How Braces Move Teeth

how braces move teeth

Are you thinking about getting braces to improve your smile? Many people do, and for good reason – you want to give a good first impression when you’re meeting people. Having a beautiful, healthy smile makes a big difference in your confidence level. When you know your smile is good, you naturally enjoy showing it off.


How do Braces Move Teeth?

Your body has the ability to adapt and change. Your body’s ability to adapt and change is what enables braces and orthodontia to be successful. Braces apply pressure to your teeth in a slow and gradual manner. This is the only way to move your teeth into their correct position.  Teeth move at a rate of one millimeter per month, so patience and persistence win this race.  

Under your gums is a membrane holding your teeth in place. The archwire, springs, and bands of your braces will apply pressure on your teeth. The membrane responds to this pressure and changes your teeth’s position. As your teeth move it takes your body 1 or 2 weeks to move the bone structure to support the new position. Your bone structure then supports and holds your teeth’s new position.

Braces Basic Parts and How They Make Your Teeth Move

The basic parts of braces will help you understand the role they play in correcting your teeth.


Sometimes ‘orthodontic bands’ wrap around each tooth and cemented into place. These bands will become the anchor for all other the other parts. The bands can be traditional stainless steel, tooth-colored, or clear. Many people prefer tooth colored or clear bands as they are less obvious. They also tend to be more expensive though.


The next part of braces are the ‘brackets’. Brackets are the small squares attached to each orthodontic band. If the bands are not used, the bracket attaches directly to the tooth. Think of the brackets as little hands holding and guiding the pieces that will do the actual straightening. The parts used to move your teeth into proper placement attached to these brackets. Each bracket is custom made for each tooth. Brackets can be stainless steel, nickel titanium or copper titanium. Brackets are usually attached to the front of the teeth. If there is concern about seeing the braces, brackets can also bond to the backside of the teeth.

Arch Wires  

The ‘arch wires’ attach to the brackets. Archwires act as a guide, pushing your teeth to their correct position. The wires are formed in the position your teeth should be in. They have ‘shape memory’ built into them. The archwires flex to fit through the brackets of your teeth. Your body’s heat makes the wires want to go back to their original ‘remembered’ position. This applies the pressure to your teeth to move. Archwires can be stainless steel, tooth colored or clear. Brackets and archwires are continuously applying pressure. Your teeth respond to the gentle pressure by moving away from it, and into the position, your tooth should be in.

Every time you visit the dentist the archwires are changed. At first, the wires will be thin. As your treatment progresses, the archwires will get stronger to apply more pressure. That is why it is so important that you make your routine appointments. Delaying or missing appointments will cause you to wear your braces longer.

Buccal Tube 

These are on the last tooth and hold the archwire in place.


These attach to the archwire and are between the brackets. Their job is to exert extra pressure in the direction the teeth need to move. Springs can close or open spaces, and push or pull a tooth in the direction the tooth needs to go.

Elastics or Rubber Bands 

These attach to bracket hooks on both the top and bottom teeth. These bands will apply pressure to the upper and lower teeth, meshing them together. Once your tooth is moving, it will continue to move. That is why elastics must be worn 24 hours a day. If for any reason the elastics are removed, the tooth will stop moving. It can start moving again, but it takes time to get the movement started again. This can extend the amount of time you will need to wear braces.

Headgear Tubes 

Two headgear tubes attach to the front teeth if headgear is needed. The headgear tubes will hold the headgear facebow in place.

Facebow Headgear 

Sometimes extra force is needed to move teeth. Examples are molars needing to be pushed back; to create room for crowded teeth, or to correct an over or under bite. A facebow will then be used. A facebow headgear worn at night or convenient times will encourage the tooth to move better.

Not everyone will need all these parts. Your dentist or orthodontist will create a plan unique to your needs. Today there are more options than ever before to correct teeth. Minor corrections to your teeth with newer, smaller brace options, or even plastic removable retainers. Everyone is different and braces need to be unique to each person.

How Long Will it Take for My Teeth to get into Position?

As your teeth are only moving a millimeter a month, it all depends on how much change needs to occur. Variables to consider include the distance teeth need to travel. How severe is the correction needed?  Your age and the health of your teeth and gums can all affect the timing. Anywhere from 6 months to 3 years is normal, with 2 years being the average time. Your dentist or orthodontist will be able to give you a better estimate. Wearing your elastics and facebow if you have one, will shorten the time. The more you wear them the sooner the corrections occur.

girl with braces

Will My Teeth Move Out of Position?

You’ll need to wear a retainer once your teeth are in the correct position and your braces are removed.  Your teeth have become accustomed to moving and it takes time for your bone changes to stabilize. Your teeth will want to go back to their old position or move into a position they shouldn’t be in. A retainer is usually worn all the time for 6 months, and after that only during sleep time. Wearing a retainer ensures teeth stay in their correct position until the bone growth is strong.

Retainers can be clear plastic trays that are unique to fit the placement of your teeth. Retainers can also be wires that attaching to the inside of your teeth. Your dentist or orthodontist will know what is best for your needs, and when you’ll need to wear it. Wear your retainer as directed to make sure you keep your new smile.

Slow and Steady Wins This Race

Moving your teeth into new positions takes some time. There is no way to speed this process up other than making sure you make your appointments and follow your dentist or orthodontic’s directions. By doing so, you can join the millions that have beautiful, confident smiles. Seems a small price for something you’ll have the rest of your life. 

More helpful dental articles

Recent Posts

Legal Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, also participates in other affiliate and advertising programs, such as AdSense, ShareASale, Awin, Etsy, and CJ among others, and is compensated for referring traffic and business to them.