Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

What Are Self-Ligating Braces?

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What are Self-Ligating Braces?

Traditionally, braces consist of brackets attached to the teeth with an archwire connecting the brackets. Some braces have rubber bands, known as ligatures, to hold the archwire in place. Self-ligating braces do not use rubber bands but instead use a built-in system to hold the archwire in place.

Self-ligating braces have been around for many years, with ‘Russell Lock’ edgewise attachment described in literature as early as 1935.1 

They have become more popular over the years, with new designs becoming more widely available. According to one study, by 2008, all major orthodontic companies offered some form of self-ligating appliance.2

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Pros and Cons of Self-Ligating Braces

Benefits and potential drawbacks of self-ligating braces include:


  • No rubber bands — lack of bands means the braces are less likely to be as noticeable.
  • Smaller brackets — smaller brackets than those in traditional braces, which may feel more comfortable.
  • Convenience — some people find that self-ligating braces are easier to clean than traditional braces.
  • Faster appointments — because there are no ligatures, your appointments may take less time.
  • Less discomfort —  some evidence suggests that you may experience less discomfort with self-ligating braces.


  • No rubber bands — this may be a downside for you if you enjoy using your colorful bands as an opportunity to accessorize. 
  • Cost — the cost of self-ligating braces is usually slightly higher than traditional ones because the technology is newer. Complex cases may increase the price.
  • Mechanical failure — sometimes, the mechanism that holds the wire in place in self-ligating braces may break or get stuck. This will need to be repaired before treatment can continue.
  • Less precise — the design of the brackets may not be able to make as precise movements as traditional braces.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional and Self-Ligating Braces?

While traditional and self-ligating braces are similar, they have several differences:


While traditional braces have rubber band ligatures, or ties, self-ligating braces do not. They work by using a system of sliding mechanisms or spring clips to hold the wire in place, depending on what kind of self-ligating system is used.

Treatable Cases 

Self-ligating braces can treat most of the same malocclusions as traditional braces. 

These may include:

  • Overbite — the top teeth protrude excessively over the bottom ones
  • Underbite — the bottom teeth are further forward than the top ones
  • Overcrowding — too many teeth in a small space can lead to them becoming crooked
  • Excess spacing — gaps in between teeth
  • Crossbite — the top and bottom teeth don’t come together correctly

There is some evidence to suggest that self-ligating braces may be more effective than conventional braces during the initial alignment stages.4

Comfort and Adjustments

Although all types of braces can cause discomfort as they move the teeth, some studies suggest that self-ligating braces are less painful than traditional braces since they apply less pressure to the teeth.5 Metal braces, including traditional braces and self-ligating braces, can also rub against the lining of the mouth, which can cause irritation. 

Adjustments typically take less time for self-ligating braces since there are no ligatures to remove and replace. This means less time in the orthodontist’s office during appointments. 

Treatment Times

Several studies have looked at the differences in treatment times between traditional braces and self-ligating braces. One study found no difference in the duration of treatment between the two.6  

Self-ligating braces may be more effective at treating certain issues. For example, a 2016 study found that self-ligating braces were more effective than traditional braces in closing the gaps caused by tooth extraction.7 

Another 2019 study found that self-ligating braces may be more efficient than conventional braces during initial alignment.4

Overall, treatment times are roughly the same, with some small variations.


The cost of self-ligating braces is typically higher than the cost of traditional braces. This is because self-ligating braces use newer technology. 

Pricing varies depending on several factors, such as the orthodontist’s expertise and location and the severity of the malocclusion.

Are Self-Ligating Braces Right For You? 

Self-ligating braces may be right for you if you:

  • Prefer braces that are less noticeable than traditional ones
  • Don’t have the discipline to wear aligners for 22 hours a day
  • Would rather not pay the higher cost for lingual braces
  • Shorter office visits

There are also many different options for straightening your teeth and perfecting your smile. 

Alternatives include:

  • Traditional braces — similar to self-ligating braces but use rubber bands to hold the wires in place.
  • Clear braces (also known as ceramic braces) — traditional braces that have tooth-colored brackets instead of metal-colored brackets. The rubber bands may be clear or white, to make them less noticeable.
  • Clear aligners — a non-invasive and removable alternative to metal braces. You wear each aligner for 22 hours a day for between 1 and 2 weeks.
  • Lingual braces — traditional braces that are placed on the inside of the teeth. 
  • Veneers — thin, tooth-colored shells that cover the front of your teeth. They can be used instead of braces to give a uniform smile if you only need to correct minor imperfections.

How Do Self-Ligating Braces Work? 

Instead of using rubber bands, self-ligating braces use the brackets themselves to hold the archwire in place. 

There are many different designs of brackets available, including:2 

  • Speed (1980)
  • Time (1994)
  • Damon SL (1996)
  • TwinLock (1998)
  • Damon 2 (2000)
  • In-Ovation (2000)

There are two different types of self-ligating brackets:3

  • Active self-ligating braces — active brackets use a spring clip to press onto the archwire, thus keeping it in place.
  • Passive self-ligating braces — passive brackets use a sliding mechanism to hold the archwire in place without exerting force onto the wire. 

Self-ligating braces still require tightening, but this may be less frequent than with traditional braces.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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