Dental arches

What are dental archwires in orthodontics?

Dental archwires are one of the most important components of dental appliances and more especially, of fixed dental appliances or as they are traditionally known, brackets.

As we explained in this section on what are fixed dental appliances, the three most important components of brackets are:

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The bands

It is a stainless steel ring that normally surrounds the first molars. They carry different attachments such as the tubes where the arches go, or the hooks where the intermaxillary elastics (known as removable rubbers ) will be placed.

The bands are cemented with zinc oxyfostat or others of similar characteristics. This cement holds the band in place and prevents the formation of plaque on the tooth, thus preventing caries.

Dental arches

All orthodontic archwires are made of alloys, which are the combination of two or more metals. These alloys have been improved to those used today:

Orthodontic Arch Shapes

brackets-imoiAt the beginning of orthodontic treatments, circular section archwires are used. This allows all brackets/teeth to be leveled to the same height and correct rotations. We start from the thinnest calibers that produce lighter forces and gradually increase the caliber as we reach the desired position and the patient’s tissues get used to it.

Rectangular section arches are then used. Once the teeth are aligned, we will fully control the three-dimensional movement of the tooth root with these archwires. In the same way, the archwire gauge is increased until it completely covers the size of the bracket slot. This occurs in the last stages and finishes giving the correct inclination to the crowns (and therefore to the roots).

Sectional arches

Occasionally, the orthodontist will place only small sections of wire on some teeth. This can be used to correct small malpositions or to close a space before starting the complete treatment, if we foresee that it will last several months. You can avoid the need for braces on all teeth until they are no longer necessary. In any case, they serve to facilitate further treatment.

The idea is that the treatment should be comfortable and easy to clean, so we always try to limit the duration of the treatment to a minimum, making it compatible with the fact that the movement should be as physiological as possible, that is, slow so that bone is formed without causing resorptions in the roots (which are produced by too fast movements).


There are basically two ways of attaching the wire to the bracket. One is metal ligatures, which are very fine stainless steel wires. And another is the colored elastics. The latter provide less control because over time they lose their elasticity, so they are used when we do not need to control the movement of the tooth to the maximum. You will see that if we need to precisely move a tooth or close a space, we will certainly use metal ligatures.


We cannot forget the importance of anchorage in the world of orthodontics. What is anchoring? It is the degree of resistance offered by the tooth to tooth movement. That is, when we exert a force on a tooth, an equal and opposite force of resistance to movement is formed. In orthodontics, we want to place some teeth in an ideal position by leaning on others, so we will have to reinforce the anchorage in different ways to prevent unwanted movements. For example: if we want to close the space between a molar and a premolar, and we do not want the molar to come forward, we will have to reinforce the anchorage by means of, for example, a transpalatal bar with a Nance button.

Another way to gain anchorage is by using micro-implants. They are screws placed in the bone on which we can exert forces without fear that they will move. They have been a great revolution since they avoid the use of more complex and cumbersome devices.