Braces vary in appearance. Some braces are clear, nearly invisible, while others are made of stainless steel and may or may not have colored elastics around them. All braces are designed to enable the orthodontist to move teeth in three dimensions.

Teeth move through the use of force. The force applied by the archwire pushes the tooth in a particular direction and a stress is created within the periodontal ligament. The modification of the periodontal blood supply determines a biological response which leads to bone remodeling, where bone is created on one side by osteoblast cells and resorbed on the other side by osteoclasts.

A tooth will usually move about a millimeter per month during orthodontic movement, but there is high individual variability. Orthodontic mechanics can vary in efficiency, thus explaining a wide range of response to orthodontic treatment.


The first step is to determine if braces are suitable for the patient. The doctor consults with the patient and inspects the teeth visually. If braces are appropriate, a records appointment is set up where X-rays, molds, and impressions are made. These records are analyzed to determine the problems and proper course of action. Typical treatment times vary from six months to two and a half years depending on the complexity and types of problems. Orthognathic surgery may be required in extreme cases.

Teeth to be braced will have an applied to help the cement bond to the surface of the tooth. In most cases the teeth will be banded and then brackets will be added. A bracket will be applied with dental cement, and then cured with light until hardened. This process usually takes a few seconds per tooth. If required, orthodontic spacers may be inserted between the molars to make room for molar bands to be placed at a later date. Molar bands are required to ensure brackets will stick. Bands are also utilized when dental fillings or other dental work make securing a bracket to a tooth infeasible.

An archwire will be threaded between the brackets and affixed with elastic or metal ligatures. Elastics are available in a wide variety of colors, but some orthodontists may not provide the color that would have been preferred by the patient. Archwires are bent, shaped, and tightened frequently to achieve the desired results. Brackets with hooks can be placed, or hooks can be created and affixed to the archwire to affix the elastic to. The placement and configuration of the elastics will depend on the course of treatment and the individual patient. Elastics are made in different diameters, colors, sizes, and strengths.

Each month or two, the braces must be adjusted. This helps shift the teeth into the correct position. When they get adjusted the orthodontist takes off the colored rubber bands keeping the wire in place. The wire is then taken out, and may be replaced or modified. When the wire has been placed back into the mouth, the patient may choose a color for the new rubber bands, which are then fixed to the metal brackets. The adjusting process may cause some discomfort, which is normal.

After getting the braces on they hurt for about 3 days – 1 week. Likewise, the same is true for elastics. Most patients switch to soft foods during this time, but in a few days, they will be able to go back to eating most of the foods that they have always enjoyed eating.