Parts of Braces



Brackets are the small metal squares that are attached to the front and side teeth. They act like handles that allow us to grab onto the teeth to move them. They are bonded directly to the enamel of the tooth with a special adhesive. Brackets are made of stainless steel.


Clear Brackets

These are brackets that are made of a ceramic material to closely match the color of the teeth. Some patients prefer these, as they make braces more "invisible"



Bands are metal rings that fit around the molars, or back teeth. They each have a metal attachment welded on the outside where the archwire connects. Bands are held onto the teeth with special dental cement.



The archwire is the wire that connects all of the brackets and bands together. It does the actual work of aligning the brackets, therefore aligning the teeth. When Dr. Burkey places a bend in the archwire, the teeth will follow and move accordingly. When spaces are being closed, teeth slide along the archwire like a track.


Power & Energy Chain

Power & energy chain are rows of rubber O-rings that are connected together. They resemble a chain, because each little rubber ring is attached to the next one in the row. The chain is stretched over a group of brackets, with each ring going around one bracket. As the stretched chain wants to contract, it pulls the teeth closer together. It is used to move the teeth along the archwire and to close spaces. Power chain comes in grey, clear, or many fun colors. Dr. Burkey and his staff change the power chain at each appointment, therefore you can request new colors at every visit!



O-rings are small rubber rings that hold the archwire to each bracket. Dr. Burkey and his staff place these by stretching the o-ring around the corners of each bracket, over the archwire. O-rings can be grey or clear in color to match the brackets, but they also come in many different fun colors. Self-ligating brackets do not require o-rings, as these brackets have a little door that opens and closes to hold the archwire in place.


Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Elastics are rubber bands that the patient stretches from one bracket or band in the upper arch to a bracket or band in the lower arch to provide a force that will move the teeth. You can choose from tooth colored elastics or very colorful ones. As elastics tend to get stretched out over time, you change them yourself once a day so they remain effective in moving your teeth. We'll provide you with little baggies of elastics so you will have plenty as needed. Wearing elastics faithfully as recommended is essential for a good result and for getting the braces off on time.



Separators (or spacers) are small rubber bands that are used to make space between the back teeth (molars) before getting braces. These are utilized between molars that need to have metal bands placed around them. Teeth ordinarily fit very tightly next to each other. In order to make space for the thickness of the band, we need to place separators between your teeth for about a week. The separators slightly push the teeth apart so bands can be fit around them.


Palatal Expander

A palatal expander is an appliance that is cemented to the upper back teeth and is used to help grow the upper arch wider. It is an appliance that corrects cross-bites of the back teeth, when upper teeth hit inside of the lower teeth.


Herbst Appliance

A Herbst Appliance is an orthopedic device that helps modify growth in a helpful way. Unlike a headgear, which is removable, the Herbst Appliance is cemented in place. It holds the lower jaw in a forward position to help maximize lower jaw growth potential. Although a person's lower jaw is positioned forward a bit while wearing a Herbst appliance, he or she is able to open & close and move their mouth around in a normal way.



Retainers are used to hold (or retain) your teeth in place after braces are removed and are an essential part of successful orthodontic treatment. Retainers are needed because teeth have fibers that help them attach to the bone. As teeth are moved by your braces, these fibers get stretched. The fibers want to pull the teeth back to their old positions when the orthodontic force is removed. Retainers help prevent this and allow time for the fibers to reorganize into their new positions. The longer retainers are worn, the less likely your teeth will relapse or move. The plastic part of the retainer can be ordered in a variety of fun colors if you like! Cooperation with wearing retainers after your braces come off is absolutely essential, otherwise your teeth will get crooked again. Click on Retainer Instructions for more information and specific instructions for wearing & caring for retainers.


Bonded Retainer

A bonded or fixed retainer is made of wire and in some cases is bonded to the inside of the lower front teeth to help keep them straight after the braces come off. Sometimes a bonded retainer is used behind the upper front teeth to help keep a space closed between those teeth.