How can metal or ceramic brackets and wires straighten your teeth? In this Science Out Loud video from the MIT K12 Videos YouTube channel, MIT Sloan Fellow Andrea Desrosiers explains how we “break our mouths with braces, except it’s actually our bodies that do the breaking.”
“Braces tether your teeth, pulling them together or pushing them apart. Either way, they’re applying a steady force to your teeth. And when mechanoreceptors in the PDL [periodontal ligament] sense this kind of smaller but sustained force, they signal cells called osteoclasts to the area, which spew out acid and proteins to dissolve parts of your jawbone.”
“Then the mechanoreceptors signal osteoblasts to come. And those cells deposit minerals that make bone. Osteoblasts rebuild the jawbone in a new shape that lets the PDL hold teeth in the new position.
“So braces basically force your body to dissolve itself and then rebuild itself according to their evil whims. Sounds barbaric, right?”
“But your body is actually breaking down and rebuilding bone using osteoclasts and osteoblasts all the time, not just if you have braces. Bone remodeling is just the way our body grows. The infant body replaces almost all of its original skeleton by the time it’s a year old. And it happens throughout our entire life. 10% of my bone material is technically new since last year.”
Desrosiers discusses other ways that we manipulate the bone remodeling process for our health before introducing Professor Paula Hammond, Department Head of Chemical Engineering at MIT, whose team created a breakthrough material that slowly releases proteins.
“And these proteins cause osteoblasts to go right to the site where the injury happened and generate new bone.”
Don’t miss this video: Straightening teeth with dental braces: An 18-month time lapse.