Why Your Orthodontist Changes Your Braces Wires

Today I want to review two of the braces: one of them is nickel-titanium, which is going to be the point of today’s blog post and the other one is stainless steel. The difference between these wires is that nickel titanium has shape memory, which means that if you take this wire and bend it in half and let go, it’s going to spring right back to its original shape and this is really advantageous because if you can imagine all the teeth are being crooked if we put in this nickel-titanium wire, it’s going to want to spring back to its original shape, bringing the teeth with it so that they’re aligned and get the general arch form correct. This will work out any rotations and any up-down movements. On the flip side, stainless steel when you bend the wire, it’ll hold that shape. These have different roles in orthodontics.

nickel titanium brackets

The nickel-titanium is the earlier wires in your treatment whereas when we’re in our stainless steel, that’s a little bit more of a rigid wire. We can use that to detail bend specifically move one tooth up down, rotate it.

We can’t just have one nickel-titanium wire because it’s not one size fits all. If we started with the biggest nickel-titanium wire, it wouldn’t be able to fit in all your teeth. It might pop off the brackets and deliver too much force for specific teeth. We need to start with a small wire and work our way up.


There are different types of sizes for these wires and they can either be round or rectangular. This is for both nickel-titanium as well as stainless steel. The orthodontist will start with the light round nickel-titanium wires and as your teeth start to align and work a little bit more, they might go up to a bigger round nickel-titanium wire before going into a rectangular nickel-titanium wire. 

The round wires are really great for working out any rotations, up or down. But then we use our rectangular wires to work on the roots and get those movements and angulations done properly.

It’s so important to be careful with the foods you eat to not break a bracket because a broken bracket can increase your treatment length. If you can imagine a bracket that breaks off and that tooth starts to move, then when we put the bracket back on it, we can’t stay in the same wire. Because that tooth might have moved and that wire might be too big to bring that tooth back. In certain cases, if a bracket breaks and the tooth starts shifting, what we might have to do is go back into a smaller or thinner wire in order to retrieve it and then work our way back up to the wire that we were previously in.


This can significantly increase your treatment length especially if that tooth has moved quite a bit. Like I’ve always said you want to be really careful about the foods that you eat and the things that you do to not break your braces. This is why breaking brackets can increase your treatment length. It’s not because of the broken bracket it’s because we have to go back in wires to a thinner wire in order to work our way back up to where we were.

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