What’s That Twisted Wire Around Braces? Lace Ties Explained

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If you’re just starting your orthodontic journey, you’re probably wondering what is that twisted wire around braces and what does it do? Braces come with a lot of components and some look plain weird. So before you worry that your orthodontist is trying to lace your mouth shut, let’s dive into the world of lace ties and learn about their purpose.

This thin wire you’re wondering about has many names: lace ties, lace backs, long ties, under ties, etc. I use a lot of lace ties in my practice and rely heavily on them to move teeth where I need them to go. So if your orthodontist loves lace ties too, expect to wear them for the duration of the entire treatment. 

Twisted wires Around Braces: What do Lace ties do?

Lace ties are long, thin stainless steel wires wrapped and twisted around the brackets, usually underneath the main braces wire, but they can go over the wire too. They help hold teeth in place, and their main function is to keep gaps closed or even contribute to space closure.

Let’s take a closer look at what long ties do:

  • Keep spaces closed: The primary purpose of long ties is to keep spaces closed. While power chains (small rubber bands connected together) are used initially to close spaces, the memory of the gum fibers can cause the gaps to open back up. Long ties help to prevent this from happening by keeping the teeth close together.
  • Prevent gaps from appearing: Lace ties can help to prevent gaps from appearing between teeth during orthodontic treatment. As teeth are straightening and the dental arches widen, it’s not uncommon for gaps to appear between the teeth. Lace ties provide a continuous force that keeps the teeth in their proper position and prevents them from shifting too far apart. This is especially important during the later stages of orthodontic treatment, as the teeth are nearing their final positions.
  • Maintain Orthodontic Anchorage: Long ties can also be used for orthodontic anchorage. Anchorage refers to the resistance provided by teeth or other structures to prevent unwanted movement of teeth during orthodontic treatment.

    This is especially important during space closure, where we want to move certain teeth in a specific direction. By pitting multiple bigger teeth against smaller teeth, we can create a tug-of-war effect that helps to move teeth in the desired direction. Long ties can be used to anchor groups of teeth in place and provide the necessary resistance for proper tooth movement.
  • Space closure for small spaces: Long ties can also be used as a substitute for power chains in closing small spaces. Power chains can pick up a lot of gunk and can be difficult to clean, making them less hygienic.

    Long ties are more gentle and less bulky, and they become passive and loose once the space closure is achieved until the next activation. This makes them a more hygienic and effective option for closing small spaces.

Lace ties setup

Lace ties come in different setups, depending on the specific needs of the patient and the orthodontist’s preffered technique. The most common types of lace tie configurations are:

  • Under the arch wire criss-cross – This setup is used to maintain space closure. The steel long ties are wrapped around the brackets of multiple teeth in a criss-cross pattern.
  • Over the arch wire criss-cross – This setup is similar to the under the wire criss-cross, but the long ties are wrapped over the archwire. This setup is less frequent as it causes more friction.
  • Under the arch wire twisted – This setup is used to maintain closed spaces. The lace ties are tightly twisted multiple times in between brackets and wrapped around the brackets of multiple teeth.
  • On just the back teeth – This setup is used to anchor certain groups of teeth so that the front teeth can be pulled back. The lace backs are wrapped around the brackets of the molars, premolars and canines.
  • On just the front teeth – This setup is used to maintain space closure in the front teeth. The long ties are wrapped around the brackets of the canines and incisors.
  • On the entire arch – This setup is used to maintain loose control of the teeth throughout the entire arch, especially as the treatment reaches its final stages. The long ties are wrapped around the brackets of all the teeth, from molar to molar to prevent gaps from opening up.
Twisted Lace Tie – Esthetic (White)

How are the lace ties activated?

Lace ties need to be activated periodically to maintain proper tension. This is typically done at every appointment, which is usually every 4-6 weeks.

Your orthodontist will activate the lace ties by twisting the wire end and cutting off the excess wire. This process is gentle and helps to gradually move the teeth into their proper position. Depending on how tightly the wire is twisted, you may feel more or less tension on your teeth, similar to a wire change.

What happens if a twisted wire breaks?

Lace ties are prone to breaking, especially if they are light in size. There are generally three gauges of ligature ties that orthodontists use, and if you have a thin wire, you might be dealing with some breakage. 

Lace ties can break at the wire level or where the wire meets the twisted part, also called a pigtail. The steel tie pigtail withstands a lot of stress because of all the twisting, so it can often break. You can tuck the end of the pigtail with a pencil eraser so it doesn’t bother you.

However, when lace ties break, they most likely won’t stay on if you’re eating and speaking and you can deal with a long loose end that pokes your cheeks.

If tucking the broken end with a pencil eraser doesn’t help, you should notify your orthodontist and try to take it out yourself carefully. You can gently untwist the lace tie from underneath the brackets and wire, being careful not to pull on anything so you don’t break any brackets. 

Your orthodontist will replace the broken lace tie or advise you to wait until your regularly scheduled appointment.

If you’re not able to remove the lace tie, it’s best to leave it to your orthodontist and use orthodontic wax instead. Wax can be a helpful solution if you are experiencing discomfort or irritation from your braces, broken wire or a broken lace tie.

To use wax, first, make sure that the area around the broken lace tie is clean and dry. Then, take a small piece of wax and roll it into a ball. Place the ball of wax over the broken lace tie, covering it completely. The wax will help to prevent the broken tie from rubbing against your cheek or tongue, reducing any irritation or discomfort.


Lace ties play a crucial role in orthodontic treatment, helping to maintain proper tooth alignment and keep spaces closed. Understanding the different types of lace ties and how they work can help you better understand your orthodontic treatment and what to expect. 

If a lace tie breaks, don’t panic – it’s a common occurrence in orthodontic treatment, and your orthodontist will be able to replace it or advise you on what to do next.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • The only electric toothbrush you’ll ever need for your braces. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones.
  • The most popular water flosser with my braces patients. If you can, choose a countertop model that can hold a lot of water. You’ll need it, and your gums will thank you.
  • This beast of a blender to create ice cold smoothies and silky soups. Sipping on something cold is a natural pain reliever, and soft foods are perfect for those tough weeks ahead.

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