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Home / Blog / Braces / Different Types of Braces

Different Types of Braces

Medically reviewed by Dr Minoo Ghamari  / Mar 27, 2024  
Medically reviewed by Dr Minoo Ghamari  
Mar 27, 2024  

It can be daunting first looking into braces, because contrary to what many adults believe before doing their research, there is more than just one type of braces. That's right, traditional metal braces are not your only option.

Different types of braces are used for various purposes, so your personal circumstances will determine which braces you're suitable for. Today we're looking at the five types of braces available to you, how you can choose the best option for you, and more.

What Are the Types of Braces?

There are five main types of braces you could choose from, including:

  1. Metal Braces
  2. Ceramic Braces
  3. Lingual Braces
  4. Self-ligating Braces
  5. Clear Aligners (Invisalign)

Let's take a deep dive into what each of these names means, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Metal Braces

Metal Braces

Metal braces are often the type of brace most patients think of when visualising braces. They involve metal brackets being bonded onto your teeth with glue, connected by a metal wire kept in place with tiny elastic bands. These elastic bands are otherwise known as power chains, and they put the teeth under constant pressure to gently move them towards each other. This influences the teeth to straighten and close gaps.

The majority of patients wear metal braces for between 18 and 24 months, but every case is different. Metal braces can also be used to fix a number of issues, such as misaligned bite, jaw malocclusions, and straighten teeth.

Pros of metal braces

  • Metal braces are incredibly effective at handling most dental issues
  • Some believe metal braces are a foolproof method of straightening teeth
  • Metal braces can fix more oral issues than other types of braces
  • Metal braces tend to be the least expensive type of braces
  • There's a smaller chance of you losing your metal braces as they're bonded to your teeth
  • Metal is stronger than ceramic braces and therefore prevents frequent trips to your orthodontist

Cons of metal braces

  • Some don't like the look of metal braces because they're the most obvious type to spot when smiling or talking
  • Metal braces can hurt when getting tightened due to the pressure put on your teeth
  • The metal brackets may cut or rub against your lips and cheek
  • Maintaining proper oral health through hygiene can be more difficult when you have metal braces to work around

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are an aesthetic alternative to metal braces, as they use ceramic brackets rather than metal. Ceramic material is closer to the colour of your teeth, so many find ceramic to be a less noticeable type of brace. In terms of functionality, ceramic braces work very similarly to traditional metal braces. They use clear bands and a thin metal wire to join the inconspicuous brackets, keeping gentle pressure on your teeth to move them to the correct positions.

Treatment using ceramic braces often takes between 18 and 36 months. This is slightly longer than traditional metal braces because ceramic material tends to be easier to break than metal, so patients might need more frequent appointments with their orthodontist to fix the breakages. Waiting for these appointments might set your treatment back.

Pros of ceramic braces

  • Ceramic braces tend to be less visible than metal braces, and some adults prefer to keep their smile clear of metal brackets
  • Ceramic braces can move teeth quicker than clear aligners, especially if you have severe cases of misalignment or malocclusion
  • You have the option to choose the colour of your braces as opposed to the single metal colour traditional braces come in
  • Ceramic braces don't interfere with imaging tests

Cons of ceramic braces

  • Ceramic braces are quite a bit more expensive than metal braces
  • Ceramic braces have caused some people to have gum sensitivity due to the larger brackets
  • The larger brackets can also lead to swollen gums or receding gums
  • Ceramic braces move teeth slower than metal braces
  • Some find ceramic braces show stained elastic bands more easily than metal braces
  • Ceramic brackets are less durable than metal and tend to break more easily

Lingual Braces

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are similar to traditional braces, but rather than the metal brackets being bonded to the front of your teeth, they're bonded to the back. They're connected in the same way as metal braces with wire and elastic power chains, but they're better hidden from the naked eye. Most people prefer lingual braces when they want to keep their braces hidden when smiling or talking.

Lingual braces tend to take between 12 and 18 months to straighten teeth, but this depends on your personal circumstances. Some major misalignments might take longer to fix because the elastic bands on lingual braces might not have as much pressure on the back of your teeth as the front.

Pros of lingual braces

  • Lingual braces are attached to the back of your teeth, making them almost invisible when you smile or talk
  • Some may be better suited to lingual braces if their misalignment is so serious that there's not enough room on their front teeth for the brackets
  • Lingual braces can fix the majority of bite issues
  • Lingual braces can be better customised to your mouth to improve comfort and their efficiency

Cons of lingual braces

  • Lingual braces are one of the most expensive types of braces
  • Some people find lingual braces to be much more uncomfortable than traditional braces when they're first fitted
  • Lingual braces might give you a lisp
  • Lingual braces might take longer than metal braces

Self-ligating Braces

Self-ligating Braces

Self-ligating braces might look like traditional braces, but they're missing one vital component - the elastic bands. Instead, self-ligating braces use a mechanism to keep the wire in place without pesky bands that have a tendency to snap and fall off. There are two types of self-ligating braces:

  • Active: the brackets use a sliding spring clip mechanism to keep the wire in place through active pressure
  • Passive: the brackets use a simple sliding mechanism to keep the wire in place without putting pressure on it
Self-ligating braces can take between 12 and 24 months to straighten your teeth. This might be slightly longer than some were hoping for, but self-ligating braces use your natural tooth movement to straighten rather than forcing movement.

Pros of self-ligating braces

  • Some people like that self-ligating braces mean shorter orthodontic visits, as they don't need to sit through the elastic bands being replaced at every appointment
  • Self-ligating braces tend to be easier to clean, as less food gets trapped around the brackets and wires
  • Some report less discomfort when wearing self-ligating braces because there are no rubber bands to rub against your lips and skin
  • You'll be less likely to need emergency orthodontic appointments due to missing or snapped bands

Cons of self-ligating braces

  • Self-ligating braces tend to be more expensive than traditional braces
  • Some people find these braces aren't covered by insurance
  • Self-ligating braces look very similar to traditional braces, so they're obvious when talking or smiling

Clear Aligners

Clear Aligners

Clear plastic aligners, such as Invisalign retainers, are transparent trays that fit over your teeth to gently move them to their desired position. Clear aligners are designed to move teeth in small amounts over time, with the trays being replaced every couple of weeks to move the teeth further. For example, Invisalign retainers tend to be designed to move teeth 0.2mm every two weeks.

Clear plastic aligners generally take between 12 and 18 months to complete treatment, but most people claim to see a difference within just 24 hours. Clear braces are most effective for minor misalignments rather than major issues.

Pros of clear aligners

  • They're incredibly difficult to spot by others when you're talking

  • Clear braces tend to be more comfortable than traditional braces

  • Aligners tend to work quickly

  • Some appreciate that clear aligners can be removed instead of being bonded to the teeth

Cons of clear aligners

  • Clear aligner treatment is more expensive than traditional braces

  • You need to remove the trays before eating and drinking

  • Clear aligners need to be cleaned often and thoroughly

  • You're more likely to lose clear aligners than traditional braces

Which Type of Braces Is Right for You?

It's difficult to decide which type of braces is best for you without talking to a specialist, because your orthodontist will be able to determine which type will create the best results in the fastest time possible. Before deciding on a type of braces, always consult a dentist or orthodontist to get tailored advice.

Types of Braces FAQs

Which Braces Work the Fastest?

Most experts consider clear aligners to be the quickest braces, although the time it takes depends on your personal circumstances. This might also be due to the fact that clear aligners are often used for minor oral treatments rather than major misalignments.

How Often Will I Need to Have My Braces Adjusted?

Your orthodontist will tailor your treatment to your needs, but most patients need their braces tightened or adjusted between four and ten weeks.

Does Health Insurance Cover the Cost of Braces?

Your insurance company might cover the cost and fitting of your braces only if they're medically necessary and not for aesthetic purposes. Traditional braces are more likely to be covered than any other type of braces as they tend to be the cheapest.

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