How do teeth move with orthodontic treatment?

May 4th, 2019

How do teeth move with orthodontic treatment?

Nowadays it seems like everyone knows about getting straight teeth with orthodontics.  But what does that mean and how does it work.  This article explains the process of tooth movement and the ways orthodontists can create the smile you've always wanted.

Physiology of tooth movement

Our teeth are constantly moving to some degree.  Unfortunately it's usually in the wrong or less desirable direction.  This movement, however, actually help us maintain healthy teeth and gums. More importantly, it's the reason why, when controlled properly, orthodontists can move and align teeth.

Every tooth sits in a pocket of bone, connected by fibers and surrounded by cells.  When a force is placed on a tooth, cells are activated to break down bone (on the side where the tooth is moving to) and rebuild bone (on the side behind the tooth).  The bone remodels as the tooth moves through it. It's your orthodontist's job to properly control and direct those forces and ensure a healthy response.  There are always limitations to how much and how far a tooth can move - this is why is critical to see a specialist in Orthodontics to properly diagnose each patient and create a customized treatment plan.

How are forces created

The traditional way to move teeth is with BRACES. A metal or ceramic (clear) bracket is bonded to the tooth (imagine "glueing" a bracket to each tooth), then a wire is placed to provide the force needed for movement. As the teeth align, larger, more rigid wires are placed to provide greater control of each tooth's movement.

CLEAR ALIGNERS (Invisalign) are clear plastic trays that are created in a series to sequentially move the teeth.  A 3D model of the teeth and bite is created in computer software, the teeth are individually moved incrementally, and the final results is virtually produced.  At each stage of movement, then, a clear aligner is fabricated.  The aligners are changed weekly (again, controlled forces are used) until the teeth are aligned and the bite is corrected.

RETAINERS can sometimes be used to create very limited amounts of tooth movement.  Typically these are used for former patients who experience minor tooth shifting and seek realignment.

So now what...

Anyone interested in more information on orthodontics and tooth movement in general can feel free to email us at or give us a call at 985-446-0988.