Anyone who has had orthodontics on has wondered what their apparatus is made of, and probably asked even before getting the braces put on. Usually the ones that are made of steel are made of some sort of surgical steel alloy. There are four types of these alloys, and I will now go on to speak about each of them a little bit, to give an idea of how they work, what they are made of, and why.
Stainless steel alloys are being used less and less frequently, although they are very economic and very reliable. They are made of mostly stainless steel, with little bits of copper and other “impure” metals added for the sake of flexibility. This type is less flexible than the other alloys, but is still able to serve the intended function.
The mixture of cobalt and chromium is by far the most flexible orthodontic alloy available. These metals are all but malleable, being extra soft and responding extremely well to heat, meaning the orthodontist can contort this particular blend of metals into any shape at all. The chromium is in reality a chromium carbonate, which basically means that the chromium is treated by being burnt, and thus becomes carbonized. It is then blended at low heat with cobalt to give it tensile strength.
Titanium Nickel Alloy
Titanium is a great material, and a lot of biocompatible surgical implements are made out of this material. This is because the human body does not recognize titanium as a foreign substance, and thus has no autoimmune responses to it. Dental implants are made of titanium for example. The orthodontist’s problem is that it is too hard and brittle, thus cannot be bent. Therefore mixing it with nickel, a smeary, malleable metal, works really well; the appliances and archwires can easily be bent using hand tools, and adjusting or twisting the wire is super easy.
Beta titanium is an alloy that involves mainly titanium and a large number of other metals to give the alloy the perfect properties. These metals are molybdenum, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, niobium, chromium, nickel, zirconium, and vanadium. This is the best alloy, as it is hard, does not break, is easy to mold, responds well to heat but does not melt, and cools off quickly, while still being hypoallergenic. The problem is that it is expensive, and most people cannot afford it, thus a lot of dentistries do not stock it.