All orthodontic appliances are designed to apply gentle pressure to the teeth which results in tooth movement. It is the wires and o-rings that apply the pressure to the teeth initially. Later elastic chain and elastic bands can also be used.
Braces have improved significantly in function and design over the years. Using technology from the space industry, orthodontic wires are now capable of providing more gentle forces over a longer period of time. This often translates into a decreased frequency of office visits, reduction in overall treatment time and a decrease in the discomfort of wearing braces.
Braces are composed of brackets and wire. The brackets are small squares attached to each tooth and are metal or ceramic. When a wire is bent into various shapes, then seated into the bracket it acts as a spring which wants to return to its original shape. With a constant application of gentle pressure bone is absorbed on one side of the tooth. At the same time, new bone slowly hardens on the other side to hold the tooth in its new position. This is the reason teeth feel slightly loose when they are moving.
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Some patients may require widening of the upper arch as a first stage of orthodontic treatment. The most common reason for using a palatal expansion appliance is when a crossbite problem is evident.
This type of orthodontic treatment is very predictable and effective in growing adolescent patients.
It is common for a space to develop between the upper front teeth when palatal expansion commences. This is viewed as favourable as it confirms that true skeletal expansion has occurred.
This space tends to close naturally when the active expansion is completed. Any small residual space is simple to resolve with fixed appliance treatment.
These orthodontic appliances can be easily removed by the patient for eating and cleaning theteeth. Plates cannot correct crowding of the teeth and can only be used successfully for minor cases. They cannot move teeth precisely and therefore cannot substitute for braces. Occasionally a type of plate called a “retainer” can be used after treatment to maintain the corrected teeth.