Braces FAQ

Here at Kottemann Orthodontics, traditional braces are one of the most effective tools we have for straightening smiles. They’re also one of the most popular! Braces have been around for a very long time, and have a proven track record of success correcting oral issues that range from mild to complex. While traditional braces are used often at orthodontic practices, there’s a lot about them that new patients don’t know. To help you understand more about the treatment process, and braces themselves, we’ve put together this Braces FAQ.  Keep reading below to learn more!

What are braces made of?

Braces come with a number of components that work together to move teeth. Let’s take a look at what they are, and how they come together to give you a straighter smile.


Brackets are generally made from a mix of stainless steel, nickel, or other high-quality metals.  This makes them very durable and long-lasting. Each bracket has a little hook or door over which a wire is threaded, and it can be secured either by closing the door or by applying an elastic over the top of the wire.


Although some orthodontists may still choose to attach the brackets to a metal band, it’s much more common to attach the bracket directly to the tooth with glue. The glue used to attach brackets is technically a form of composite bonding material. In complex cases that require more serious treatment, metal bands may be used together with glue in order to give the braces more leverage and stability.


Wires are thin pieces of metal that run from one bracket to another. One of our doctors will adjust the shape and curvature of the wire in order to move your teeth in the desired directions. They may also put crimps in the wire to help push or pull any teeth that are especially stubborn. In certain cases, the wire will attach all of the bottom or upper teeth together, but occasionally we will cut the wire strategically if connecting just a few teeth is better for the treatment plan.


Elastics are essential for patients who need bite correction, and are generally strung between an upper bracket hook and a lower bracket hook. This pulls the upper jaw backward to correct an overbite, or the lower jaw backwards to correct an underbite. Rubber bands may also be used in several different scenarios, especially if we want to exert extra pressure on the teeth or jaws.

Orthodontic bands

These stainless steel rings are cemented to the teeth using dental bonding agents. Although they can provide an anchor for braces and some other orthodontic appliances, we don’t use them with all patients.


These are small elastic “donuts” or rings that can be used to create space in between the teeth when needed. This usually occurs before bands are placed. You may also hear them referred to as separators.

Elastic ties/o-rings/ligatures

These tiny rubber rings or bands attach the arch wire to the brackets. They tend to be less rigid than spacers and come in a wide variety of fun colors.

Kottemann office

How do traditional braces work?

The first step in any orthodontic process is an initial consultation. This gives us the chance to meet and get to know each other! You’ll also receive a complete exam, which allows us to determine which treatment options will best meet your needs. During this consultation, we will:

  • review your dental and medical history forms
  • provide a complete oral exam, including x-rays, to determine if treatment is indicated
  • create a customized treatment plan if it is
  • discuss your investment in treatment, including insurance options and payment plans

Once we complete this appointment, we’ll schedule you to come back in and have your braces placed. After the brackets have been attached, the wire will be inserted. We’re able to encourage specific and precise movements by using bends in the wire, as these provide different types of pressure on different teeth. This can help a tooth that is twisted to turn and face the right way, or align a tooth that is too far forward with one that is too far back. This process of tooth movement is called remodeling, and it involves minor changes in the bone that surrounds the roots of teeth.

During remodeling, pressure is put on the tooth. As a result, cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts form around the tooth’s root. The pressure of the wire, the osteoblasts, and the osteoclasts together create a negative pressure on one side of the tooth. At this site, bone is removed. On the other side of the tooth, bone is reformed. As pressure is put on the tooth and the bone of the tooth and the jaw is remodeled, the tooth will slowly move into the correct position.

It’s important to note that this process is only able to occur if constant pressure is put on the tooth. As bone is absorbed on one side and then deposited on the other side, the tooth can move. Once the pressure stops – like when we remove your braces – the tooth will begin to settle into its new position. However, most will begin drifting back to their old positions over time. This is exactly why we give patients retainers, and recommend they wear them exactly as directed! Regular retainer use helps keep teeth in their new, improved positions and prevents any natural drifting.

How should you care for your braces?

Traditional braces can come with a bit of a learning curve, particularly in the beginning. Don’t worry, though! With a little patience and practice, you’ll get the hang of them in no time.

Dental hygiene is especially important during orthodontic treatment. It’s easy for food particles to stick in the nooks and crannies of braces, giving bad bacteria a place to grow. But brushing and flossing with brackets, wires, and bands can be a little tricky at first. Thankfully, there are many accessories available that have been designed to make oral hygiene easier for patients in braces! Oral irrigators use a pressurized stream of water to help thoroughly rinse hard to reach places, and ortho-picks can help you with braces-specific flossing.

There are also a number of food restrictions that come with traditional braces. In order to protect your braces and your teeth, you’ll need to avoid anything that’s crunchy or chewy, such as raw fruits and veggies, popcorn, gum, nuts, and many kinds of candy and chips. This part is only temporary, and will totally be worth it once your braces come off and you see your beautiful new smile!

How often are follow-up appointments?

In order to keep up with the movements your teeth are making and track your progress, we’ll make adjustments to your braces at regular intervals throughout your treatment. These will normally be scheduled for every 4-8 weeks or so. During these follow-up visits, our doctors will change the bands that are attached to the brackets. The wire may be replaced at this time as well.

You may experience some slight soreness following an adjustment appointment, but it should only be temporary. We work hard to keep these appointments as short as possible, so you can get back to work, home, or school as quickly as possible. It’s important you don’t miss out on these visits! They’re a huge part of your overall treatment plan, and help us ensure that you get the very best results in the least amount of time.

How long will braces treatment last?

This is the question we probably hear most often from our braces patients – and it’s one we really don’t have an answer for! That’s because every smile is unique, and every patient responds to treatment in their own way. Even though there’s no “one size fits all” answer to how long you’ll need to be in braces, we can tell you that the average time spent in braces is around 18 to 22 months. The good news is, signs of improvement can often be seen relatively quickly with traditional braces. This can give you more confidence in the treatment process, and encourage you on your journey to a straighter smile!

Kottemann staff checking out a patient

It’s the perfect time to take the first step toward a healthier smile

At Kottemann Orthodontics, we are dedicated to providing high-quality orthodontic care with an individualized approach. Our talented team works hard to make you feel like part of the family from the moment you walk through our door! We proudly serve patients of all ages from Maple Grove, Orono, Plymouth, Watertown, Chaska, and the surrounding communities. If you’d like more information on how braces can benefit your smile, get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to putting a healthier, straighter smile on your face!