It is difficult to see how some random bits of metal will help you align your teeth. From the outside orthodontics may seem like a great big mystery, as to how those train tracks will eventually lead to you having straighter teeth. I intend, in this article, to explain what braces can do, how they work, and by what sort of mechanisms they treat malocclusions.
How Teeth Are Anchored
Teeth are not as unshakably stable as one might think. While most of us are surprised by how far down tooth roots actually go, it is hard to imagine that these things can move about, as they essentially go into our skulls. But teeth are anchored in softer bone material known as alveolar tissue, essentially little ligament lined sockets. The tooth roots go through this alveolar tissue and end in the hard bone material of the jaw. The teeth can be moved through the alveolar tissue, and can be shifted and rotated in the bone material. Teeth can move about naturally, for instance, if a tooth gets extracted, the remaining teeth will shift position to fill in the gaps, and the teeth will gradually, over the course of years, shift away from each other. If a wisdom tooth is impacted, for instance, the entire row of teeth will be pushed towards each other, and the teeth can even shift behind each other, and cause crowding. So teeth, while incredibly stable, do shift and move about to a certain extent.
Orthodontic appliances use torque in order to exert pressure on the teeth, thus pushing or pulling them into an aligned position. Orthodontics are meant to correct malocclusions in the bite, thus lining the bite up to form a straight and even row. This is important, as teeth can become too strained, and even the jaw can become painful and inflamed if the bite is not even.
The braces are connected to the teeth by brackets adhered to the teeth. The brackets have an archwire running through them; this pushes or pulls the brackets that are adhered to the teeth into the direction set by the orthodontist. Extra pressure can be administered through the use of orthodontic elastics, attached to small hooks on the brackets, which assist in pulling the teeth in the desired direction. This is usually done only to back teeth and molars.
At each activation session teeth are pushed further along their course, by the tightening of the brackets and the archwire, until the optimal position can be reached. This way the teeth are guided through the alveolar tissue by the archwire, with the help of the brackets. And that is how braces work to align your teeth.