Definition & Overview

Dental braces, also known as orthodontic braces, are dental devices that are primarily used to straighten or improve teeth alignment. They can be recommended for patients with crooked and overcrowded teeth, as well as under and overbite. Dental braces improve patients’ facial appearance and make proper oral maintenance easier and more effective. Therefore, they can help patients maintain good dental health in the long run.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Orthodontic braces are for people with:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Misaligned or asymmetrical teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Deep bite
  • Reverse bite
  • Open bite
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Jaw problems


Patients who require orthodontic treatment can choose from a number of different options, including:

  • Fixed metal braces – These are the most commonly used orthodontic devices. Although slightly obtrusive, they are the most cost-effective way of moving teeth to a better position.
  • Removable plastic braces – Removable braces, especially those made from plastic, are used for correcting minor irregularities. They are, however, harder to use since they need to be removed and cleaned periodically.
  • Retainers – Retainers are typically used during the last stage of orthodontic treatment. Their goal is to keep the newly fixed teeth in their improved positions while the gum and bone surrounding them continue to adjust to their new position. Some retainers are fixed, while some are removable.
  • Aligner trays – Plastic aligner trays are sometimes preferred by patients who are not keen on wearing bulky metal braces. These are a series of clear dental trays that are placed over teeth. Since they are clear, they look invisible.
  • Headgear – In some cases, such as in the correction of anteroposterior discrepancies, orthodontic headgears are also used. Their purpose is to keep the jaw from moving or growing to prevent or correct problems with the shape of the jaw, which affects the positioning of the teeth, especially the molars.


Orthodontic treatment can be performed on patients as young as 12 or 13 years old when all their adult teeth already erupted. Treatment is usually more effective when performed during this stage, compared to when it is performed on adults.

How is the Procedure Performed?

An orthodontic treatment starts with a dental exam and mouth x-rays. These are followed by taking impressions and photos of the teeth so the dentist can create an individualised treatment plan while taking into consideration the patient’s unique dental problems and circumstances. The dentist will then have the dental braces made in a dental laboratory and install them on the patient’s teeth once they’re ready.

The braces will work by moving teeth slowly towards a specific direction or position by applying pressure, which also causes the bone holding teeth in place to change shape.

Traditional metal braces work as a result of its various components, namely:

  • Brackets – These are small square objects that are bonded to the surface of each tooth.
  • Bands – Orthodontic bands are either made from stainless steel or clear materials that are bonded to the teeth, wrapping around each tooth to hold the brackets in place.
  • Spacers – These are separators that are positioned in between teeth.
  • Archwires – These are attached to the brackets with tiny elastic rubber bands and act as the guide for the movement of the teeth.
  • Ties – These are small rubber wires or rings that hold the archwire and brackets together.
  • Buccal tube – This is attached to the band of the last tooth and is responsible for holding the end of the archwire in place.

Possible Risks and Complications

The use of dental braces is linked to some risks, limitations, and complications, which include:

  • Relapse, which occurs when the newly treated teeth move or shifts positions again. This typically occurs due to the improper use of retainers as instructed by the orthodontist. However, it may also occur as a natural result of normal teeth changes related to the patient’s age.
  • Root resorption, or when the roots of the teeth shorten during or as a result of the orthodontic treatment. In severe cases, this could affect the stability of some of the teeth.
  • Decalcification, or when white marks and cavities form on the teeth. This can be prevented by flossing and brushing regularly.
  • Ankylosis, or the fusion of the tooth root to the bone. This is a serious complication but rarely occurs.
  • Periodontal problems, which may occur as a complication if the braces are not properly maintained.



References:

  • Alfuriji S., Alhazmi N., et al. “The effect of orthodontic therapy on periodontal health.” International Journal of Dentistry. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijd/2014/585048/

  • Journal of Orthodontics and Endodontics. http://orthodontics-endodontics.imedpub.com American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. http://www.ajodo.org

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