Braces: How Are They Made?

A brunette woman putting on red lipstick as she gets ready for a New Year's Party. She is wearing ceramic braces on her teeth.

You may wonder what the differences are between metal, ceramic, and lingual braces and how they compare to Invisalign treatment. All are a bit different and they are both made and worn differently. Braces are made from various materials and designed specifically for your mouth.

 

Metal Braces and Your Teeth

You’ve likely seen someone wearing metal braces and you know that they make your teeth straighter. But how? It takes a bit of science and the right orthodontic appliance to make that beautiful smile happen. With the most common type of braces—metal braces—you have a stainless steel material that is shaped into specific orthodontic parts that will all go together in your mouth. Often those parts are molded and shaped in a special lab that then ships those parts to orthodontists.

 

Labs will even do custom-made brackets and wires for patients when the need arises. However, most braces have a specific design like metal braces do. Metal braces have several parts that include:

  • Brackets: These stainless steel pieces are those little squares bonded to the middle of each tooth. We use a special bonding glue that will stay on your teeth for the entire duration of your treatment, but will come off easily with the right orthodontic material. Your brackets are small anchors that hold a wire in place. They will have tiny rubber elastics placed around them to protect your teeth and prevent stuck food.
  • Archwire: This metal wire will pass through the brackets on each tooth, all the way to the back of your mouth. Many patients have a bracket that wraps around the back molar that stabilizes this archwire. The wire will follow the curve of your jaws in an elongated have circle. When a thicker archwire is placed or when this archwire is adjusted, it can help move the teeth into place because of the force placed on the brackets.
  • Ligature Elastics: These are the rubber elastics we mentioned. The elastics are what keep the archwire sturdy so it can straighten your teeth.

 

Dental models that have orthodontic appliances on the teeth. An example of metal braces and ceramic braces is seen.

How Teeth Straighten

Your archwire will be adjusted very slightly at your orthodontic appointments every 4-6 weeks. That slight adjustment may seem very small, but it’s what your mouth needs to make a true, straightening change. The appliance is not the only thing changing your teeth into a straighter position. Your teeth are the hardest substance in the body and can even be harder than many metals. Straightening them would seem very difficult, when it’s not. It simply takes time.

 

Your teeth can take a ton of force from chewing, biting, eating, talking and other actions because they are rooted into your jawbone. However, the jawbone is much weaker than the teeth are. So why doesn’t your jawbone get breaks in it when you chew hard things? You have something called the periodontic ligament that is around every tooth root as it goes into your jaw bone. All those ligaments are shock absorbers for your jaws when you chew, minimizing the force your jawbones take. These are key to straightening the teeth.

 

When orthodontic appliances are on the teeth, they will apply a very slight pressure to your teeth and to the periodontic ligaments that surround them. When that pressure is constantly there, your body will produce acids in the jawbone area that will break down tiny parts around the teeth. With new space created, the teeth can shift. Your body will naturally deposit more minerals in areas that have changed to strengthen the jawbone once more. Over time, your jaw is literally breaking itself down on a microscopic level and then rebuilding itself. That is why orthodontic treatment takes months. However, the result is worth it.

 

A close-up view of metal braces that have the ligature elastics around the brackets. The braces are on a dental model.

Ceramic and Lingual Braces

Ceramic and lingual braces are very similar to traditional metal braces, but are made a bit differently. Lingual braces are also a metal braces type, and most types are made from stainless steel in a lab. There can be other types of metal used or a combination of metals. These braces will have brackets and wires just like traditional metal braces, except that they will be placed on the back of a patient’s teeth.

 

Because of placement, children are not usually candidates for lingual braces because of the size of the teeth. Dental impressions of the back of the teeth are made so that metal coverings can be made for the tooth backs, which is a bit different than traditional metal braces. More anchoring is needed with lingual braces, and this is how it is done. The metal material will cover the entire tooth back with a bracket in the center of the tooth, and each is placed individually when a patient gets their appliance. The archwire works the same as other braces.

 

Ceramic braces are very similar to metal braces in their design and how they work. However, they are made from ceramic material, which is naturally white already. This makes the braces blend in with the teeth more, and the metal can even be frosted to blend in with whiter teeth.

 

Invisalign: Customized to the Patient

Invisalign treatment is an orthodontic option that is vastly different than your other options. The most noticeable difference is that there is no metal or ceramic material in your appliance. A patient will have digital images taken of their mouth. With that image, custom aligners are made that a patient will switch out each week. These are a type of plastic material patented by the Invisalign company. It’s a strong enough plastic to cause the same type of shifting you want your teeth to do. Aligners fit snug in the mouth as they are custom made, are switched out each week, and must be worn 20-22 hours of the day. If you are interested in any of these types of braces or want to see how the braces are put on a patient, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016 with your questions!