Ever wonder how a tooth actually moves? Probably not, huh? Well, just in case you did, here is how it happens and why it is important to us.

Teeth are attached to the bone with little ligaments (mini rubber bands), these ligaments allow for very small natural movements of the teeth while you are eating or using your teeth. So, this gives you a little space between the tooth and the bone. We call this space the periodontal ligament space. Think of these ligaments as mini shock absorbers. This system allows for feedback to your brain if you bite too hard, or bang your teeth together.




Get the picture? Ok, imagine putting pressure on the tooth, pushing on it, in one direction. This pressure (force is the word we use), stretches (tension) the ligaments on one side of the tooth, and squishes (compresses) the ligaments on the other side of the tooth. This gives a tension side and a compression side. When the body senses these prolonged forces, it goes into action. On the tension side, the body starts adding bone, with cells called osteoblasts. On the compression side, the body starts eating away bone with cells called osteoclasts. This system of removing bone on one side, while adding bone on the other side, is what allows teeth to move through bone. If the force is too large the system will not be very efficient. A light, continuous force is the most efficient way to move teeth.

When we put on braces, we are setting up a mechanical system to deliver forces to the teeth. We use some teeth as anchors to try and pull other teeth in a certain direction. We use springs, rubber bands, and wires to deliver these forces to the teeth. Lots of forces are present. Some good, some bad. Forces from the tongue, lips, finger/toe sucking will all make teeth move. The tooth doesnt know who or what is pushing it. It reacts the same way to forces. There is a lot going on with the braces, and that is why Orthodontics is always exciting. We are always trying to balance the forces in our favor.

This may sound unbelievable, but, every now and then a patient will NOT wear their rubber bands as prescribed. This allows other forces to take over, and teeth do not move as desired. Some patients will try and make up for lost time by wearing more than one pair of rubber bands. But, as you already know, light continuous force moves teeth the fastest! It only takes a few grams of pressure to get a tooth moving. So, put the rubber bands in, and wear them as prescribed, to get the teeth straight quickly.


Guess what? Remember those ligaments? Well, they have memory when they are stretched! Which leads us into the next topic……retention, or keeping the teeth straight after braces!

Thanks for reading,

dr ernest

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