In the past, anyone who wanted straighter teeth had two options: getting metal braces or letting it go. Now, several options exist for making teeth straighter and giving patients a more attractive smile. In addition to the traditional metal braces, the most common are ceramic braces, invisible braces, and clear aligners such as Invisalign.
Invisalign is a set of clear aligners placed over the teeth to gradually straighten them. After the orthodontist takes some impressions and sends them to the lab, the aligners will be custom made. The orthodontist then places them on the teeth to ensure that they are a good fit. In two to three weeks, a new set of aligners will be necessary. The number of sets and length of treatment will vary for each patient.
For invisible braces, also known as iBraces, the orthodontist will take impressions to send to the lab. Custom brackets are made and attached to the backs of the teeth.
Clear (ceramic) and metal braces do not require lab work. The orthodontist attaches each piece individually in the office, which is a time-consuming procedure.
Because the Invisalign aligners are clear, this system is much less noticeable to other people than some of the other options. However, some patients do feel that anything covering their teeth will be noticed and are self-conscious about them.
Invisible braces are attached to the back of the teeth. This prevents them from being visible to other people.
Clear or ceramic braces are placed on the front of the teeth. As the name implies, they are clear and therefore less noticeable. However, they tend to discolor over time, retaining food stains.
Metal braces are the most noticeable type of dental straightening device. In addition to the metal, they use elastic bands. Some patients take advantage of this to change the colors of the elastic from time to time.
All options require several appointments with the orthodontist over the course of the treatment. However, the type of material and how much lab work is involved are factors in determining the overall cost. Additionally, the price will vary from one provider to the next, and many insurance plans will not cover orthodontia for adults. Therefore, there is no clear answer as to which option is the least expensive.
No dental straightening treatment is perfect. Each has its own pitfalls, and every patient will have a different tolerance level.
Invisalign is generally believed to be the most comfortable option, although this system can be uncomfortable at first. This is due to the pressure that the aligners place on the teeth in order to adjust them. However, the nature of straightening teeth requires such pressure and is present to some degree in all treatments. Some patients also feel some gum irritation with Invisalign.
Invisible braces can cause discomfort on the tongue.
With both ceramic and metal braces, wires can break and poke the skin inside the mouth.
Invisalign is only for adults; no baby teeth can be present in the mouth. In addition, the orthodontist takes several other factors into consideration, including existing crowns and bridges.
Invisible braces are designed for adults and older teenagers, who have few or no baby teeth remaining. They are not recommended for children. Furthermore, they are not generally recommended for those with a deep vertical overbite.
Children and teens who still have some baby teeth will need metal braces. Although ceramic braces work the same way, their relative fragility makes them an unwise choice for children.
Although Invisalign aligners can be removed, patients should keep in mind that the system must be worn in order to be effective. If the aligners spend more time outside the mouth than in place, they will not work. Removing them also risks losing them, which would incur replacement costs and lengthen the treatment time.
The makers of Invisalign advise using their own line of cleaners for this product. These cleaners are rather expensive but safe. Some patients ignore the warnings and use denture cleaners instead, which can be a serious and potentially fatal mistake.
Because invisible braces are a newer treatment, it may be difficult to find an orthodontist with the experience and willingness to provide this option.
Clear braces are more fragile than their metal counterparts and therefore may require additional work or replacement costs. They also come off more easily and require more appointments with the orthodontist.