For many kids and teenagers, “you need braces” are the worst three words they can possibly hear. Aside from the discomfort and difficulty of keeping them clean, there is the fear of being taunted by other children for their “metal mouth.” But this is the 21st century, and there are alternatives to the traditional metal braces that gave rise to that hated phrase. Here are the various choices we have now for straightening teeth.
Traditional Metal Braces
These are the braces that immediately come to mind. Metal braces use brackets that are cemented to the teeth, connected by a wire and held together with tiny rubber bands. Even these cumbersome metal brackets and wires of the past have become smaller, more streamlined and less painful than their predecessors. In addition to being smaller, brackets can sometimes be clear or tooth-colored, and heat-activated archwires use the body’s natural heat to move teeth faster and with less pain.
Similar to metal braces, these have clear or colored brackets that are designed to blend with the color of the teeth. Some might even use wires that are also colored to match the teeth. The next step up from metal braces, they will also move teeth quickly. However, they’re prone to staining, so they need to be carefully cleaned daily.
A neat option for those who can’t stand the look of metal braces, lingual braces fit on the inside of the teeth, so they aren’t visible at all from the outside. However, as you can imagine, they’re more difficult to clean and are also more expensive. These types of braces can’t be used for certain conditions, and they might start out being uncomfortable, needing frequent, more involved adjustments.
Invisible Braces (Clear Plastic Aligners)
Nearly invisible, these clear plastic aligners are very popular now. There are several brands, though Invisalign is the best known. They’re made from clear plastic and are simply worn over your own teeth. Every two weeks, you wear a different custom aligner, and this gradual approach slowly moves your teeth into the proper position. They’re removable for eating, brushing and flossing, making it much easier to care for your teeth than with standard braces. The catch? They’re more expensive.
Aligners can be used for the treatment of many kinds of mild to moderate issues, such as crooked teeth, gaps, overcrowding, underbite or overbite and re-alignments in later years after childhood orthodontic work. Invisible aligners are only appropriate for teenagers and adults, since they’re custom made for a tight, exact fit. A child’s teeth are growing and changing too much to use aligners. They’re also not designed for those with more severe dental issues.
Which Braces Should You Choose?
There are a few factors to consider. One of the most important of these is your budget. Traditional braces may be the most noticeable, but they are also the least costly. If your child is very unhappy about getting braces, even with the smaller and less noticeable metal braces of today, they can choose colored bands for the metal braces that will give them more control over their appearance and let them make a fashion statement! Clear or tooth-colored ceramic braces may be a good option if you have a little more money to spend. If the braces are for a teenager or an adult and the problem isn’t too severe, clear aligners are a terrific option — provided, of course, you have the cash.