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What Does It Mean To Tighten Braces?

Written by Dr. Chaw Su Kyi on February 19, 2015

You have probably heard of the braces being tightened and wondering what that means.

The adjustment appointments are normally every 4-6 weeks. Some brace systems allow these appointments to be 8-10 weeks. It is vital that your treatment is regularly reviewed and monitored by your orthodontist. Your orthodontist will advise you at every visit when the next routine appointment should be scheduled.

At the adjustment appointments, your orthodontist will assess the amount of tooth movement which has occurred since the previous visit and to check that treatment is progressing as planned. At some visits, the wire may be ‘re-tied’ to further activate the wire, and other appointments the wires are changed and become slightly ‘stronger’ or larger in dimension.

The initial wires which are placed are very light and flexible. This allows the wire to be tied into the crowded teeth. The first few initial wires are of a predetermined shape and have a memory shape effect. When the wire is tied into the crowded teeth – it is deflected from its original shape. What this means is that the wire as it has shape-memory properties, it will want to move back into its original shape and as it moves back, it will move the tooth along with it. Therefore the tooth will straighten as the wire moves back to its original pre-determined shape.

Adjusted Braces. Before and After Photos - patient

The roots of the teeth support the teeth in position and it is vital that both the crowns (visible portion of the teeth) and the roots are moved into the right position. The ‘stronger’ wires help move the roots into the correct position to help maintain stability. This stage of treatment there may not so many dramatic changes being seen but so important for long term stability.

The pictures (1) and (2) below show the lower brace being just fitted and the lower wire is very flexible and ‘tied’ into all the crooked teeth. The two pictures (3) and (4) show treatment progression and the lower teeth are now straighter and a ‘thicker’ wire is placed.

Adjusted Braces. Before and After Photos - patient (frontal view, oblique view)

There are some orthodontic treatments marketed at being completed within 6 months. This may be possible in some mild cases, but in others, the 6-month treatment is completed by just straightening the teeth but with no consideration to the roots of the teeth. This can result in problems with the bite or lack of stability and relapse.

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