What Are Arch Braces for Teeth and How Do They Work?

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Braces are often the solution to achieving a beautiful, straight smile. Everyone is familiar with shiny grins full of metal braces, which consist of a collection of small metal brackets held together by arch wires and elastics. The arch wires, sometimes referred to as arch braces for teeth, play an essential role in the success of orthodontic treatment.

How Arch Wires Work

These wires apply the exact amount of pressure needed to correct crowding and rotated teeth, notes a review published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. It's challenging to move teeth in a patient's mouth, and even more difficult to shift them into precisely the right position. Often, individual teeth don't need to move from side to side. They must be tilted or turned slightly to achieve the correct alignment. Metal braces are made from metal brackets bonded to the teeth with slots for the arch wires to pass through.

The arch wires play a key role in achieving the gentle pressure needed to gradually shift the teeth to where they should be. As treatment progresses, lightweight wires can be replaced with heavier, square wires that hold their shape, pressing the teeth into the desired position.

Metals Used

The arch wires used in orthodontics are most commonly fabricated from stainless steal, metal alloys or a combination of nickel and titanium, according to the Cochrane review. Orthodontists base their choice of wire on the stage of treatment and the patient's goals. Nickel titanium, for example, offers light force. These are soft enough to manipulate at room temperature. This allows orthodontists to customize the forces needed, which could mean lighter force on the anterior or front teeth with stronger pressure on the posterior teeth.

Arch wires in metal braces have disadvantages though, including staining the teeth, irritating the tongue and cheek tissues, and the wires are easily damaged by eating hard vegetables and candies or suffering trauma to the mouth.

Alternatives to Metal Braces

These days, several alternatives to metal braces with arch wires are available. Here's the lowdown on the different types of braces, and how to choose the right option, with the help of your orthodontist, for your needs.

  • Lingual braces. Lingual braces are worn behind the teeth instead of in front. Orthodontists take an impression of the patient's mouth, which is used to manufacture customized braces. These are fixed to the back of the teeth using dental cement and are invisible to other people, making them an ideal option for adults, such as business people, who are concerned about their appearance.
  • Invisible braces. Invisible braces use a set of clear plastic alignment trays custom-made for each patient. These are replaced every couple of weeks for a new set of trays, which gradually increases the pressure to move the teeth into the correct position.

If your dental practitioner recommends the use of metal braces with arch wires, it's important to maintain good oral hygiene. Healthy habits include daily brushing using a toothpaste, such as Colgate Total Advanced Whitening toothpaste. Its dual-silica technology helps remove stains and helps prevent new stains from forming. Floss daily to remove plaque without damaging the wires, so when the arch braces for teeth are removed, the teeth are not only straight, but white and clean, too!

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