How Orthodontic Braces Work: A Guide to the Mechanics of Bracket-Based Orthodontic Treatment

At Alliston Orthodontics & Oral Surgery, we may recommend the use of braces to help correct various orthodontic issues. But how do these orthodontic brackets and braces actually work? In this post, we will explain the mechanics of this bracket-based orthodontic treatment.


How do braces move teeth?

Braces can help correct orthodontic issues for people who have crowded or misaligned teeth, or conditions such as an overbite. This is important for both short-term and long-term oral health because straight teeth are easier to brush, clean, and floss, and they contribute to a better bite and improved ability to speak and chew. If your orthodontist has recommended braces, you may be wondering how they work to improve your smile. At Alliston Orthodontics & Oral Surgery, our orthodontists explain the process: braces exert continuous pressure on a patient’s jaws and teeth to shift them into the precise positions specified in the patient’s custom treatment plan. Brackets are glued to teeth to hold the archwire in place, applying the correct amount of pressure to gradually move the teeth into the prescribed positions. Periodontal ligaments, the soft tissue that surrounds the teeth and bone, hold the teeth in place and can compress or stretch as the teeth move. When braces shift a tooth to the right, the ligament on the right compresses, and new bone grows on the left to fill the gap.


Moving Teeth Forward

While many people associate braces with pushing teeth towards the palate, these orthodontic devices can also pull teeth out towards the lips when necessary. This is done using a nickel-titanium archwire that is bent to meet the bracket on the tooth and apply pulling force. Over time, the wire returns to its original “U” shape, causing the tooth to move forward. This process is an important aspect of how braces work to correct orthodontic issues.


Correcting Overcrowding

If your jaw is too small or your teeth are too large, overcrowding can cause significant orthodontic problems. Braces can help by moving individual teeth forward, across, and back to create enough room for all of your teeth to fit side by side in your mouth. At Alliston Orthodontics & Oral Surgery, we may recommend a palatal expander to increase the size of the jaw for younger patients experiencing overcrowding. We can assess patients and potentially take a two-phase approach to treatment, with a plan for early orthodontic intervention and possibly using braces or other orthodontic treatment options later on.


Correcting an Overbite

When the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth vertically, it is called an overbite. On the other hand, an overjet is characterized by protruding upper teeth relative to the lower teeth. Both of these conditions may require the movement of the top and/or bottom teeth.

To correct an overbite or overjet, our orthodontists may recommend using braces to apply constant pressure to the teeth, which will help them gradually move into their corrected positions. As the teeth move, the bone surrounding them will also change shape to accommodate the new position of the teeth.

What problems can be fixed with braces?

Braces are a common orthodontic treatment that can help straighten teeth and align them properly. They can also be used to correct bite problems, such as overbite, underbite, and crossbite, as well as gaps between the teeth. Once the teeth have been moved into their desired positions, our orthodontists may perform some final adjustments, known as “fine tuning,” to ensure that the teeth are sitting in their correct positions before the braces are removed. This helps create a beautiful, straight smile.

What are the main parts of braces?

To ensure that braces are effective, a number of different components must be used in combination. The complexity of the orthodontic case may determine how many parts are needed. For example, patients with more complex cases may require a larger number of components to correct their teeth and bite.


The archwire is a crucial component of braces that helps move the teeth into their proper positions. It can be made from either tooth-coloured materials or stainless steel, and is responsible for applying pressure to the teeth to guide their movement. At the beginning of orthodontic treatment, the archwire may be flexible, but as treatment progresses, a more rigid wire may be needed to exert more pressure on the teeth. This helps to ensure that the teeth are properly aligned and the bite is corrected.

Orthodontic Brackets

Brackets are small, square-shaped pieces that are attached to the front of each tooth and hold the archwire in place. They are typically made of stainless steel, plastic, or tooth-coloured ceramic, and are sometimes referred to as “ortho brackets.” In some cases, elastics may be attached to the brackets on the upper and lower arches to help move the teeth into their proper positions. Lingual braces are a type of orthodontic treatment in which the brackets are bonded to the back of the teeth, rather than the front. This makes them less visible when the patient speaks or smiles.

Elastic Bands

Elastic bands, also known as “rubber bands,” are used in orthodontic treatment to help move teeth into their desired positions. They are attached to the brackets of the braces and can be used to apply pressure to an individual tooth or group of teeth in a specific direction, as prescribed by the orthodontist. These bands work by stretching from one jaw to the other, exerting force on the teeth to guide their movement. Elastic bands are an important part of the braces system and can help to correct a variety of orthodontic issues.

Metal Bands

A metal ring, also known as a “ligature,” is used in orthodontic treatment to hold the archwire in place and serve as an anchor for the braces. These rings are typically applied over the back teeth and help to keep the archwire stable as the teeth are moved into their correct positions. The ligatures are an important part of the braces system and help to ensure that the teeth are properly aligned and the bite is corrected.


“A-chains” are strings of elastic that are connected to the brackets of the braces to apply additional force to the teeth. By adding more force to the archwire, a-chains can help to move the teeth more quickly and efficiently into their correct positions. This can help to shorten the overall duration of orthodontic treatment. A-chains are a useful tool in the orthodontist’s arsenal and can be used to correct a variety of orthodontic issues.


A retainer is a device that is used after orthodontic treatment to help hold the teeth in place and ensure that they stay in their new, corrected positions. When the braces are removed, the teeth and surrounding gums, bones, and ligaments may still be adjusting to their new positions. The retainer helps to stabilize the teeth and prevent them from moving back to their original positions. Retainers are an important part of the orthodontic process and help to ensure that the results of treatment are long-lasting.

If you are interested to learn more about how orthodontic brackets and braces work, don’t hesitate to reach out to Alliston Orthodontics & Oral Surgery for a consultation. Our team of professionals will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with more information about this important aspect of orthodontic treatment. Contact us today to learn more.