Braces aren’t just a brute force solution to crooked teeth. They work by using the anatomy of the jaw to re-align teeth in a healthy and natural way. The teeth in your mouth are attached to your jaw bone by something called a periodontal ligament. This ligament is made up of collagen, which is the same protein found between your bones, and is used for shock absorption between bones all over your body including your jaw. Your periodontal ligaments allow some small, natural movement of your teeth (when chewing, for example) while anchoring and suspending the teeth in place. These ligaments join to the root surfaces of your teeth via a connective substance created by your body called cementum.
Braces work by tensioning one side of the ligaments in your teeth at the same time as stretching and compressing the ligaments on the other side of your teeth. Orthodontists call this type of tension ‘force’, and only a small amount is applied at a time. As your body detects the tension placed on the ligaments, bone-creating cells called osteoblasts start adding new bone to cement the teeth in place. This process is called deposition. On the side of your mouth where the ligaments are de-tensioned and compressed, bone-eating cells called osteoclasts begin to remove bone in a process called resorption. This whole process is how your teeth move over time. It’s easy to see how gradual light forces such as chewing habits and grinding your teeth can have big impacts in the long run!
The reason your orthodontist makes a cast of your teeth throughout treatment is to diagnose your dental alignment and come up with the best plan to carefully manipulate forces against your teeth to guide them into new, healthful alignment. The wires in your orthodontic appliance are designed to apply controlled forces, moving your teeth in a predictable manner and managing bone resorption and deposition.
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