An orthodontic appliance is a very precise, carefully engineered tooth-moving machine made of tiny parts. The orthodontist will guide teeth into a correct position by adjusting the braces. To help understand what is happening during your treatment, you should learn about the parts of the braces. If you have a problem with your braces, refer to these descriptions so you can accurately describe the problem when you call our office. It is very important that we know what part you are concerned is broken or lost!!

SEPARATORS

Separators are small elastic rubber rings that are placed between the back teeth to gradually create some spacing so that orthodontic bands can fit around these teeth easily. This movement may cause some discomfort for a few days. If needed, an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol can be used. Brush normally around the separators but do not use dental floss near the separators as it can pull them out. Please do not pick at the separators and avoid sticky foods and gum. If a separator does come out before your next appointment, please call our office and schedule an appointment to have it replaced.

If you are unsure if a separator needs replaced or it is over the weekend, check with floss. If the floss glides through the space without the teeth contacting tightly, you probably don't need the separator replaced.

BANDS

Bands are a thin ring of metal, which fit around the back teeth (molars and sometimes premolars). Each tooth has its own shape and size. The bands are selected from a range of sizes. The goal is to select the tightest fitting band. The bands are sealed in position on the tooth using a dental cement (like glue) to prevent any decalcification (breakdown of enamel) during treatment.

BRACKETS

The metal part that holds the arch wire against each tooth. The arch wire fits into a slot in the bracket. Brackets are attached directly to each tooth with a tooth-colored dental glue.

ARCHWIRES

The wire that is bent and shaped specifically to fit around the arch into the bracket slots. Teeth move from the pressure that is applied by the braces. That pressure comes from the archwire, which guides the direction of movement. Note that the archwire is held in place by steel chains or a series of small rubber rings called colored ties, that hold the archwire into the brackets. ANY ADDITIONAL BENDS CAUSED BY LACK OF CARE WHILE EATING MAY ALLOW THE WRONG TEETH TO MOVE.

COLORED TIES

A tiny rubber ring that holds the archwire into the bracket. These are available in many different colors, or silver which blends in with the metal brackets.

STEEL CHAIN

A tiny wire that holds the archwire into the bracket. This can be found around one individual bracket or continued along multiple brackets. The wire is twisted in between brackets, and also has a twisted end that is tucked under the archwire sometimes called a "pigtail".

HOOKS

Small ball-like attachments on the brackets used to attach elastics (rubber bands).

COIL SPRING

A spring that fits between brackets and over the archwire to open or hold space. It looks like a miniature slinky. Be sure not to play with a spring with your fingers or tongue as this may deactivate the coil spring which prolongs treatment time.

ELASTICS

We may ask you to wear elastics (or Rubber Bands) of various configurations on your braces. It is an essential part of the treatment and success depends on patient cooperation. We provide a diagram for the elastics - Refer to it and wear them properly!

The patient is in total control of this part of the treatment. The orthodontist has designed the treatment to proceed in a careful manner and is dependent upon the patient's cooperation for success.

Why are they used? They add extra force to the braces to help move the teeth. For example, if the upper teeth are too far forward and the lower teeth are too far back, rubber bands may be stretched from the upper front teeth to the lower back teeth to help the teeth slide together to form a perfect bite.

When are they worn? They are worn usually at all times except when eating or brushing. Part time wear may be recommended. Dr. Hayes will determine a schedule for you. It is important to be consistent; the elastics will not work as well or as fast if they are not in place each day as prescribed. Remember - you largely control the tooth movement by wearing your elastics and you can shorten your time in treatment if you wear them well!!!

When are they changed? Elastics should be replaced several (2-3) times each day or they will lose their snap (tightness). Be sure to pick up plenty at the office. Carry a supply of elastics with you at all times so you can replace one immediately if it breaks. A few days without them can cause a serious set-back.

Are there different sizes? There are many sizes, each designed for a specific purpose. Wear only the size prescribed to you.

What can be expected? The teeth may become sore when elastics are first used. This soreness will be gone in a few days. The teeth may become loose; that is a normal reaction to the elastic force. Expect to see progress; look for it carefully.

Why are they important? They have to be worn if treatment is to be successful. The patient must help with this part of treatment in a substantial way if there is to be progress. It requires hard work and dedication to your treatment process. If elastics are worn one day and left off the next, your teeth will set up resistance that will slow or even stop your progress, and discomfort in your mouth will increase. If elastics are worn one week and left off one day, your teeth could shift back to their original position! Remember - Be consistent!!

What is you responsibility at each appointment? Wear your elastics to each appointment so the assistant can check the placement and pressure. At each appointment check that you have sufficient elastics to last until the next appointment. If you run out of elastics, come in or call immediately, never wait until the next appointment! We will mail them to you if it is impossible to pick them up at our office. Always be sure you understand exactly where each elastic hooks in the mouth.