It's a common question, one that curious people always ask and one that orthodontists hear all the time: "How do braces move my teeth, anyway?" It is quite mystifying how braces actually work. After all, they look just like a few thin wires and metal brackets held in place by rubber bands. It doesn't seem like teeth move at all after they have firmly rooted themselves in your mouth, but if they didn't move, then how do teeth get crooked? However, the process in which teeth move is actually almost as simple as it looks, though it does belittle the complexity of the tooth movement that is going on under your gums.
How Do Teeth Move Without Braces?
Few people ever give much thought to how their teeth move or even sit in their mouth, but it is actually quite the fascinating tale.
Teeth are attached to your jaw bone not directly, but by small ligaments that allow small natural movements in the teeth while chewing. The ligament essentially serves as a shock absorber so your tooth does not rub against the jaw bones, but also to send feedback to the brain so you can have the appropriate response when you bite too hard or bang your teeth.
Now imagine you applied prolonged pressure to a tooth, such as its neighboring teeth constantly trying to push it over in one direction. The ligament stretches on one side and compresses on the other. After enduring prolonged force, the body starts to take action by adding bone on the stretching side and eating away bone on the compressed side. This system of adding and taking away bone is what allows teeth to move slowly through the jaw bone into a new position.
However, the natural process does take awhile, but braces essentially use your mouth's own ability to move teeth by setting them down the correct path to a brilliant, straight smile.
How Braces Work
No matter if you choose traditional braces or newer invisible models, the process used by braces to straighten teeth remains the same. They may look simple, but braces are a mechanical system that is used to deliver controlled force to your teeth.
Orthodontists will use certain well positioned teeth as anchors and braces work to pull other teeth in a particular direction that will ultimately result in a beautiful smile. Invisible braces are specially crafted to fit your mouth to do just that while traditional methods attach brackets to the teeth that are held in place with rubber bands that work in tandem with attached wires in order to deliver force to the teeth.
However, the most fascinating part of orthodontics that the force provided by braces is not the only force in play. The tongue, lips, and teeth all provide other forces; some are good for your teeth and some are bad. This is why patients will occasionally need to have their braces readjusted so that they can get the most desirable results. Orthodontists are constantly at work try to balance all the forces to be in your favor.
So this means that you can speed up the process by applying more force, right? Sadly, no. While you may be excited to have your braces off sooner and hope to still reap the same results, the process is a careful science. When patients don't wear their rubber bands as prescribed or try to move things along quicker by adding more, this allows other unanticipated forces to take over. The teeth don't move as planned, and it will ultimately result in more time to straighten your smile. In the case of beautiful teeth, allowing them to slowly move into the correct position is actually the fastest and most efficient method.
Braces at work!
Will the Force of Braces Hurt?
The application of force kind of makes it seem like braces will be pain, in not incredibly uncomfortable. However, getting braces put on is less painful than your average cleaning. Immediately afterwards, your mouth may be sore for up to a week, but very rarely so painful that you find it hard to function. If anything, most brace-wearers complain that their new braces are more annoying than painful.
Any initial pain caused from braces can be treated by eating only soft foods until your mouth gets used to them and treating discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin. Occasionally braces can cause sores on your cheek which should be treated with a quick gargle of salt water, and definitely not treated by poking at them with your tongue.
Most brace-wears get used to their new mouthwear within a month. After six months, you should barely even notice that they are there. However, if your braces need to be adjusted to rebalance the forces in your mouth, there will be some soreness after that as well.
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