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Understanding Orthodontics: The Science Behind How Teeth Move and Align

Orthodontic treatment realigns your crooked teeth to improve your smile and your bite function. Most people know the benefits of this popular treatment, but they’re less sure about how those benefits actually happen.

Brendan Smith, DDS, MS, and our team at Freedom Orthodontics in Cedar Park, Texas, want our patients to feel confident and educated about their treatment. In this post, learn how orthodontics works to help you have a more beautiful smile.

Basic tooth anatomy

To understand how orthodontics work, you need to know a little bit about tooth anatomy. When you think of your teeth and how they’re structured, you likely think of the visible part of your tooth (the crown), root, and jaw that supports your tooth. But that’s just part of the story.

Although we tend to think of our teeth as sitting in pockets in our jawbone, they’re actually connected to that bone by a tough, fibrous tissue called the periodontal ligament (PDL). Ligaments help connect one bone to another, and in your mouth, your PDL links your teeth with your jawbone.

Your PDL is somewhat flexible, allowing it to act as a shock absorber for your teeth and jaws when you bite and chew. It also plays a critical role in orthodontic treatment. In fact, without this ligament, orthodontic treatment wouldn’t be possible.

If your teeth were surrounded by bone, they wouldn’t have the ability to move and stay put in new positions. So while orthodontic treatment can move your teeth, it’s dependent on the ability of your PDL to move and shift position over time.

How orthodontics work

Traditional braces and clear aligners look a lot different, but they have the same goal: to move your teeth into proper alignment. They also use the same underlying principles to achieve that goal.

During orthodontic treatment, both braces and aligners exert force or pressure on your teeth. Your flexible PDL allows your teeth to move in response to that pressure. As force is exerted on one side of your tooth, your PDL on the opposite side contracts and compresses, slightly loosening your tooth from its socket. 

At the same time, the movement initiates new bone formation — a process known as remodeling. The remodeling process helps stabilize your tooth in its new position. This process is repeated over and over in a very gradual way, gently shifting your teeth into their new positions over time.

Wearing a retainer after your initial treatment also helps stabilize your PDL, providing an added measure of support while your PDL adjusts and new bone forms to hold your teeth in place. Since your PDL remains flexible, we often recommend wearing your retainer periodically even after your treatment is complete to maintain your beautiful results.

Get started on your beautiful new smile

You don’t have to know how orthodontics works to understand the tremendous benefits they offer for your smile, oral health, and confidence. To learn more about orthodontic treatment, call Freedom Orthodontics or book an appointment online today.

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