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What are Braces?

Traditional braces are dental appliances that consist of small brackets. Braces fix to the teeth and the wires connect to the brackets. Braces correct crooked or gapped teeth and irregular jaw or bite alignments. 

The wires of braces gently apply pressure on the teeth, pulling them into the correct position. Brackets are typically metal. Sometimes they feature colored elastic rubber bands.

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An orthodontist or other dental professional fits braces. Usually, they will have at least three or more years of specialist training in correctly positioning teeth. However, some general dentists also offer orthodontic services.

Having traditional braces fitted and wearing them is a lengthy and slow procedure. You may have to wear braces for 12 to 24 months. Then, you may need to wear a retainer for 12 to 24 months or longer.

Following treatment, you should clean and look after your teeth as usual by following good oral hygiene. 

Alternatives to Traditional Metal Braces 

There are many alternative treatment options for traditional braces:

Direct-to-Consumer Clear Aligners 

Clear aligners are otherwise known as invisible braces. They are made of clear plastic and fit over the teeth to straighten them. Patients wear each custom-made aligner for a few weeks or a month at a time. Then they receive a new set for the next stage of treatment. The teeth gradually move into the correct position according to each person’s treatment plan.

Clear aligners are removable and must be taken out before eating, brushing, and flossing. As plastic aligners are removable, maintaining good oral hygiene is much easier than wearing metal braces.

You must follow your orthodontist or dental professional’s instructions on how long to wear clear aligners daily. Typically, clear aligners are worn for 22 hours a day.

Byte

Byte is a relatively new clear aligner supplier. They use innovative technology to offer quick and effective results, and the company’s customer service is of high-quality.

byte aligners
Candid

Candid is a clear aligner company dedicated to quality. The brand strives to offer a premium product and provides consistent results from start to end. 

candid starter kit and impressions
SmileDirectClub

SmileDirectClub is the biggest and most experienced home clear aligner brand on the market. The brand has established more than 300 SmileShops, where clients can receive free teeth scans instead of an impression kit. The SmilePay program offers financing to every client without requiring a credit check to make the product more accessible.

smile direct club aligners
Invisalign

Invisalign is renowned for creating the world’s first clear teeth aligners. The brand is the most established and widely-used clear aligner supplier in the United States. It has been running for over two decades, helping customers achieve a straight and attractive smile.

invisalign aligners

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces consist of the same components as traditional metal braces. However, they are fixed to the back of the teeth instead of the front teeth. Many people who are looking for a discreet orthodontic option choose lingual braces.

lingual braces graphic

Traditional metal braces use a wire bent in a horseshoe form. However, the wire on lingual braces can be custom fixed to the contours of your mouth. This process can potentially shorten the treatment time.

Lingual braces attach to the back of your teeth where your tongue hits when you speak. Because of this, you may have a temporary lisp or interference with your speech when you first begin treatment.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces also use the same pieces as metal braces. However, the brackets are created with tooth-colored ceramic or porcelain instead of stainless steel. This makes ceramic braces nearly invisible.

teeth with ceramic clear braces

While ceramic braces are more convenient than traditional metal brackets because they blend in with the teeth, they are more expensive. They also tend to break more frequently because they are made from plastic and are not as stable as metal. If you choose ceramic braces, excellent hygiene is a must because foods and beverages can stain ceramic brackets.

Veneers (Ceramic or Porcelain) 

Veneers are fine layers of material that cover the front of the teeth. They are a cosmetic dentistry treatment designed to improve the appearance of teeth. Veneers are typically made of ceramic (porcelain). They are a wonderful option for minor imperfections like uneven sized teeth, small gaps, or irregularly shaped teeth. Some people will require a short orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign before veneers can be placed. This is because the teeth should all be in the proper position to get optimal veneer results. 

tooth in lower jaw with dental veneer

Porcelain veneers are extremely realistic looking and are a permanent cosmetic dentistry procedure. Their color cannot be adjusted after they’ve been applied.

It is essential to consider that veneers are typically used to improve the look of teeth rather than to repair any damage. You might select veneer treatment if your teeth are discolored, stained, crooked, oddly shaped, chipped, or have spacing problems. 

You can only have veneers if your teeth and gums are already in good condition. They may not be suitable for you if you grind or clench your teeth, which can crack and damage the veneer.

Retainers

A retainer holds your teeth in position once they have shifted into the correct place using traditional braces. A permanent retainer is a thin line of metal fixed to the inside of your teeth to prevent them from moving. 

A temporary retainer is the same, except it can be placed in the mouth and removed. A temporary retainer is typically worn only at night. A retainer may be fabricated from a metal and acrylic bite plate or a plastic similar to clear aligners. Most people have to wear their retainer at night for a lifetime to prevent shifting of teeth. 

Are Braces or Clear Aligners Faster?

Clear aligners usually straighten the teeth much faster than braces. A clear aligner applies pressure to all of the teeth together instead of each tooth as braces do. If a customer is strict with wearing their plastic aligners, they are likely to work quicker than braces.

Are Braces or Aligners Cheaper?

The cost of Invisalign treatment is comparable to braces. Braces typically cost around $2,000 to $7,000. Invisalign averages from $3,000 to $8,000. However, many clear aligner suppliers are less expensive than Invisalign.

Only your orthodontist will know what the cost of treatment will be. Other factors affect the price of braces and clear plastic aligners. If your oral health requires more work and attention, this will heighten costs. For example, if you have an overbite, it will take longer to shift your teeth into the correct position.

Other factors include the average orthodontic treatment prices in your city, the brand of clear aligners, and how much your dental insurance plan will cover.

When Are Braces Necessary Over Alternative Options?

Clear aligners can only treat minor cases of misalignment. Invisalign aligners can often treat more moderate cases. However, braces are usually necessary for more severe forms of teeth misalignment and bite dental issues.

Your malocclusion bite refers to how your upper teeth and lower teeth meet and interact when your mouth closes. An improper bite can lead to irregular wear of the teeth, jaw issues (TMJ pain), and chronic headaches. Malocclusion also injures the teeth as they improperly collide with one another during chewing or speaking. Proper speech development can also be affected when your bite does not function properly.

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Resources

Dental braces and retainers, Health Direct, August 2018, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-braces-and-retainers 

Braces Have Changed, From Metal to Tooth-Colored to Clear, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), June 2017, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/braces-have-changed-metal-tooth-colored-clear 

Why Candid?, Candid Co,https://www.candidco.com/why-candid 

Why Byte? Byte, https://www.byteme.com/pages/why-byte 

How it works, Smile Direct Club, https://smiledirectclub.com/how_it_works/ 

The Invisalign Difference, Invisalign, https://www.invisalign.com/the-invisalign-difference 

Auluck, Angela., Lingual orthodontic treatment: what is the current evidence base?, Journal of orthodontics vol. 40 Suppl 1 (2013): S27-33, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24005948/ 

Chalipa, Javad et al., Comparison of Bond Strength of Metal and Ceramic Brackets Bonded with Conventional and High-Power LED Light Curing Units., Journal of dentistry (Tehran, Iran) vol. 13,6, 2016, 423-430, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5318499/ 

Veneers, Health Direct, August 2018, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/veneers 

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Updated on: November 18, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
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Medically Reviewed
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Erica Anand
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