If the word "braces" conjures up images of a mouth covered in metal, you may need a reboot. Today's braces wearers have choices – and none of them involve wrapping the teeth with metal.
Braces of brackets and wires are still popular, and sometimes preferred, but the brackets – the pieces that attach to the teeth to hold the wires – are no longer the heavy metal bands you may recall. They are now smaller and lighter, and glued onto the teeth instead of wrapped around them. They even come in colors.
The other popular braces choice is Invisalign, a recent product that straightens teeth using virtually invisible computer-generated clear plastic trays. Though the technology is fairly new, millions of people have created beautiful smiles with Invisalign.
There's a third option that combines some of the attributes of both: ceramic braces. These work like traditional braces, with brackets and wires, except the brackets are made of ceramic instead of metal. The material can be clear or made to match your teeth – either way, they are less obvious than metal braces but more visible than Invisalign.
Each braces type – traditional and Invisalign – has advantages and disadvantages. Your orthodontist can advise you on which version will work best for your mouth, but often the final decision is yours – you pick the one that best suits your lifestyle.
To help you make that choice, here are some pros and cons of metal (or ceramic) braces and Invisalign.
Metal braces are not removable; Invisalign braces are. Fixed braces offer advantages for young people who may lose their appliance on a lunch tray or at a party or who may sometimes forget to wear it. Conversely, being able to remove your Invisalign trays allows you to eat and clean your teeth as you normally would.
Invisalign braces demand more responsibility from the wearer. For example, you must keep track of the appliance when you're not wearing it, remember to keep it in at least 22 hours a day, clean your teeth each time you eat and remember to progress to the next appliance on schedule. Traditional braces must be carefully cleaned but otherwise do not require a lot of your attention.
Each type has unique food restrictions. You should not eat anything sticky or hard while wearing traditional braces – your orthodontist will give you a list of foods to avoid. On the other hand, Invisalign trays stain easily, and while you can eat normally when you remove your trays (for no more than two hours a day), it is important never to consume anything but water while wearing the trays and to brush every time you eat. Ceramic braces also may stain.
Metal braces may be more effective for complex treatment. Some bite problems are not candidates for Invisalign.
Office visits may be less frequent with Invisalign braces. Traditional braces usually are adjusted once a month. Because Invisalign trays work progressively, and you get two to four weeks of trays at one time, office visits can be less frequent.
The clear trays mean you'll have an unobstructed pretty smile during your treatment. On the other hand, metal braces are now more streamlined and the use of colors allows you to style them each month to your mood or a holiday or event. Your smile becomes your message!
Metal braces may be less expensive – but not always. The price of Invisalign has been falling as the technology has become more popular.
Bottom line: Both types will create a perfect smile. Whichever style of braces you choose, you can be confident the result will be the beautiful smile you've always dreamed of!