When you are told you need braces, you may have a lot of questions. Dr. Diana Almy of Fredericksburg Orthodontics knows that sometimes, children and teens want to know how things work but may not know how to ask. Here is some information about the different parts of braces and what they each do!
Braces align teeth properly, moving the teeth together or apart with guidance from Dr. Almy. But how do they do that? Orthodontic braces are made of various parts that work together to achieve the desired effect.
The archwire is the track that guides your teeth into the correct position. It’s the main wire in your mouth, and all the bands and brackets attach to it. As your treatment plan progresses, your orthodontist will adjust the archwire to bend in the direction your teeth should move. Slowly but surely, the wire guides your teeth into the right place.
A bracket is an attachment that holds the archwire in place. Each small, square bracket is bonded onto a tooth with a special type of cement. The archwire hooks into each bracket, and together they apply pressure to the teeth, slowly moving them. Brackets are normally made of stainless steel. However, they can also be made of a ceramic material. Ceramic brackets are clear, which makes them look invisible against your teeth.
Bands secure parts of your braces to a tooth. They are usually made of stainless steel, and they fit closely around an individual tooth, normally a molar in the back. Bands are cemented into place. Sometimes, brackets are bonded onto the band instead of directly onto the tooth.
Small rubber rings, called O-rings, wrap around the corners of the brackets. They keep the archwire in place. These rubber rings can be different colored to make your braces more colorful, or they can be clear to match your clear brackets. At each appointment, you will get to select new O-rings to fit your personal style.
During different times of your treatment, you may need to hook small elastic rubber bands onto a part of your top braces and a part of the bottom braces. This is yet another source of pressure to move your teeth into the correct position. Elastics must be changed several times a day and replaced when they break during the day.
A power chain is a row of rubber O-rings that are already connected. This chain is inserted over the brackets. Because the rubber rings are connected, they pull teeth together as the chain tries to contract. Power chains can also come in different colors.
A spring works the opposite effect of a power chain. The tiny metal spring is attached over the archwire and between two brackets. It pushes the brackets apart, moving teeth apart from each other. These may be used when teeth are overlapping, but there is room in the mouth to shift teeth without removing any of them.
If your orthodontist decides you need bands on your molars, and your molars are pressed tightly together, you will need a spacer or separator. A small rubber band that pushes teeth apart just far enough to make room for the thin metal band. You may need to have the spacer in your mouth for a week or two before your appointment to have your braces applied.
If your bite makes it likely that you may bite down onto the bottom braces with your top teeth, your orthodontist will probably put little plastic blocks behind the back of your upper teeth. These are called bite ramps, and they keep you from accidentally damaging your braces by biting down on them. Bite ramps are removed when they are no longer necessary.
Once you get your braces removed, you’re not finished with orthodontic treatment! You will need a retainer to hold your teeth in the correct position. Your teeth need time to settle firmly in their new place. The retainer keeps them there, even though the pressure of the braces has been removed. Most retainers are removable. Sometimes, your orthodontist may recommend a bonded retainer behind the teeth to keep a space closed.