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Braces Vs Brackets

By May 12, 2022 August 16th, 2023 No Comments
3 smiling girls with braces

When it comes to orthodontics, there are a lot of things to know. Technology continues to improve and increase, which means there are more and more options out there to choose from. Understanding the different terminology can help you be better informed about your options or the treatment that you and your orthodontist choose to use.

Brackets and braces are terms you are going to hear a lot. We’ve put together this guide to walk you through the difference between brackets and braces and just what you can expect from each one.

We will talk about each category and then also discuss just how they work together as a whole. What you should know first is that brackets are part of braces. You will see more about that in this guide.

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Let’s start with an overview of orthodontic brackets. If you’re comparing orthodontic tools, brackets are simply part of the tool. Brackets are a very important part of the total compilation that makes braces. It’s ultimately the foundation of braces to some extent.

Brackets are incredibly unique when you think about it. There are certain parts to them that will eventually lead to the success of your braces overall. Let’s look deeper.

What are Brackets?

When you look at traditional  braces as a whole, they typically consist of two major parts. Those parts are the metal brackets affixed to the upper teeth or lower teeth, and then the wire that is attached to the square brackets.

Brackets that are used for the orthodontic process are placed on the patient’s teeth using cement. The cement bond is designed to be long-lasting. In most cases, the brackets will remain on the teeth until the entire braces process is completed. There are times when a bracket might come loose and need to be secured again.

Brackets are small square metal pieces that are applied. Brackets are often the first step to putting braces on. There are lingual braces also, which are the same as traditional metal braces, except that the brackets and wires are placed on the inside of teeth.

a dentist holding teeth model with brace

What Do Brackets Do?

You might think of brackets as just a holding ground for braces. However, they are designed to do more than just hold. Yes, they are the foundational piece but they have a specific purpose as well. Brackets are actually built with the features that they have so that any movement of your teeth is intentional. Teeth slide along the wires which makes tooth movement more efficient.

The brackets will combine with the wire and bands to move the teeth at the appropriate angle and direction. A band is a thin metal ring, usually stainless steel, which serves to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. Bands are used to correct your bite to its ideal position. Simply put: your braces will not come off until your bite is correct, so wearing your bands faithfully is essential to complete your treatment as soon as possible.

Each tooth in the orthodontic plan gets a bracket. The bracket has an opening in it that the wire is then later secured to. When you combine the bracket with the other elements in braces, the teeth move according to the overall design. Some brackets have hooks added to them. Those brackets are made to accommodate elastics – the elastic bands or rubber bands are the small rubber rings that fit around the bracket and holds the archwire in place – during the treatment process.

Ready for a confident, healthy smile?


Braces are the big picture. They have many different components that all work together to treat dental problems. Braces are most known for straightening teeth but they might have some other benefits as well for people. Each mouth is different so the treatment approach will depend on the individual’s needs.

When you think about braces vs. brackets, think of it like this. Brackets are one element of traditional metal braces. Braces are the entire design that puts all of the elements together. Let’s take a closer look.

What are Braces?

Braces are everything combined together for the orthodontic treatment plan. They are comprised of multiple pieces to create the entire braces package. This includes the following parts.

  • Brackets
  • Wires
  • Ligatures
  • Molar bands
  • Additional components

We already discussed brackets as part of the equation. The wire attaches to the brackets and braces and it’s typically a long arch wire that spans across the full row of teeth. They do have different sizes and types of wire. What is used depends on what they are trying to accomplish. For example, ceramic braces, sometimes called clear braces, are the same size and shape as metal braces, except that they have tooth colored or clear brackets that blend in to teeth.

However, broken brackets disturb the balance designed in the system of braces and archwires and can create undesirable movements or delay tooth movement. For that reason, the wires are often changed many times over the course of your treatment.

The ligatures are what attach the metal wire to the brackets. There are stainless steel ligatures or elastic ligatures. There are also self ligating brackets that actually don’t require ligatures but these are less common. When elastic ligatures are used, they are also changed at every visit. Braces come in fun colors so you can change them up however you like.

Molar bands are designed to be like a bracket. Not every case will have a molar band. These are just used on teeth that might not hold a bracket. It’s typically around the molars or back teeth. They might also be used to attach other appliances.

Finally, additional components could include things like elastic ties, coil springs, and power chains. These are specialty components that are used on an as-needed basis for individual treatment needs.

closeup of personćs teeth with braces

What Do Braces Do?

Braces are all of the parts of the puzzle. They can be used for a variety of orthodontic treatments but are known for straightening teeth. This might mean pulling a tooth lower, fixing crooked upper and lower teeth, or even leveling a tooth that sticks out.

Braces help to move teeth to the new position that they are intended to be in. It can be a long process at times while you wait for the parts of the braces to do their job. Moving teeth is not an overnight process. When you get braces, you may have them for 1-2 years, and sometimes even longer. Also, after your braces afre ready to come off, you may have to wear a removable retainer, the gadget that the orthodontist office gives you to wear after your braces are removed. 

In general, braces are used to perfect or improve a smile. Each treatment is unique. An individual works with an orthodontist to determine the best plan of action and then you go from there.

Final Thoughts

Brackets are an integral part of braces as a whole. Brackets work together with the other components to provide a lasting orthodontic treatment that is relevant to the needs of the patient at hand.

You can’t have braces without brackets. And brackets on their own probably won’t really do much for you. You need all of the pieces for the treatment plan to work appropriately.

Ready for a confident, healthy smile?

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