Learning About Your Orthodontic Options

by Jennifer Chan


Whether you’re considering braces for your child or yourself, make sure you know the full extent of your options. Photo: Braces for Pretty Faces (2015)

Whether they proactively address dental problems in adolescence or correct them later in life, braces are one of the most effective methods for improving the appearance and functionality of your teeth. If you’re considering braces for your child or yourself, make sure you know the different styles available and the pros and cons of each.

Metal braces
Stainless steel braces are the most basic style, but they’re also the most functional and economical. If you find the prospect of conspicuous metal brackets off-putting, keep in mind that modern brackets are smaller and less prominent than the ones you may have worn in your childhood. Also, for children, the choice of colored bands offers a fun opportunity for self-expression.

There are a few functional drawbacks of traditional braces, like the need to avoid hard or gooey foods and occasional discomfort from protruding wires. However, there’s a good reason this simple style of braces is still around: it continues to deliver the results that orthodontists want to achieve.

Ceramic braces
Ceramic braces function the same way as metal braces, but with clear or tooth-colored brackets that make them less noticeable. While they’re equally effective for straightening teeth, there are a couple of disadvantages that may counter the aesthetic benefits. For one, ceramic braces are more expensive and take longer to install. Also, since the brackets are ceramic rather than metal, they’re more susceptible to breaking, which means wearers have to be even more careful about what they eat. Overall, the time and money that go into maintaining ceramic braces makes them worthwhile only for the most self-conscious of wearers.


Image 2: In general, the less visible a braces system is, the more expensive it is. Photo: Braces for Pretty Faces (2015)

Lingual braces
Unlike traditional braces, which are situated in front of the teeth, lingual braces are situated behind the teeth, effectively hiding them from view. However, despite the obvious cosmetic benefits, lingual braces have several potential drawbacks. First, due to the increased complication of installation, they’re a lot more expensive, and not all orthodontists know how to install them. The main functional disadvantage of lingual braces is that, due to their location in the mouth, they may get in the way of the tongue, potentially causing speech complications and even injury. Additionally, lingual braces are difficult to clean and don’t work well for patients with small teeth.

Invisible braces
These braces aren’t literally invisible, but they’re about as close as it gets. They work a lot differently than traditional braces—rather than brackets cemented onto the teeth, invisible braces systems like Invisalign employ a series of clear plastic, removable aligners that are designed to fit each patient’s bite. Replaced every two weeks, these aligners progressively adjust the patient’s teeth over an extended period of time.

Considering the many advantages of invisible braces (like eliminating hardware installation and food restrictions), it’s not surprising that they’re the most expensive braces system on the market. Additionally, since they lack the sheer force of metal wires and brackets, invisible braces are only able to repair minor discrepancies and aren’t suitable for those with significant dental issues. Invisible braces also tend to take longer to achieve the desired results—on average, therapy lasts up to three years, and in more severe cases, up to five years.


It’s easy to get preoccupied with choosing a style of braces, but a more important consideration is finding the right orthodontist. Photo: Braces for Pretty Faces (2015)

Even though there are many different styles of braces, keep in mind that each has the same function—to straighten teeth. Different orthodontists may prefer a particular style of braces to others, but ultimately, their professional expertise will have the greatest impact on the final outcome. So, rather than being preoccupied with choosing a style of braces, focus on finding a professional who makes you feel comfortable and has the proven ability to deliver successful results.

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