Orthodontic Treatments: Understanding Your Options from Braces to Aligners
Deciding which orthodontic option is right for you can be a daunting task.
There are now more treatments available than ever before, and each have their benefits and limitations. Not everyone can benefit from all available options.
While nothing will be as effective as consulting a professional about your requirements, here’s an overview of the different treatments available to start making some decisions.
Buccal braces are what spring to mind when you think of traditional, metal braces. They are often portrayed in movies and on TV as “metal mouth” or “train track braces.”
There have been a number of advancements in traditional braces over the years, including making the brackets and wires smaller.
Traditional braces are often a good choice for children. In addition to being durable, buccal braces can’t be lost or stained, and they are appealing to kids because of their colored brackets.
In addition, for patients who suffer from extreme dental issues or alignment problems, traditional braces may be the most effective treatment option.
Buccal braces have their drawbacks as well though, including:
- Increased difficulty in keeping your teeth and mouth clean.
- A substantial list of foods that must be avoided.
- Frequent trips to the orthodontist for tightening.
- There’s no denying that you’re wearing braces.
Ceramic braces operate exactly as metal braces do— a collection of brackets attached to the front of the teeth and connected with wires. They are also, like their metal counterparts, extremely effective.
The advantage of ceramic braces over metal is one of aesthetics: ceramic braces blend in much better than metal. In casual conversation, it is less likely that someone will notice your braces because of their enamel-colored or clear ceramic.
Ceramic braces have the same logistical issues that metal ones do (difficulty cleaning, foods that must be avoided, etc.). In addition, the ligatures can stain if the patient isn’t careful, thereby countering the benefit of using ceramic.
Avoid stains on ceramic braces by…
- Avoiding foods that stain (in addition to the previously mentioned foods), including…
- Coffee, tea, and red wine.
- Soy sauce.
- Food spices.
- And others.
- Taking extra care in cleaning after meals.
- Getting your ligatures changed frequently.
If the additional effort of carefully monitoring your food seems daunting, ceramic braces may not be your best option.
Lingual braces are a step beyond ceramic in both their advantages and drawbacks: they are almost completely out-of-sight, but require significantly more care than ceramic (and certainly metal) braces.
Linguals operate as regular braces do, but the brackets are on the back side of the teeth. This certainly makes them inconspicuous, but vastly increases the amount of time required to care for them.
Their difficult-to-reach location will also increase the amount of time you’ll spend at the orthodontist. You can expect longer times for getting fitted and for each adjustment afterwards.
Since they’re nearly impossible to see, cleaning lingual braces can be frustrating. In some cases, the patient may not be able to see whether the braces are dirty or have trapped food particles, leading to other dental problems.
For many patients, clear aligners such as Invisalign provide the best combination of effective treatment, ease of care, and comfort level.
Clear aligners are not permanently affixed to the teeth. Instead, they are custom-crafted to fit each patient and are taken out while eating and brushing.
This provides several obvious advantages:
- The patient doesn’t have to worry about which foods might damage or stain the appliance.
- The entire mouth, including teeth and gums, can be cleaned thoroughly by normal brushing and flossing.
In addition, clear aligners fit snugly but comfortably around each tooth, thanks to Invisalign’s SmartTrack material.
Once in, the aligner is nearly invisible, allowing patients to smile, socialize, and enjoy life as though they aren’t wearing orthodontics at all.