How Do Braces Work, Anyway? - Dr. Marc Olsen DDS, MSD

(Fremont County, Wyo.) - If you’re like a lot of us, you rarely utter the word ‘ligate’ and you have few (if any) reasons to think about how the word relates to orthodontic care. When you’re getting ready to choose braces for you or a family member, however, it definitely matters.  

When you have braces, brackets are bonded to your teeth and a wire is then used to guide your teeth into place. In older style braces, the orthodontist clamps the wire onto each of the brackets, securing it tightly with a tiny elastic colored ring. This is considered “ligation,” or tying the wire to the bracket. At your monthly visit, the orthodontist will change out these often-colorful ties, along with the wire. 

Not all braces work this way, however.  Some, like the Damon System®, are what is called  “passive self-ligating.”   With this type of braces, the brackets have tiny doors that are opened and closed  to allow the old wire to be removed and a new wire placed in.  Since no colored o-rings are used as part of this system; the brackets move freely along the wire. 

So why would someone opt for passive self-ligating braces as opposed to the older style of braces?  

1. Improved Comfort & Beautiful Smiles

A self-ligating system lowers friction in the mouth and exerts less force on teeth.  Ultimately, that means less discomfort during treatment. In addition less force allows the shape of the dental arch to broaden, making room to correct crowding, without taking out permanent teeth.

2. Better hygiene

Part of a healthy mouth means being able to remove plaque and food particles from teeth and braces. Self-ligating braces are generally smaller and because they don’t use the colored rings that collect plaque and food, a patient’s oral hygiene can be greatly improved reducing the chance for cavities and white spots.

3. Fewer Office Visits

Something that always surprises patients who use self-ligating braces is the fact that fewer office visits are usually required over their treatment time.  With braces that use the colored rings, patients generally visit the office for an adjustment about once every four weeks.  With self-ligating braces, most patients are seen every eight to ten weeks.  For busy families and individuals, that makes a huge difference. 

4. Reduced Treatment Time

One of the common questions about self-ligating braces is whether less force means a longer treatment time. Amazingly, no.  Having worked with both types of braces over more than 16 years, my experience has been that patients using passive self-ligating braces completed their treatment in the same amount of time—or less—than those using other types of braces. 

If you’re thinking about getting braces for yourself or your child to create a healthy, beautiful smile, take the time to explore why passive self-ligating braces are be the best choice for you.  You’ll be very glad you did.