What Are the Main Elements of Braces?

One of the most common questions patients ask is about the components that make up their braces. While braces may seem like a simple collection of wires and brackets, they are carefully designed systems with multiple elements working together to gradually shift teeth into proper alignment. Let’s explore the main elements of braces and how they function to give you a better understanding of the orthodontic treatment process.

Parts of Braces

Braces are made up of several parts. The elements include:


Brackets are small, square-shaped devices that are bonded directly to each tooth. They serve as anchors, securing the archwire and other orthodontic components in place. Brackets are available in various materials, including stainless steel, ceramic, and plastic, and they can be customized to blend with the color of your teeth, offering a subtler look.


The archwire, a key element of braces, threads through the bracket slots. It’s usually crafted from a resilient metal alloy, like nickel-titanium or stainless steel, which combines flexibility with strength. The archwire acts as a guide, gently applying pressure to the brackets and, consequently, the teeth to move them into the desired position over time.

Ligatures (Elastics)

Ligatures, also known as elastics, are small, colorful rubber bands or wire ties that secure the archwire to the brackets. They play a crucial role in maintaining the position of the archwire and preventing it from becoming detached from the brackets. Ligatures can be changed at each adjustment appointment, allowing patients to add a pop of color or coordinate with their favorite sports team or holiday.


In certain situations, especially with molars, orthodontists might opt for bands over brackets. Bands are ring-shaped attachments that wrap around the entire tooth, offering a sturdy base for the archwire and additional elements.

Buccal Tube

The buccal tube is a specialized orthodontic bracket or attachment that is affixed to the last molar. Its purpose is to act as a conduit for the archwire, enabling it to continue past the final tooth and offering enhanced control over the movement of the teeth.


Hooks are tiny extensions attached to brackets or bands, serving as connection points for different orthodontic accessories, like elastics (rubber bands) and other devices designed to address particular orthodontic problems.

What Are the Main Elements of Braces?

Best Tips for Caring For All Parts of Your Braces

Proper care and maintenance of your braces are essential for achieving the desired results and ensuring a smooth treatment process. Here are some tips that Dr. McGrogan recommends to help you care for all the parts of your braces:

  • Brushing and Flossing: Brush your teeth thoroughly after every meal, focusing on the areas around the brackets and wires. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day to remove food particles and plaque buildup.


  • Avoid Hard and Sticky Foods: Steer clear of hard, crunchy foods like nuts, ice, and hard candies, as well as sticky, chewy treats like caramels and gummy bears. These foods can bend or break the wires and dislodge brackets, causing delays in your treatment.


  • Protect Your Appliances: When participating in sports or activities that carry a risk of impact to the mouth, wear a properly fitted mouthguard to protect your braces and prevent potential injuries.


  • Handle Wires Carefully: If a wire comes loose or protrudes, never cut it yourself. Instead, use a blunt instrument like the eraser end of a pencil to gently push the wire against the inside of your cheek or lip to prevent irritation until you can visit your orthodontist.


  • Attend Adjustment Appointments: Keeping your scheduled adjustment appointments is crucial for your treatment progress. During these visits, your orthodontist will replace worn-out ligatures, adjust the archwires, and ensure that your braces are working effectively.


  • Use Orthodontic Wax: If a bracket or wire is causing irritation or rubbing against your cheek or gum, apply a small amount of orthodontic wax to the offending area for temporary relief until your next appointment.


  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products to promote strong teeth and healthy gums, which can aid in the tooth movement process.


  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene Habits: Use an antibacterial mouthwash and consider investing in interdental brushes or water flossers to reach areas that are difficult to clean with traditional floss.

By following these tips and maintaining open communication with your orthodontist, you can ensure that your braces and all their components function properly, minimizing discomfort and maximizing the effectiveness of your treatment.

Oral Hygiene Accessories for Braces Wearers

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene is crucial during orthodontic treatment to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues. While brushing and flossing are the foundational practices, several accessories can make the process easier and more effective for braces wearers:


  • Interdental Brushes: These small, cone-shaped brushes are designed to clean around brackets and under wires, reaching areas that standard toothbrushes may miss. Interdental brushes come in several sizes to fit the unique spaces between your teeth and braces.


  • Water Flossers: Water flossers, also referred to as oral irrigators, utilize a consistent water stream to remove food remnants and plaque from areas around braces that are typically difficult to access. They are particularly beneficial for individuals who find traditional flossing methods challenging.


  • Orthodontic Flossers: These specialized flossers feature a stiff end that can be threaded under the archwire, making it easier to floss between teeth and around brackets without causing discomfort.


  • Orthodontic Wax: As mentioned earlier, orthodontic wax can provide relief from irritation caused by protruding wires or rough brackets. It acts as a barrier between the braces and your soft tissues, preventing further discomfort.


  • Fluoride Rinses: Using a fluoride-based mouthwash can help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities, which is particularly important during orthodontic treatment when teeth are more susceptible to decay.


  • Disclosing Tablets: These chewable tablets contain a harmless dye that stains plaque and debris, making it easier to identify areas you may have missed during brushing or flossing.


What Are the Main Elements of Braces?

Take the First Step Toward Straighter Teeth

At Shine Orthodontics, we understand that starting orthodontic treatment can be a big decision. That’s why our team is dedicated to providing you with the knowledge and guidance you need to feel confident in your choice. Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.