How Do Metal Braces Work?

If you’re an adult facing the difficulty of correcting your malocclusion, you may consider alternative types of metal braces, such as ceramic braces and lingual options.

Though these can reduce your embarrassment, it’s important to know that all metal braces use the same principles to straighten your teeth. This orthodontic treatment can involve a complicated assortment of brackets, bands, elastic bands and metal wiring.

To make a fully informed decision, it’s important you understand how metal braces work, what the drawbacks are and the complications you may experience during the process. Here’s what you need to know:

Brackets and Bands

In order to shift your smile, your metal braces must affix to your teeth. Usually, your braces will connect to each tooth through brackets or, if needed, metal bands. If you look closely, you’ll notice that your brackets contain slots for metal wiring (called the archwire).

Each bracket is affixed to the tooth with an adhesive, and you cannot move or adjust your brackets without visiting your dentist or orthodontist.

Between the bracket adhesive and the force your archwire exerts, you’ll need to avoid certain foods while wearing metal braces as very chewy or hard foods can loosen your brackets. If this happens, you’ll need an appointment with your orthodontist to reattach that loose bracket and readjust your wires.


As your archwire exerts pressure on your brackets, your braces pull your teeth into a proper fit. Archwires are stretched out of their natural shape. However, as they slowly regain their original form, they exert pressure on your brackets to move your teeth.

Generally, wires attach to brackets with an elastic band, known as a ligature. Each bracket has a ligature, and the elastic works with the archwire to straighten your smile.

Like brackets, your archwire requires a special diet to avoid any damage. While a broken archwire can be replaced, you’ll find that the metal poking the inside of your mouth and gums is quite irritating.

Rubber Bands

Rubber bands, sometimes called interarch elastics, are used to position the teeth or to correct overbites or underbites.

These elastics may break from time to time, but you can learn to replace them yourself with the right training. However, some patients forget to replace their elastics, undermining the effectiveness of their metal braces.


Most patients need to visit their orthodontist for an adjustment every 4–6 weeks. During this time, your orthodontist will replace any brace components that are broken or worn.

More importantly, your orthodontist will tighten or replace your archwires and ligatures to maintain tension on your teeth. Since this tension needs to be effective until the next visit, adjustments tend to exert an uncomfortable and painful amount of pressure.

Beyond Metal Braces, Brackets and Wires

If the idea of metal brackets, elastic bands and taut wiring sounds unpleasant, there’s no need to give up your dream of a straight smile.

Aligners, like Invisalign clear aligners, are an alternative treatment available for many patients. Instead of using metal fixtures attached to your teeth, aligners are custom-made appliances that simply slip over your smile. You’ll enjoy how the modern elastic material of your Invisalign aligners will gradually move your teeth into place.

With Invisalign clear aligners, you’ll enjoy several benefits you won’t find with traditional braces, such as how…

  • Clear plastic makes this orthodontic treatment nearly invisible in business and social situations.
  • You can easily pop out your aligners for meals to eat all your favorite foods.
  • Cleaning your teeth and gums is easy—simply remove your clear aligners before brushing and flossing.

Despite the complications of metal braces, you can still find that beautiful smile you’ve always wanted with Invisalign’s innovative solution.

Instead of settling for metal braces, schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with your local MiSmile provider today, and enjoy the ease and simplicity of Invisalign’s clear aligners.

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