Back in my school days, I had a friend who had just gotten rid of her braces and began to wear retainers. She had a peculiar habit of playing with her retainers, often giving the impression that she was chewing on something! She got chastised for it numerous times by our teachers, even though she was never chewing gum.
Braces are a bit funny though, aren’t they? Wire and metal brackets that can correct so many teeth problems? Have you ever wondered how braces actually manage to restructure the jaw?
How do braces work?
Let’s consider the basic parts of braces. We have the brackets, which are stuck to the teeth using a kind of adhesive glue, as well as the arch wire that runs through the brackets and is usually attached to the molars. Elastic bands are also sometimes present. The main component in terms of restructuring the teeth is the arch wire. Braces work on the concept of applying a small amount of pressure consistently over a period of time. This pressure is greater than what is normally exerted on our teeth. As a result of this constant pressure, the teeth slowly start shifting in the desired direction.
As the teeth shift slowly, the underlying bone, known as the alveolar bone, slowly starts adjusting according to the shift. For instance, if a particular tooth is shifting to the left, the bone present in the place where the tooth needs to be shifted slowly starts disappearing. The tooth then shifts, and new bone grows in the space that the tooth used to occupy. In this way, the bones grow to accommodate the shift.
The arch wire is the main part in terms of applying pressure on the teeth. Therefore, a person may have to go back to the dentist or orthodontist to tighten the wire. The brackets help in positioning the wire, whereas the elastic bands can be used to direct the pressure applied by the arch wire in a specific direction.
Are braces just for kids?
Once you understand how braces can help in repositioning teeth, it becomes easier to understand this second part. While a person is in their developmental years, adjusting the position of their teeth is easier. Since the bones of the face are already growing, they accept and adjust to the new position of the teeth quite easily. As a person grows older, however, the time taken by the bones to adjust to the repositioning teeth is longer, but still possible. In fact, one estimate states that 1 out of every 5 people who get dental braces is above 21. By this age, the facial bones have usually already grown and acquired their positions, but adjusting the teeth to get that perfect smile is still possible.
Depending on the position of the teeth and how much adjustment is required, a person may be required to wear retainers after the braces are removed. This is basically done to give the teeth more time to adjust, even after the braces are removed. The retainers are shaped to perfectly fit your newly adjusted teeth, and may or may not need to be worn continuously.
Braces are often considered a cosmetic downgrade, so different options are now available. These include the classic metallic ones, ceramic braces that resemble the color of the teeth, plastic braces, colored braces, etc. Depending on the person and their individual case, the ideal braces are selected. Apart from just the cosmetic factor, braces can have a major effect on quality of life. They can correct problems that cause pain, slurred speech, oversized or undersized bite, etc. So, if you’re someone who has or is getting braces, don’t worry! They usually take about 2 years to work, but will leave you with that perfect smile you’ve always wanted!