has a slightly different adjustment the position of your teeth. These slightly increased adjustments gently pull your teeth into the desired position as you continue wearing the aligners. As your teeth progress into the proper position at each phase, you’ll be ready for the next set of aligners.  Eventually, through this series of adjustments, your teeth will end up moving into the proper desired position resulting in an improved smile.

This alternative to traditional braces is popular, but there are pros and cons to each corrective option. One major difference between Invisalign and metal braces is that no bonding or attachment to your teeth is required. You are able to take them off briefly each day to eat or drink. While they are removable, it is very important to wear your aligners for most of the day. Failure to do so will result in stalled treatment and possibly even regression. For the most effective and timely treatment, follow your orthodontist’s instructions for your best smile ever.

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Do you have questions about how to best take care of your braces? We can answer your questions to keep your teeth and gums healthy – schedule a free consultation! Contact us online or call 440-842-8015

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