Dental Care

Types of Dental Braces and Alternatives

In the last article we discussed pre-finishers, the complications and risks of types of dental braces, and the importance of a proactive plaque control program. 

In this section you will learn about different types of braces and their relative costs.  We will also talk about pain issues related to dental braces and a less visible alternative called Invisalign.

One of the most often-asked questions concerning braces is this one:  Will it hurt?  It's true that dental braces exert a lot of pressure on your teeth -that's how they work. 

The periodontal ligaments that support your teeth within your gums become sensitive, and you might feel the discomfort of pressure at the beginning. And the foods that you eat can add to this discomfort. 

By making soft-food choices, you not only protect the brackets' bonding to your teeth but you also put less pressure on your teeth. 

The total length of treatment with braces varies from person to person.  It can take from six months to six years!  The average length of time is two years and four months.  And the average cost for the entire process come to approximately $5,000 in the United States. 

Consumers can choose from several different types of braces: 

  • Most people are familiar with those made from stainless steel.  They are actually made in combination with nickel titanium.  You have probably heard these referred to as "train tracks."  They sometimes create more discomfort along the gums and inner cheeks, but patients adapt to them quickly.  Metal braces are very strong, rarely break, and never stain.

  • Those patients who are allergic to nickel can have gold-plated stainless steel braces.  Some people choose gold-plated simply because they like the look of them better. 

  • Many people choose clear braces, which are actually made of ceramic.  Actually, the brackets are made of ceramic material, and the ligatures are clear elastic ties or white metal ties.  Sometimes a special type of plastic is utilized in lieu of ceramics.  There is a little bit more friction with these types of braces and they are somewhat more brittle and a little bigger.  The ligatures will stain, but the orthodontist usually changes them every six weeks or so anyway.  And the ceramic brackets will not stain.  Because they are not as strong, you need to wear them longer.  But they are popular because the colors blend in more with the patient's teeth.  Ceramic braces are a little more expensive than metal braces.

  • A very similar product is the brace appliance made from monocrystalline sapphire.  They work well for people with very white teeth, but if your teeth have a natural darker hue to them then it makes no sense to choose them over ceramic braces.

  • Lingual braces are a type that the orthodontist fits behind your teeth.  They are not visible to others, and they are smaller than other braces, but they can interfere with tongue movement.  It takes longer to adjust to this type.  With lingual braces, so-called because they fit the tongue-side or lingual side of your teeth, each bracket is custom-fitted to each tooth.  The most common of these is the iBraces product.  Lingual braces usually cost a little more than other braces.

  • Progressive braces present a more aesthetic alternative.  The orthodontist provides a series of aligners or trays that are custom-fitted to your teeth, made from a clear material.  The patient progresses from one aligner to the next.  The most common brand is the Invisalign braces.  They are also more comfortable than traditional types of dental braces.
    You can smile without displaying metal wires or elastic bands.  They will not stain.  They allow for better oral hygiene because you can remove the trays for brushing.  They can take longer to do their work, however, especially if the patient forgets or neglects to put them back in; they're not recommended for patients with poor self-discipline.  They also do not work well for someone who has a severe malocclusion.  The price of Invisalign is comparable with that of most traditional types of dental braces. 

  • New types of dental braces are being developed, like the smart bracket.  Each bracket contains a computer chip that measures how much pressure is applied to the tooth.  They use temperature-sensitive arch wires, and they do not require ligatures.  This is a very new technology.


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