Curious on The Individual Parts of Braces? | FAST FACTS 2020

December 12, 2019

Curious on the individual parts of braces? If you’re considering or are new to orthodontic treatment, it can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the various parts and technical terms that go into treatment. It’s not uncommon to be nervous and uncertain about your initial orthodontist appointments. Understanding the parts and how they work eases your mind and helps you communicate with your orthodontist. In this post, we're going to show you the individual parts of braces that make up your wonderful oral devices. Let’s kick things off with part #1.    

What Type Of Orthodontic Device Do You Need?

Today, you have several professional treatment options to straighten your teeth and move them into the most ideal position for a beautiful smile. The most common are:

With the exception of aligners, which are a single solid piece of equipment, braces involve applying individual parts of braces components. These orthodontic pieces work together to move and straighten your teeth into a prescribed position. You and your orthodontist will decide which type best fits your treatment needs, appearance wants, and budget. The good news is that ceramic, traditional, and lingual options have similar parts, which makes it much easier to understand. These options are basically just made of different materials or placed differently in the mouth.  

What Are The Individual Parts of Braces?

  1. Orthodontic Brackets

These small, square orthodontic devices are either affixed to the tooth itself with a bonding agent or attached to an orthodontic band. The difference between one in traditional metal verses ceramic is simply the composition. Both options are the same size and shape, but metal is more noticeable than the clear or tooth-colored ceramic devices. Ceramic functions the same as metal. However, they’re more prone to staining and breakage without proper care. They’re also usually more costly than metal. Lingual also uses metal. The difference here is that they’re placed on the interior (backside) of the tooth so that they can’t be seen when you smile. They function the same as the other two options, but treatment adjustments may be more lengthy and difficult due to their interior location. This feature also typically makes them more difficult to clean. They can be more uncomfortable to wear, too, since they make contact with the tongue. They all have the same important job to do. They’re slotted to hold and support the archwire. Some also have hooks, which are used to attach orthodontic rubber bands.  

  1. Orthodontic Bands

These are not to be confused with the removable elastic orthodontic rubber bands. Orthodontic bands are stainless steel rings that wrap around select teeth. They’re usually placed on the larger back teeth or molars. Welded attachments allow the archwires to run through the orthodontic bands, offering a solid anchoring point. These attachments are also used to hook removable elastic bands and attach springs if needed. The size and fit of the band is customized by the orthodontist before it’s bonded to the tooth with dental cement. With ceramic, the orthodontic bands are usually ceramic or clear plastic to continue the less conspicuous treatment plan. Not everyone will need orthodontic bands as part of their treatment, and some will need more bands than others. Your orthodontist will determine your need for bands based on:

  • What corrections need to be made.
  • The extensiveness of those corrections.
  • The best device(s) to make those specific corrections.

Orthodontic bands are typically necessary in major bite corrections and serious tooth misalignments, such as for wide-tooth gaps and severely uneven bites. They’re also usually indicated in older wearers due to age making the jawbone structure less malleable. There's more...     

  1. Orthodontic Arch Wire

Any bracket-based application will require archwire. The archwires run through each bracket and, if necessary, the orthodontic bands to conform to your dental arch. They exert varying degrees of pressure on the teeth to reposition each tooth into its prescribed location and alignment. Think of the arch wire like the engine of your orthodontic treatment. During orthodontic appointments, the archwires will go through a series of exchanges and adjustments to exert a precise amount of pressure as your teeth respond to treatment. Your orthodontist may use various types of archwires in different composites and sizes (heavier or lighter) based on your treatment plan. In traditional metal and lingual applications, your archwire will be grey and made from:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Nickel-Titanium
  • Beta-Titanium

Ceramic typically uses a silver archwire, but some orthodontists may offer frosted" or white wires to continue the more discreet treatment appearance.  

  1. Orthodontic Ligatures / O-Rings

Ligatures are tiny plastic rings or wire that attach to the bracket hooks over the archwires. They serve to secure the connection point for the archwires. They’re replaced at each orthodontic adjustment, and they come in an array of colors. If you wish, you can get a new color at each adjustment. You can choose any color you find fashionable, matches the season or special events, or represents your favorite team colors. Some use grey to help blend in with accompanying metal. From glow-in-the-dark to metallic shades, it’s up to you to customize the color people see in your mouth. With ceramic, most people continue the discreet look with clear or white ligatures. However, that’s up to you. Also, note that ceramic devices can be colored beyond white or neutral if you’re interested. One downside to white and lighter-colored ligatures is that they stain easily. The only type of bracket that doesn’t require ligatures is self-ligating brands. These automatically guide the wire and keep it in place.  

  1. Orthodontic Rubber Bands \ Elastics

These removable rubber band elastics attach to a bracket’s hook. It’s usually applied as an interarch band, which connects the upper and lower teeth via the elastic to correct uneven bites. If you don’t have an uneven bite, then elastics will not likely be part of your orthodontic treatment plan. Your orthodontist will instruct you on the placement for each end of the elastics. They may crisscross, go from a forward tooth to a back tooth, or go straight up and down from top to bottom. Pay careful attention to your orthodontist’s instructions because you will change the elastics at home as prescribed by your orthodontist and take them on and off for oral care and eating. So far as function, it’s the same premise as archwire. The tension from the elastics creates a gradual, continual pulling force to correct bite issues.  

  1. Orthodontic Springs

Again, not everyone will need springs as part of their orthodontic treatment plan. There are two main types of springs used. The first is a coil spring, which is sometimes used for teeth that are too close together. It’s placed on the archwire between two teeth; the resulting pressure helps create space by separating the two teeth. The second is a Forsus spring, which attaches to the upper molars and connects to the lower archwire by the canine teeth. It’s used when the lower jaw needs to grow to position correctly against the upper jaw. The lower teeth move forward and the upper teeth move backward. Unless spacing or jaw alignment is an issue, you likely won’t need springs.  

  1. Orthodontic Power Chain

Power chains are yet another orthodontic treatment device that may or may not be used. Think of power chains as the opposite action to springs. These are used when certain teeth have too much space between them. The elastic or wire power chainrings look like a long strip of interlocking o-rings. They’re applied to reduce the space between teeth and prevent new spaces from emerging during treatment. Like elastics, these are replaced during each adjustment visit and come in an assortment of colors.  

It’s A Group Effort

As you can see, all these individual parts of braces work together to perfect your smile. Plastic aligners are a one-piece orthodontic treatment, but all other options have many moving parts to learn. Not all these seven parts will be necessary, though. Whether metal, ceramic, or lingual, you’ll at minimum have two basic orthodontic devices - brackets and archwire. From there, elastics, coils, ligatures, and chains may or may not be necessary. It all depends on the individual parts of braces of your specific orthodontic devices and how they’re best addressed to perfect your smile. 


If you’d like to learn what the individual parts of braces equipment will be necessary for your braces application, contact us for a complementary consultation by clicking here!


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