Getting braces can be a scary experience, no matter whether you’re a child, teenager, or even an adult. There are a lot of different types of braces, and choosing the right treatment option can come down to several factors, such as how the treatment is applied, how you have to care for them, and your orthodontist’s financing options. Below are some of the pros and cons of the different types of braces, that can help you pick the best type for your lifestyle.
Metal braces, also called “traditional” braces, are a semi-permanent visible metal banding across the front of the teeth that must be applied and removed by your orthodontist. Depending on the state of your teeth, you could wear metal braces anywhere from 12-24 months, and they run in the price range of $2,500 to $5,000.
- Reliability: Metal braces have a high success rate partly because they can only be removed by your orthodontist, so they are constantly and consistently working on your teeth.
- Timeliness: Because metal braces are semi-permanent, they are always working in your mouth, which means results can be quicker and more accurately timed than removable aligners.
- Accessibility: Metal braces have been the standard for decades, even as other types of treatments were introduced. This means that no matter where you live, your local orthodontist is equipped to give you braces, making metal braces one of the more accessible treatments.
- Price: Metal braces typically tend to be cheaper than aligners because they are viewed as the standard, and are so widely available.
- Diet Restrictions: While you have metal braces, you will have to stop eating certain foods in order to avoid damaging your braces and maintain proper oral hygiene. Your orthodontist will give you a complete list of foods to avoid after you get your braces.
- Discomfort: Traditional braces can cause oral discomfort and friction. Upon application, the metal wiring can cause soreness or even blisters to your lips and tongue as they get used to rubbing against them, and your jaw or mouth may ache if the braces are too tight — in which case your orthodontist will need to adjust them.
- High Maintenance: Metal braces require special tools in order to maintain the best oral health practices. Your orthodontist will teach you how to care for your braces, and which tools, such as a water pick, you will need in order to keep your braces and mouth clean.
- More Frequent Orthodontist Visits: With metal braces, you will need to visit your orthodontist every 4-6 weeks, until your braces are off, in order to check on your treatment progress and tighten or loosen the braces as necessary.
Self-ligating braces are similar in appearance to metal braces, however, they don’t have rubber bands or metal ties; they use brackets instead. The average treatment timeline for self-ligating braces is 12 to 24 months, depending on your condition. The price range of self-ligating braces is between $2,500 and $5,000.
- Quicker to Apply: The brackets used in self-ligating braces are generally easier and quicker for orthodontists to apply than metal braces, which can shorten some time off your orthodontist visits.
- Less Discomfort: Self-ligating braces have been shown to cause less friction, which can ease some discomfort — however, they still require an initial adjustment period, similar to metal braces.
- Lower Maintenance: The absence of rubber bands in self-ligating braces makes them less of a target for plaque build-up, and easier to keep clean.
- Style Options: Self-ligating braces come in both metal and clear options. Clear braces can reduce the appearance of braces in the mouth, though it does not make them totally invisible.
- More Expensive: Because they are more specialized, self-ligating braces often cost more than traditional metal braces, depending on your orthodontic and dental needs.
- Not Universally Available: Depending on your orthodontist, self-ligating braces may not be available to you, as they require specific training to apply. Additionally, if you have a severe case, self-ligating braces may not be your best treatment option.
- Diet Restrictions Still Apply: Despite being generally easier to keep clean, the metal brackets and wire are still subject to damage by certain foods, and you will generally have to maintain the same diet restrictions laid out by your orthodontist as metal braces while wearing self-ligating braces.
Hidden Lingual Braces
Hidden lingual braces, also called “incognito” braces, are almost identical to metal braces in appearance and application, however, they are applied to the back of the teeth instead of the front, hiding them from view. They are generally worn for the same amount of time as metal braces, between 18 months and 3 years, and the price range of incognito braces is between $5,000 and $13,000.
- Less Visible: The biggest pro of hidden lingual braces is that they are extremely discreet, making them a popular choice for adults who need braces, but don’t want the outward appearance of having braces.
- Consistency: Like metal braces, incognito braces are semi-permanent and always working, making them reliably faster and more consistent than removable braces.
- Minimizes Speaking Impediments: While you still may experience an adjustment period after their initial application, lingual braces can minimize interferences with your speech that are more common with metal braces.
- More Expensive: Despite being applied in much the same way as metal braces, hidden lingual braces are much more expensive — nearly twice as much as traditional braces in some cases.
- Not Universally Available: Applying lingual braces requires special training, so they may not be offered by every orthodontist. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with your orthodontist to see if these are available to you.
- Harder to Clean: Because they are more hidden, lingual braces can be harder to clean. Without the clear, front-facing visual, you may not know when food particles are stuck in your braces, which can increase plaque build-up.
- Increased Friction: Lingual braces make more contact with the tongue than either self-ligating or metal braces, which can cause increased friction and discomfort.
Ceramic braces follow the same structure and application process as metal braces, but they use ceramic brackets rather than metal ones. Ceramic braces take about 12 to 24 months to straighten your teeth, and cost an average of $3,000 to $5,000.
- Style Options: Ceramic brackets can come in a variety of colors, both to be more discreet, or to serve your personal style.
- Less Friction: Because they aren’t made of an abrasive material, some people experience less friction with ceramic braces than metal or lingual braces.
- Don’t Interfere with Machinery: A unique pro to ceramic braces is that they won’t interfere with machinery, such as x-rays and metal detectors, where metal-based braces, including lingual and self-ligating, do.
- Less Durable: Ceramic brackets are less durable than metal ones, meaning they may be easier to damage while eating, and brackets may have to be replaced more often.
- Takes Longer: Because ceramic braces are less durable and susceptible to being replaced more, it may take longer to straighten your teeth if you have a more extreme case.
- More Expensive: Ceramic braces are also more expensive than metal braces because they are considered a specialty material, and require specialized training to apply.
- Bigger Brackets: Ceramic braces have bigger brackets than metal braces, and while they are less abrasive, the size difference may cause some people discomfort.
Invisalign is a clear, plastic aligner that you wear over your teeth to straighten them. They are non-invasive, removable, and cost on average between $3,000 to $6,000.
- Discreet: Invisalign was designed to be an option for those who wanted to straighten their teeth without the appearance of braces. Therefore, they are very discreet to wear.
- Comfortable: As Invisalign doesn’t involve any wiring and is made from a non-abrasive material, they are the most comfortable teeth-straightening option currently available. However, there still may be an initial adjustment period where your mouth or gums may ache.
- Non-invasive: Because Invisalign is removable, you do not have to see your orthodontist frequently tighten or adjust them. In fact, you may only need to see your orthodontist to initially fit them.
- Easy to Clean: Invisalign is easy to remove and clean during use. This makes brushing and flossing your teeth much easier as well.
- Expensive: Invisalign can be much more expensive than metal braces, as they are a specialty material that has to be 3D printed with specialty equipment.
- Eating Restrictions: It is advised that you don’t eat or drink with your Invisalign in, which can cause some people embarrassment in public settings.
- Can Be Inconsistent: Because Invisalign is removable, you have to be in charge of keeping them on, in accordance with your orthodontist’s recommendation. If you aren’t consistent about wearing your aligners, you can get inconsistent results.
- Not Universally Available: Though Invisalign has risen in popularity since it was introduced nearly 30 years ago, not every orthodontist offers it as a service. Check with your local orthodontist about Invisalign if you are interested in it.
What Type of Braces Should You Get?
The type of braces that you should get will depend on your financial situation, and your oral and physical health needs. If you have more severe crowding or misalignment, then you may need traditional braces. If you’re looking to straighten your teeth for cosmetic purposes, then Invisalign or self-ligating braces may be a better fit. Talk with your orthodontist about your priorities and challenges — such as comfort, how long you want to have braces, cosmetic concerns, or how you might manage braces for your child with special needs — so that you can get the braces that not only serve your dental needs, but suit your lifestyle.
Getting a Retainer After Braces
Regardless of which type of braces you decide on, you will need to use a retainer to maintain your dental health after you get your braces off. There are generally two types of retainers; removable retainers and permanent retainers. A permanent retainer will be installed by your dentist or orthodontist. Removable retainers, which you will be asked to wear at night, for up to one year after your braces are removed. After the first year, most patients only need to wear them a few night a week.