Dental braces are one of many ways to treat crooked teeth or bite alignment issues. Your regular dentist will refer you to an orthodontist for an evaluation if he or she thinks you might need orthodontic treatment. If braces are the right solution for you, there are many types to choose from.
Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal is still the most commonly used type of braces. These braces are made of stainless steel brackets and wires and are generally the least expensive choice for patients.
While metal braces are the most noticeable type of braces, modern versions are much smaller than you might remember. The idea of a “metal mouth” better describes earlier versions of orthodontics and no longer applies to today’s smaller brackets and wires. Kids and teens also enjoy the colored bands that can be put on the brackets, which lets them pick a color that fits their personality.
Mini braces are also made of stainless steel and use the same technology as traditional metal braces, however the brackets are about 30% smaller than traditional ones. These braces are not available at every orthodontist’s office, and do not work for every patient. Mini braces also generally cost much more than traditional metal.
Clear braces became popular in the early 1980s as a cosmetic alternative to metal. The brackets are made of tooth colored ceramic or plastic so that they are less noticeable, but in all other ways they function similarly to traditional metal braces. Tooth colored or metal wires may be used in combination with the clear brackets depending on the patient and the orthodontist.
Clear braces are generally more expensive than metal braces, and can stain easily if the patient doesn’t properly care for them. But many people enjoy them for their aesthetic qualities that make having traditional braces less noticeable.
These special braces are placed on the back of the teeth instead of on the front. They were invented in the 1970s and were historically unpopular in the United States. But in recent years these braces have become more available to patients as technology has improved the way they feel.
While these braces are completely invisible from the outside, they can be difficult to clean and can be uncomfortable for patients. Adjustments are generally more challenging and take longer than with traditional braces, and they are not suitable for treating severe cases.
Invisalign became available to the public in 2000. It is a modern alternative to traditional bracket and wire braces treatment that is available for some patients, depending on the severity of their issues.
The Invisalign system consists of a series of custom, removable trays that are changed every few weeks to slowly move the teeth into a proper position. The trays are made of clear plastic and conform exactly to the teeth based on molds of the patient’s mouth.
Adults and teens enjoy the almost invisibility of Invisalign as well as their ability to remove the trays for eating. However the overall treatment process can take longer than with traditional braces, and this form of braces is not available for children. In addition, Invisalign is generally only appropriate for milder cases. More severe cases will require treatment with traditional types of metal or clear braces.
Written by: Dr. Yahya Mansour