Dental braces are an orthodontic treatment used to properly align teeth, relieve pressure on the temporomandibular joints, and align the upper and lower jaws. Braces are made of metal bands that are cemented to the molars and metal brackets that are directly glued to the front teeth. Orthodontists use this treatment to move a patient's teeth or underlying bone.
A person typically inherits tooth spacing, malocclusion, crowding, misalignment or similar problems from their parents. However, these conditions also may be caused by habits such as thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, lip wedging, mouth breathing due to allergies or large tonsils and adenoids, premature loss of teeth or trauma, and generally begin to appear between the ages of six and 12 years old — the time when the permanent teeth start to erupt.
Therefore, orthodontic treatment with dental braces should begin between the ages of eight and 14 in order to achieve optimal results. It is generally considered ideal to have an orthodontic evaluation no later than the age of seven, since this is when there is a good mix of primary (baby) and adult teeth in the mouth.
Braces typically consist of brackets and arch wires, as well as elastic ties that hold the arch wires in place.
Brackets: Brackets may be composed of metal, ceramic, composite or a combination of these materials. Today’s brackets have come a long way from those of the past.
Bonding Material: This is almost always a glue product but is sometimes a metal band. Whether glue or metal, these help keep the bracket attached to the front of the tooth.
Arch Wire: Arch wires are thin metal wires attached to each bracket and which run across to the adjacent bracket. These also help to keep the teeth in place by putting pressure on the teeth themselves.
Gold-Plated: These types of braces are usually used for people who have stainless steel braces but are allergic to nickel (a key component of stainless steel). These can also be a cosmetic approach as some people would rather have a gold appearance to their braces than shiny silver.
Traditional Braces: As mentioned above, these were stainless steel; however the "traditional" braces today are mostly nickel titanium. These braces can be both conventional (elastics holding the arch wire in place) or the newer self-ligating braces. The new type can reduce the overall friction that occurs in the mouth between all the pieces of the braces and can be a huge benefit for some people.