HOW A TOOTH MOVES

X-Ray of Teeth

Your teeth are held in to their boney sockets by a group of fibers known as the periodontal ligament (PDL). One end of each fiber is attached to the bone and the other end is attached to the outside layer of your tooth. The fibers are slightly elastic and allow for your teeth to move oh-so-slightly when you chew.

Tooth movement is actually a normal physiologic process that orthodontists use to move your teeth. When your tooth is pushed to one side of the socket, two "zones" are created:

Picture of Periodontal Ligament
Photo Showing How Orthodontic Forces Work

1. Tension side – the fibers are being stretched and special cells called osteoblasts start creating new bone to fill in the newly created space.

2. Compression side – the fibers are being squeezed as the tooth pushes against the bone. Special cells called osteoclasts break down the bone to allow the tooth to move. This “zone” is where the soreness you feel comes from.

Once the specialized cells have built/broken down bone, the tooth sits in a slightly different position and the soreness is relieved. This process happens again and again, each time you come in for an orthodontic visit!

Once your teeth are all lined up and your bite is awesome, you will need to wear retainers to hold your teeth in their final position. You’ll need to wear them all the time for the first 6 months while the bones and gum tissues return to a normal, stable condition. But keep in mind that tooth movement is a normal physiologic process – meaning that it can happen long after braces come off. This is why we recommend wearing retainers at night time for the rest of your life… or as long as you want your teeth to stay straight.

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