How Do Braces Work?

How do braces transform crooked teeth into beautiful smiles? Pressure. Braces or Invisalign keep your teeth under constant pressure making them move.

How Do Teeth Move?

Unlike your bones, teeth are not set into specific places with ligaments, muscles, or other bones. Teeth are set into your jawbone, but are movable due to sitting inside of a membrane and not directly into the bone. Because of this membrane, appliances like braces can move your teeth by applying pressure.

During early childhood, children develop their bites. Posture, talking, and behavioral habits, like sucking on a pacifier, influence where teeth settle. Since teeth sit into the membrane, braces can correct bite problems after or as they develop.

Using rubber bands, springs, and different methods, orthodontists can anchor specific teeth into their proper place. Here’s a quick review of how the different parts of braces work to straighten your smile.


Adding a bracket to each tooth is the first step to begin moving teeth. Each bracket provides individualized pressure to that specific tooth, making unique and group movements possible in the mouth. You can choose brackets made from ceramic material, stainless steel, and other metallic alloys.


To apply pressure and move teeth collectively, orthodontists wire the brackets together. Call us if your wire snaps! Broken wires can't apply the needed pressure to move teeth.

Rubber Bands

Tight rubber bands wrapped around specific brackets create increased pressure for the teeth and jaw. They’re commonly used in many treatment plans and in an assortment of shapes.


When applied to wiring, springs can push teeth into areas with increased pressure.

Other Appliances

Spacers, headgear, and archwires are other appliances used in orthodontic treatment. Spacers are placed often in crowded mouths where the patient needs a little more space to prepare for treatment. Headgear is worn to apply extra amounts of pressure to specific areas of the mouth, but it’s not super common. Archwires are wires that are used in-between brackets to move a specific tooth into place.


Similar to braces, Invisalign uses clear retainers to move your teeth into place. Each retainer fits slightly different than the previous retainer, making each retainer a step closer to your final smile. Fitting into a retainer that does not fit perfectly forces your teeth to move to fit into the retainer. While Invisalign cannot repair all types of bites, it’s a wonderful bracket-less option if it fits into your treatment plan.


After your treatment is completed, you’ll need to continue to wear a retainer. After treatment, it’s likely that your teeth will move back to previous or new places. Wear your retainers as instructed after treatment! If you follow the plan, your teeth should never move on you again.

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Why Hillam Orthodontics?

Board-certified Orthodontists
Offices in Idaho Falls, Driggs, & Afton
3 generations of doctors practicing since 1966

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