Clear Braces Options

What are Clear Braces?

Clear braces are a subtle alternative to traditional metal braces. They can fix similar orthodontic problems like crooked and gapped teeth.

The main difference between the two is that clear braces are less noticeable. When wearing traditional metal braces, anyone who sees you smiling or talking notices the braces.

In many cases, clear braces are only placed on the top teeth. Traditional metal braces are placed on the bottom teeth, where they are less noticeable. 

Clear braces can treat even the most challenging orthodontic cases, including:

  • Severe overbites
  • Underbites
  • Crossbites 

Clear braces are typically more expensive than traditional braces. However, some orthodontists offer similar pricing.

Types of Clear Braces

Clear braces are created from a variety of different materials, depending on the producer. Because of this, the quality of clear braces can vary significantly.

High-quality clear braces are made with ceramic. This is a hard, tooth-colored material.

Here are some of the materials used to make clear braces:

  • Ceramic 
  • Plastic 
  • Plastic emulator 
  • Porcelain

How Do Clear Braces Work?

Clear braces straighten teeth the same way metal braces do. The primary difference is that they are clear and much less noticeable.

A bracket is applied to each tooth. An elastic ligature, which is a tiny rubber band, is placed around each bracket. A metal wire connects the brackets.6

The elastic holds the archwire in place on each bracket. Each time you visit the orthodontist, the cross wire is tightened or adjusted. The archwire can be white to make the braces blend in with the natural teeth.

This places light pressure on the brackets. The teeth slowly move into the intended position.

The clear brackets are usually made out of ceramic.They are tinted to match your tooth color. The elastics are clear so that they are not noticeable. 

It is essential to know that the porcelain brackets can stain slightly from foods and beverages with colored dye. However, they are made to be as non-porous as possible.

What’s the Difference Between Clear Braces and Clear Aligners?

Most patients eligible for clear braces are also candidates for clear aligners like Invisalign. 

Which treatment plan you opt for is up to you. However, there are some factors to keep in mind when weighing your options.

Clear braces fix to the teeth, while Invisalign aligners can be removed for:

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Brushing
  • Flossing

Invisalign treatment requires a higher level of responsibility than braces. The aligner trays can quickly become lost or damaged. Their ability to be removed means you must actively stick to wearing them the required 22 hours a day.

Additionally, clear braces require adjustments and elastic changes approximately every four weeks. With Invisalign, you will receive several trays at once. This requires you to visit the orthodontist less frequently.

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With clear braces, brackets and wires can become loose. Patients may require repeat visits to the orthodontist to adjust their braces. This would never occur with Invisalign treatment.

Invisalign and clear braces have similar treatment times and costs. However, clear braces may be slightly more affordable. Orthodontic insurance may cover both treatments.

Pros and Cons of Clear Braces

Pros:

  • Treats complex cases. Clear braces are a better option than clear aligners if you require more invasive treatment. Braces can effectively treat a wide range of issues, including complex bite problems.
  • Subtle. Some adults find it embarrassing to wear braces. One of the main advantages of clear braces is that they are less visible than metal brackets. It is possible to match the clear brackets with the natural color of your teeth. This makes it more difficult for others to notice them.
  • Comfortable. People who have worn both clear and metal braces usually say that the clear option is less painful. The material used to make clear braces can be less harsh on the gums and cheeks. 
  • Affordable. Clear braces are slightly more expensive than traditional metal braces. However, they are typically more affordable than other clear alternatives like Invisalign.

Cons:

  • Big brackets. Clear braces usually have larger brackets than traditional braces. This can make it more challenging to clean around the brackets. The less you can clean around the brackets, the more your gums might swell or recede.
  • Prone to breakage. Clear braces can be fragile and are prone to breakage. As a result, more time may be spent making adjustments or repairing broken brackets. This can delay the time it takes to straighten your teeth.
  • Prone to staining. The elastic ties that hold the wire to the brackets can stain easily.

Pros and Cons of Clear Aligners 

Pros:

  • Straighten teeth quickly. Clear aligners can straighten your teeth in approximately half the time of traditional braces. Most people who get braces with brackets and wires require 12 to 24 months of treatment. Clear aligners can straighten teeth in around six to 12 months. 
  • Removable. Clear aligners are not fixed to your teeth like traditional braces. Instead, they are placed over the teeth and must be worn for at least 22 hours a day. This means you can remove the aligners to eat and drink.
  • Comfortable. Clear aligners are usually more comfortable than traditional braces.2 The material is smooth and slightly flexible.  However, aligners can still irritate your cheeks and gums but not as severely as braces.
  • Fewer dentist visits. Clear aligners gradually move your teeth into the correct position. Each aligner tray must be worn for around two weeks. At the end of two weeks, you will switch to the next tray in the series. This means you can visit your dentist less often, usually once every six to eight weeks.

Cons:

  • Not suitable for all cases. If crowded teeth are caused by a too-small jaw, clear aligners cannot fix this problem. Aligners also cannot correct an overbite or underbite resulting from a misaligned jaw. In these cases, more comprehensive treatment is necessary.3
  • Buttons may be necessary. Buttons, or attachments, are often required to help move your teeth more effectively. These buttons can be uncomfortable and also make the aligners more visible.
  • You will need to brush and floss more often. You will need to brush your teeth after every meal before putting on your clear aligners. The same goes for any drink that is not water. If you do not clean all the food particles and plaque from your teeth, there is an increased risk for cavities.

Do Clear Braces Cost More Than Aligners?

Clear braces are slightly more affordable than invisible aligners. 

Many insurance companies cover the cost of Invisalign. However, if you opt for braces, you will likely receive more coverage.

If cost is a concern, clear braces may be the better option.

Are Clear Braces or Clear Aligners Right for You?

Both clear braces and Invisalign have their pros and cons. What works for one person may not be suitable for another.

A consultation with your orthodontist will give you a more detailed view. They can go through the treatment options and decide what works best for you.

Resources

Ke, Yunyan et al. “A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies.” BMC oral health vol. 19,1 24. 23 Jan. 2019

d'Apuzzo, Fabrizia et al. “Clear aligner treatment: different perspectives between orthodontists and general dentists.” Progress in orthodontics vol. 20,1 10. 11 Mar. 2019

Tamer, İpek et al. “Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners and The Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review.” Turkish journal of orthodontics vol. 32,4 241-246. 1 Dec. 2019

Azaripour, A et al. “Braces versus Invisalign®: gingival parameters and patients' satisfaction during treatment: a cross-sectional study.” BMC oral health vol. 15 69. 24 Jun. 2015

Imani, Mohammad Moslem et al. “A decision-making process to undergo orthodontic treatment: a qualitative study.” Patient preference and adherence vol. 12 2243-2251. 29 Oct. 2018

InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Misaligned teeth and jaws: Treatment with fixed braces. 2020 Jan 16

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