Skip to content

Braces have been so common over the last several decades that many of us never think twice about how they work. In fact, most people worry more about how braces look rather than how they improve oral health. This is partly a byproduct of success: it is almost a foregone conclusion that braces will work, and therefore people can occupy their minds with other worries.

Still, we feel it’s important to have a basic understanding of how braces work, especially if they appear to be a viable option for you or your children.

 Brackets and Archwire

Braces are essentially made up of two components: the bracket and the archwire. First, a powerful adhesive is used to fasten a bracket to each tooth. Each bracket has a tiny little tunnel running from one side to the other; the archwire is inserted through this space, binding all the teeth in the row. When in place, the bracket and the archwire look like what you probably picture when you think of braces.

In certain instances, a third component, elastics, is added to the mix.

A Return to Form

While seeming to remain motionless for the months and years which it is in a person’s mouth, the archwire is, in fact, attempting an arduous journey to return to its original shape; what that shape was depends on which way your teeth need to move. As it slowly shifts, the archwire either pushes or pulls the bracket and, in effect, the tooth.

Letting Your Physiology Do the Rest

If you find the archwire fascinating, it is nothing compared to the wonders of dental anatomy. In order to understand how braces allow your own body to correct itself, you need to get acquainted with the periodontal membrane. Also known as the periodontal ligament, the periodontal membrane is the tissue that holds a tooth in place.

As the archwire seeks to return to its original form, it causes the tooth to move as well. As the tooth moves, slowly and imperceptibly it pushes against one side of the periodontal membrane and distances itself from the other.


Ready for the good part? On the side where the tooth presses up against the periodontal membrane, cells called osteoclasts break the tooth down ever so slightly in order to recreate the space between it and the membrane. This process, called resorption, takes a few days.


On the other side, the tooth, having pulled away from the membrane, leaves a larger space than normal. Your physiology remedies this as well, as another series of cells, called osteoblasts, are produced, causing the tooth to grow and fill the space on that side. This process is called deposition. It takes a few months to happen and, once it does, equilibrium is restored between the tooth and the periodontal membrane.

Throughout the time that you wear braces, the process of resorption and deposition takes place over and over again on a microscopic scale. Hence, people typically wear braces for a year or two.

If you feel your oral health can be improved with braces, get a professional opinion right away. Feel free to call 831-443-3633 to make an appointment, or email us at