Dental braces (also known as orthodontic braces, or braces) are devices used in orthodontics that align and straighten teeth and help to position them with regard to a person’s bite, while also working to improve dental health. They are often used to correct underbites, as well as malocclusions, overbites, cross bites, open bites, deep bites, crooked teeth, and various other flaws of the teeth and jaw. Braces can be either cosmetic or structural. Dental braces are often used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances to help widen the palate or jaws and to otherwise assist in shaping the teeth and jaws.
The application of braces moves the teeth as a result of force and pressure on the teeth. There are four basic elements that are needed in order to help move the teeth. In the case of traditional metal or wire braces, one uses brackets, bonding material, arch wire, and ligature elastic, also called an “O-ring” to help align the teeth. The teeth move when the arch wire puts pressure on the brackets and teeth. Sometimes springs or rubber bands are used to put more force in a specific direction.
Braces have constant pressure, which over time, move teeth into their proper positions. Occasionally adults may need to wear headgear to keep certain teeth from moving. When braces put pressure on one’s teeth, the periodontal membrane stretches on one side and is compressed on the other. This movement needs to be done slowly otherwise the patient risks losing his or her teeth. This is why braces are commonly worn for approximately two and a half years and adjustments are only made every three or four weeks.