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A Patient`s Guide to Braces

Everyone wants to have a beautiful smile, but sometimes smiles need help. Braces have been helping people effectively straighten their teeth for decades, giving them winning smiles that improve their chewing abilities, reduce the chances of tooth decay and boost their self confidence. If you are considering braces you are going to want to know more about them. This guide will discuss the basics of braces and what to expect once you have them.

What are braces?

Braces consist of four basic parts: The brackets, the bonding material or metal band, the arch wire and the ligature elastic or o-ring. Brackets are made of metal or ceramic and are attached to each individual tooth. The brackets are attached to the teeth using the bonding material or metal bands. The arch wire is a thin metal wire which connects each bracket and exerts pressure on the teeth. The ligature elastic or o-ring is a small coloured elastic that holds the bracket onto the arch wire. These ligatures will typically be changed at each adjustment visit. Some brackets do not require elastic ligatures, and are referred to as self-ligating braces.

How do braces work?

Braces exert pressure on your teeth in order to gradually shift them into their proper positions. The teeth move when the arch wire puts pressure on the brackets, though sometimes springs or rubber bands are also required to help exert more force in a specific direction. The constant pressure exerted by the braces gradually moves the teeth.

Your teeth are surrounded by gum tissue, under which sits the Periodontal Membrane (also called the Periodontal Ligament or PDL) which encases the bottom portion of your tooth. On the other side of the Periodontal ligament is the Alveolar bone. When you wear braces, the pressure on your teeth causes the Periodontal Membrane to stretch on one side and contract on the other. This slowly loosens the tooth, causing the bone to grow in and anchor the tooth into its new position. This technique is called bone re-modeling.

The braces are able to pull on your teeth because of the material arch wires are made of. These materials want to keep the arch wire straight, so it resists being bent when it is bonded to your teeth. These materials also react to heat, and their stiffness increases when they warm. Because your mouth is significantly warmer than room temperature this caused the arch wire to stiffen even more, pulling the teeth into place.

How long will I need braces?

How long it takes to straighten your teeth depends on the individual. Osteoblast (the part where the Alveolar bone grows to re anchor your teeth) typically takes about 90 days. However, setting your teeth into their permanent new positions can take up to 10 months. During this time you will likely be given a retainer, which is a removable oral device made of metal and plastic. It fits against the roof or floor of your mouth and the wire portions are used to hold your teeth into their new positions. It is very important that you wear your retainer so that your teeth do not shift back towards their original positions.

Are there any alternatives?

Depending on how far your teeth need to be shifted you may be a candidate for Invisalign. Invisalign consists of a set of custom fit clear aligners that fit over your teeth. These aligners slowly shift your teeth in the same way braces do.

For more information about braces or Invisalign, or to book an appointment, call the Marlborough Dental Clinic today at 403.248.2066 and visit

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