If your dentist brings up braces to correct crooked teeth or an irregular bite, take a deep breath and take comfort in the fact that braces have come a very long way since junior high. There are now many different options available that straighten teeth in less time, and many braces are nearly invisible or even removable. It’s also important to remember the benefits of braces can be tremendous to your oral and overall health. In addition to straightening your teeth and giving you a better bite, the realignment braces provide can also relieve jaw pressure and prevent excessive wear to the tops of the teeth — in addition to improving your smile, of course!
To help you understand what your options are, here’s a rundown on all of the different braces available today.
Standard braces are what you might remember from your childhood: made of stainless steel wire, metal brackets, and plastic ligatures, these braces are bonded directly to your teeth and can only be removed by a dentist. Depending on the severity of your alignment issues, standard braces can take 1 1/2 – 3 years to straighten your teeth. And, while they tend to be cheaper than other kinds of braces, there are several downsides. The fact that the braces are bonded directly to your teeth can make them difficult to clean and can cause discoloration upon removal. These braces also tend to require frequent adjustment by a dentist or orthodontist, and many adults simply don’t like the fact that they’re highly visible.
Basic ceramic braces are just like standard metal braces in function. However, the brackets are either semi-translucent or tooth-colored, so they’re much less noticeable. They can also be used with a translucent arch wire, which won’t make them invisible, but also won’t stand out like stainless steel wire does. Ceramic braces also are less likely to leave stains and are less irritating to gums, though the brackets do tend to be bigger than with metal. You’ll still need to use ligatures but — you guessed it! — you can use translucent ones to continue the camouflage effect. Ceramic braces are generally more expensive than metal braces, but they’ll also straighten your teeth faster than removable liners. So, many patients see them as a good compromise between visibility and speed of straightening.
Lingual braces are sort of like standard braces, only they’re bonded to the back of your teeth. Kind of genius, right? This makes the braces much less visible, which is a huge plus for many adults. However, they do tend to be some of the most costly braces on the market, and they can’t be used to fix severe alignment issues. And, just like standard braces, they can be difficult to clean and install.
Also called Damon braces, this system uses metal clips, rather than elastic bands (ligatures) to hold the arch wire against your teeth. The clips slide against the wire with less friction and exerts what many patients feel is lighter pressure on their teeth. So, they’re much more comfortable than standard braces and can be made in a translucent polycarbonate or ceramic, which makes them much less visible as well. They also can straighten your teeth in a shorter amount of time than standard braces and require fewer adjustments by your dentist or orthodontist. They will cost a bit more than standard braces, but many patients feel the additional benefits are worth the higher price.
Removable, Invisible Liners
Commonly known by the brand name Invisalign, these are clear, molded pieces of plastic that fit into your upper and lower sets of teeth. You’ll have several different sets of liners that gradually bring the teeth into alignment — on average, you’ll be changing liners every two weeks or so.
One of the reasons liners are so popular is that they’re virtually undetectable and can be removed if needed, such as during a work meeting or an event. They’re easy to pop into and out of place, which also makes them easy to clean and won’t obscure your ability to brush and floss. However, there are a few downsides. Liners may not be an option if you have a severe alignment issue, and they are generally a more expensive option than other kinds of braces. Because each liner needs to be custom made for your mouth, it can also take several weeks for you to receive your liners, and they can be difficult to replace if lost or damaged. Finally, liners can take much longer to straighten your teeth than other methods. However, the benefits of being able to remove them may be more beneficial to your work and personal life than the speed of adjustment, which definitely makes this an option to consider.
It’s important to keep in mind that these days, many adults wear braces — in fact, we’re certain at least a few of your friends and family have worn them in the past few years! Each option has its pros and cons, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options and what will be best for your work and personal life before you make a choice. We’re also happy to give you a more detailed understanding of each option if you’re still unsure which kind of braces are best for you. Just drop us a line!