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How Do Braces Work?

BY: Editors | Jun 10, 2016

How Do Braces Work? Hero

How do braces work? The short answer is pressure and time. When you’re thinking of getting braces, either for yourself or your little ones, your research might turn up some surprising facts.

For example, orthodontics has advanced enough that even metal braces can be installed without being too obvious. But even if you can’t see them, they’re still hard at work. Read on to find out exactly how they straighten smiles, how to take care of them, and how long you’ll need to wear them.

How do braces work?

There are a few different configurations that braces can take, but all of them use generally the same principles to leave patients with straight teeth. A metal or ceramic bracket is glued onto each tooth, to which the orthodontist attaches a thin wire that squeezes molars and bicuspids into alignment. The doctor may also hook tiny rubber bands onto the brackets to adjust the strength and direction of the force of the wire. Through this constant, gentle pressure, they slowly and permanently shift into an even plane.

How long does it take to get braces?

Budget about one or two hours for your appointment, and be prepared—it won’t be the most pleasant experience. First, the dentist cleans and dries your teeth, then applies the adhesive that will hold the brackets in place. The glue is 100% safe, but it might not taste great. As each tooth is prepared, the orthodontist carefully places the bracket, and finally stretches the wire from molar to molar. The process shouldn’t hurt, but afterward your mouth may be sore.

How long will I have to wear braces?

On average, people wear braces for 1–3 years. Most patients then need to wear a retainer all the time for the first six months, but they eventually graduate to just wearing one while they sleep.

How do I brush my teeth with braces?

When you have braces, it’s more important than ever to keep your pearly whites clean—too bad all those wires are in the way.

But it’s actually not that hard to do. First, rinse your mouth out with water to flush away any errant food particles. Next, brush the gumline at a 45-degree angle, and then reposition the brush to scrub the tops and bottoms of each bracket. This will prevent decay from starting within the braces themselves. Finally, clean the edges of the teeth, and finish up by cleaning your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

Clear aligners vs. metal braces

After doing your research, you may find that systems that use clear aligners, such as Invisalign, suit your needs better. Unlike metal braces, these transparent trays are removed for eating, brushing, and flossing, and are swapped out every 2–3 weeks until the teeth have been moved into their proper position. The major drawback is that they are less capable of effecting major realignments.

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