Orthodontic treatment is a way of straightening or moving teeth, to improve the appearance of the teeth and how they work. It can also help to look after the long-term health of the teeth, gums and jaw joints, by spreading the biting pressure over all the teeth.
TYPES OF BRACES
Metal brackets are very strong and can withstand most types of treatment. At first they may irritate your gums, but after a few weeks, when your cheeks get “toughened up” they are not a problem anymore. Most traditional metal braces require an elastic o-shaped rubber band, called a ligature to hold the arch wire onto the bracket. Sometimes orthodontists use metal tie wires (little wires which are twisted around the bracket) in place of elastic ligatures.
In the “old days”, metal braces were not just brackets, but bands that wrapped around the entire tooth. Nowadays, people wear small metal brackets that are glued to the front of each tooth (a big improvement!) Those old-fashioned bands are usually reserved for molars or teeth with fillings that spill to the outside surface of a tooth. Metal brackets tend to be less expensive than other types of brackets. In addition, you can make them colourful with ligatures that come on a rainbow of colours.
- Metal brackets tend to be the least expensive of all the types of braces.
- They tend to take the least amount of time among all the types of braces.
- You can choose a darker ligature, which will not show curry, smoking, or black coffee stains.
- Self-ligating brackets do not contain rubber ligatures, so staining will never be a problem.
- Self-ligating brackets can complete treatment in a shorter time with less pain; however orthodontists need special training in these systems, and they not available everywhere.
CERAMIC OR TOOTH COLOURED BRACES
Ceramic brackets are generally tooth coloured. Adults like to choose ceramic because they “blend in” with the teeth and are less noticeable than metal.
The ligatures (tiny rubber bands) that hold the arch wire on to the ceramic brackets are often white or clear. This looks great at first, but the ligatures can stain. Unless you eat a lot of curry, smoke, or drink a lot of black coffee, this generally isn’t a problem. Note that the ligatures are changed each time you get an adjustment — usually, monthly. It’s only the ligatures that stain, not the brackets themselves!
- The clear or white ligatures (little elastics that hold the arch wire to the brackets) can stain, which defeats esthetics of the ceramic braces. But those are changed at your monthly adjustment.
- Ceramic brackets are are usually more expensive than traditional metal brackets.
- Treatment can take a few months longer in ceramic braces.
- From a purely aesthetic point of view, they are a bit larger than metal brackets.
- If you have severe problems, your orthodontist will not use ceramic brackets in many cases, because they may not be strong enough to withstand the forces of some types of treatment.
Invisalign braces are great for people who do not have severe problems. The “braces” consist of strong plastic trays that are fabricated especially for you. They are indeed invisible. If your bite is not severely off and your teeth are not severely crooked, then Invisalign would be a good choice.
You would be able to get your teeth straightened without anyone seeing that you are wearing “braces”! This appeals to many adults, especially people who wore traditional braces as children and then need more treatment later in life. However, if your bite is very bad, if you need extractions or require headgear or other appliances, then Invisalign will not work for you; you will need to wear traditional braces.
Your orthodontist only has some control over your Invisalign treatment. The treatment trays are computer-fabricated by Align Technologies, the company that makes Invisalign. Orthodontists and dentists that offer Invisalign receive special training from Align Technologies.
- They are virtually invisible, and nobody knows you’re wearing them but you.
- They are easier to clean than traditional braces.
- They don’t irritate your gums as much as traditional braces.
- They do not stain at all.
- The aligners are numbered and worn for two weeks each, so your time in treatment is well established.
- You’ll get a computer simulation showing how your teeth will move during treatment, and see the projected final outcome.
- They cost much more than traditional braces.
- Treatment can take as long as traditional braces.
- In some cases, you may still need traditional braces for a few months after your Invisalign treatment, to correct certain problems.
- You will still have tooth pain, because your teeth will be moved by the Invisalign trays. Invisalign is not a pain-free treatment.
- The plastic trays are computer-fabricated by Align Technologies. Your orthodontist only has some control over your treatment.
- It takes 6 weeks for the aligners to arrive from the factory — a long time to wait. You may need more aligners (i.e., enhancements) after the original set of aligners.
- If you have severe problems, your orthodontist will tell you that you are not a candidate for Invisalign.
Lingual braces are placed behind your teeth, and are therefore virtually invisible to other people. Usually, lingual brackets are made of metal.
Orthodontists need special training to be able to treat patients with lingual braces. Therefore, not every orthodontist provides them.
The obvious benefit of this type of treatment is that no one will know that you are wearing lingual braces unless they look inside your mouth.
- They tend to hurt your tongue and make it difficult to speak at first.
- They tend to be more expensive than traditional metal, because treatment is specialized.
- Treatment can take a few months longer than traditional braces.
- Your orthodontist must be specially trained in lingual treatment. Not every orthodontist does lingual treatment.
- If you have severe problems, or need certain types of appliances, lingual treatment may not be applicable.