How to Open and Close Self-Ligating Brackets

If you’re looking for information on how to open or close self-ligating braces, you probably have one of these two problems:

  • One of your self-ligating brackets has come off and is now sliding on your wire. This can get annoying fast, so I understand why you may want it off.
  • You noticed one of your self-ligating brackets is open. If you manage to close it yourself, you’ll avoid a trip to the orthodontist’s office.

Opening or closing self-ligating brackets at home is doable. However, there are some things you should know before messing with your self-ligating brackets so that you don’t ruin their mechanism or worse, cause more brackets to break.

The first thing to do when dealing with any type of broken bracket is to call your orthodontist. Broken brackets are more than just uncomfortable. They extend treatment time and cause major setbacks when not addressed on time.

I wouldn’t advise trying to open a self-ligating bracket at home unless it’s broken and you want to take it off because it’s hurting your cheeks. Sliding brackets are no fun, and wax rarely helps in this situation.

Opening a bracket that wiggles on the archwire is harder than handling brackets that are glued to your teeth. Plus, not all self-ligating brackets are created equal. In fact, their built-in clip or door varies greatly from brand to brand.

Each brand of self-ligating brackets likes to create its own special instruments for opening the brackets, which can make things complicated. But most of the time expect one of these methods to work:

  • Your bracket has a metal rounded clip with a hole or a notch in the middle. To open the self-ligating bracket, insert a sharp instrument inside the hole or notch and pull down with either a straight or rolling motion.
  • Your clear or metal bracket has a flat door with a small groove above it. To open it, insert a very small flathead screwdriver, or a similar sharp instrument inside that groove above the door, and twist slightly. The twisting motion will slide the door down.
  • Very important: secure the broken bracket by pressing it onto your tooth when attempting to open it. Do not pull on the clip while the bracket is moving around.

As you can see, opening self-ligating brackets isn’t as straightforward because they’re so different from one brand to another. You should never attempt to open self-ligating brackets on your teeth for any other reason than broken brackets.

Also, remember not to pull on the wire or press on your other brackets with your instrument. You risk distorting the wire and breaking other brackets.

Here’s a handy video on how to do this:

YouTube video

The doors on self-ligating brackets can sometimes open due to the force of the wire, or after eating something hard or sticky. If this happens to you, it’s an easy fix.

The first time it happens, you might wonder if your orthodontist left the self-ligating door open on purpose. This is rarely the case. Any tooth that’s left disengaged from the wire for a few weeks will lose its alignment and even become visibly crooked.

So it’s best that you see your orthodontist as soon as you notice any open brackets. If visiting your orthodontist isn’t an option, you can try closing the bracket door yourself.

The good news is that closing self-ligating brackets is very easy, regardless of the brand. To close self-ligating braces, all you have to do is follow a few simple steps:

  • Check that your wire is flexible enough. Never force a strong wire into the bracket if it doesn’t fit.
  • Secure the wire inside the open bracket by holding it with a finger on either side.
  • With your other hand, push the clip or door gingivally, into the bracket. The goal is to fully cover the wire.
  • The clip will snap or slide back into place, and some brackets will make a clicking sound.

It’s very important not to force a thick wire into an open self-ligating bracket. Thick archwires are very strong, and forcing them in a bracket can:

  1. Cause a kink in the wire;
  2. Cause the bracket to come off;
  3. Cause the clip or door to malfunction.

Sometimes, closing a self-ligating bracket is as simple as it’s shown in this video:

YouTube video

If you’re having difficulties closing your self-ligating bracket at home, it can either mean that the wire can’t fit properly or that the clip is broken. In both situations, there isn’t much you can do at home, and it’s best to see your orthodontist. They will fix the issue at your next tightening appointment.

In this section, we’re going to focus on brands. There are few popular designs of self-ligating brackets, so I’m sure you’re going to find something useful for your particular case.

And since a picture speaks more than a thousand words, I inserted a video for each brand I found relevant. Hope you find what you’re looking for.

Opening and Closing Damon Brackets

Opening and closing Damon brackets can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. But with the right tools and technique, you can handle it yourself at home between appointments.

At the orthodontist’s office, they use a special tool to open the brackets. It looks a lot like a tiny screwdriver that they insert in the notch above the bracket’s door. Then they give it a gentle twist to pop the door open. They don’t force it at all so it doesn’t hurt your teeth.

At home, you’ll need something small and pointy to lift that door. Sharp tweezers work well if you can get the tip under the edge. Put it in the notch and lift up slowly. Jeweler’s screwdrivers are also good since you can put it in and twist the door open. Go slow and don’t push too hard – you risk breaking other brackets or bending the wire.

Some people can even use their fingernails. Try slipping the very end under the door’s edge and twisting it gently. It might take a few tries to get the right angle. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t open right away.

When closing, make sure the wire is seated right first. Then carefully push the door back into its locked position. You’ll feel it click – that means it’s secure.

Opening and closing In-Ovation brackets

The In-Ovation self-ligating bracket uses a spring-loaded door mechanism that allows for quick and easy opening and closing without ligatures. As shown in the video “Opening and closing the In-Ovation® L bracket using a basic scaler”, the process is as follows:

You’ll notice the clip has a small cut-out or opening that can be accessed with any sharp, thin tool. To open the bracket, use a scaler or other suitable dental instrument to gently push down the door. This will cause the doors to swing open, releasing the archwire.

It is important to apply gentle, direct pressure in a perpendicular motion when opening and closing. Do not force the doors at an angle, and avoid twisting the instrument, as this could damage the bracket’s mechanism. Go slowly at first to get a feel for how the spring-loaded doors move.

To close the bracket, ensure the archwire is fully seated in the bracket slot. Then, use the scaler or your finger to push the doors back upwards. If you use a scaler, engage the rounded part of the door. The spring-loaded doors will snap shut, securely ligating the archwire.

If a door resists fully closing, the wire may be too thick to fully engage in the current tooth’s position, or the clip may be damaged.

YouTube video

Opening and closing Carriere SLX brackets

Carriere SLX brackets are another popular option among orthodontists. There’s a classic older version and a more modern version of the Carriere SLX bracket called 3D. They open very differently, and I’m going to cover both.

The old version of the Carriere SLX bracket features a door with a round opening. To open the bracket, you will need the Carriere instrument, but a probe may work too. Press the tip of the instrument into the opening hole and apply pressure down, toward the tooth, and pull away from the wire.

When the door opens completely, you will hear a “click” sound, which is a sign that the door has gone over the door stop. You will also feel when the door has completely opened or closed.

When opening the bracket door, it’s important to avoid any twisting motion which may hurt the mechanism. Also avoid pulling straight down away from the wire, since the door has a slight curvature and isn’t meant to be opened straight down.

To close the Carriere SLX bracket, simply push it back in, ensuring that the wire is secure inside the bracket slot. You can use your fingers for this since it’s supposed to be a seamless motion. Again, you should hear a click from the mechanism springing back into place.

YouTube video

To open and close the new generation of Carriere brackets – Carriere SLX 3D, the process is a little different.

To open the 3D bracket, you will need a special instrument called EZ Twist that looks like a very small screwdriver. The door easily opens with a twisting motion of the instrument.

To close the 3D bracket, push it back onto the wire with your finger, while you hold the archwire in place on one side of the bracket. It should feel like a sliding seamless motion.

YouTube video

Opening and closing Empower Self-Ligating brackets

The Empower Self-Ligating brackets use a classic metal clip to hold the archwire in. This clip can be opened in two different ways.

You’ll notice a facial hole in the middle of a clip, as well as a metal tail toward the gingival end. With the first method, you insert a probe or sharp instrument into the facial hole and slide straight down. Avoid twisting or pulling too hard down.

The second method uses the gingival tail, which is the metal part that sticks out of the bracket when the clip is closed. You’ll notice that the gingival tail has a notch that you can engage with a sharp instrument and push down.

To close the clip, simply push it back into place with your fingers using a vertical motion. Make sure the wire is fully engaged in the bracket’s slot.

YouTube video

Opening and closing 3M SmartClip Self-Ligating Brackets

The 3M SmartClip Self-Ligating Brackets use a unique mechanism that differs from the traditional “door” method found in many self-ligating systems. The 3M SmartClip Self-Ligating Bracket system is designed with a unique clip mechanism that sits on both sides of the bracket slot.

During wire insertion, the archwire is “snapped” into place between these clips. The clips flex outward to allow the wire to seat and then return inward to their original position, securing the wire without the need for additional ligatures or manual locking.

To insert the wire into the clips, press the wire on both sides of the bracket until the clips snap on top of it, or better yet, use 3M Smartclip’s special instrument.

To disengage the wire from the bracket, simply pull the wire out on both sides, using an instrument. The bracket’s iIntelligent” clips are designed to release the archwire if forces are excessive.

YouTube video

3M self-ligating brackets also feature other designs that include various types of doors similar to what I’ve described above. Use your judgment when closing either spring clips or sliding doors on self-ligating brackets.

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