Corrective Treatment That Will Make Your Teeth Look Natural

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If you want to correct your smile but are reluctant to wear metal braces, there has never been a better time for you to explore orthodontic or cosmetic options to enhance your dental profile. Inconspicuous alternatives offer effective treatment with minimal changes to your physical appearance.

Currently, one in four adults receives orthodontic treatment, a number that has been steadily rising in recent decades. No upper age limit exists for orthodontics, whether you are a first-time patient or returning after a long time. More subtle options can reduce anxiety for professionals concerned about braces impacting their image or for children and teens who are self-conscious about wearing them.

Corrective Treatments Using Brackets

If your orthodontist determines that your teeth require brackets to achieve optimal results, three natural-looking options exist: ceramic, plastic, and lingual.  The orthodontist applies ceramic or plastic brackets to the front of the teeth similarly to traditional braces. Professionals can color ceramic brackets to match, while plastic brackets are clear. Lingual brackets bond to the back of your teeth, so they are the least noticeable of all.

Ceramic Brackets

Ceramic braces function similarly to traditional ones but are made of translucent aluminum oxide. Unlike metal brackets, which come in standard metallic silver, ceramics customize to the exact shade of your teeth so they won’t stand out. Your orthodontist can even tint the wires to match as well.

In most cases, ceramic braces rival the efficacy of their metal counterparts, and some patients even report less gum irritation. As long as your misalignment is not severe, they typically are an option for most types of orthodontic treatment. They also are hypoallergenic for people who react to the nickel used in traditional brackets and do not interfere with dental imaging.

However, ceramics work slightly slower than traditional metal brackets due to the amount of friction the material places on the wire. The brackets, though less visible, are larger than metal ones. Ceramics are more expensive than traditional braces, typically by about $500 to $600 throughout the treatment.

Plastic Brackets

Plastic brackets are another option that will make your braces appear invisible from a distance.

They are composed of a fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate that is clear. Composite plastic archwires connect the brackets with transparent, stain-resistant exteriors. They are remarkably strong and can be used with other types of brackets.

Plastic brackets are a great option for patients who are not candidates for Invisalign due to more moderate malocclusion and patients who might not comply fully with treatment. Unlike metal brackets, plastic brackets connect directly to the archwires to replace them easily.

Similar to ceramic braces, the friction index between the bracket and the wire is high, which can mean longer treatment times. Plastic brackets also are larger than traditional ones. Though (unlike the clear brackets of the past) today’s are made with stain-resistant material, it is still important to keep them clean. Food lodged in the brackets after meals will reduce the invisibility factor. They also are more expensive–about $1,000 to $2,000 more than traditional braces.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth rather than in front. Like traditional braces, the brackets connect to an archwire that applies slow and constant pressure over time, causing the teeth to move into their desired placements. To create lingual braces, the orthodontist will create an impression of the teeth and customize each bracket to fit a specific tooth. This process takes about six weeks. A cementing process attaches the brackets to the back of your teeth.

Lingual brackets are the least-conspicuous braces that offer full-scale orthodontic treatment and are most popular among adult patients. They can correct complex problems such as the rotation and height of your teeth, as well as overcrowding or spacing. They are extremely effective at correcting bite and alignment issues and are ideal for athletes and musicians.

Because lingual braces are custom-made, they are the most expensive treatment option with brackets. Lingual braces may also irritate the tongue. Some people find speaking clearly and enunciating more difficult while wearing lingual braces. Cleaning standards are the same as traditional braces, which is more difficult because you work behind the teeth. Finally, patients with small teeth might not have enough room to place the brackets effectively, which would rule out this treatment option.

Removable Braces / Aligners

Invisalign straightens your smile using a series of clear, customized, removable aligners made from polypropylene plastic that looks similar to whitening trays or a custom night guard that a dentist’s office creates.

However, unlike a mouthguard or nightguard, which holds the teeth in place, Invisalign technology moves the teeth by applying a controlled force similar to an archwire so that only certain teeth move at one time.

Orthodontic patients with mild to moderate malocclusions are candidates for Invisalign, which typically treats conditions such as overcrowding, over-spacing, and bite misalignments. Invisalign cannot be used with advanced orthodontic procedures that involve shifting the jawbones. Your orthodontist will determine whether clear aligners can respond effectively to your specific needs.

Your Invisalign certified orthodontist will create your aligners specifically for the size and shape of your teeth using 3-D computer graphics technology. Most patients will replace their aligners every one or two weeks. Though this is more frequent than adjustments on metal brackets, it does not involve additional appointments. You will schedule routine visits with the orthodontist at around the same intervals as with other types of braces, but the orthodontist will check your progress rather than adjust anything at the visit.

The most notable feature of clear aligners is their convenience. They are removable for eating and drinking, so food restrictions are off the menu. You can take them out to brush and floss, so you don’t have to twist and contort to achieve an efficient cleaning. However, with this convenience comes heightened responsibility. You will need to wear your aligners for at least 22 hours per day, which means day and night. Even one day of forgetting your treatment plan can cause complications and possibly delay your progress. 

Typically, treatment times run a bit faster with Invisalign than with brackets because variables like friction are not an issue. However, this depends on the intensity of the work needed.  As with all types of braces, your treatment plan determines the length of time more than the method. On average, most teenagers will need Invisalign for a year, while adults (just as with traditional braces) usually require longer treatment times. Treatment with traditional braces most often spans between 18 months and three years.

Another advantage of Invisalign is it requires fewer repairs. Metal braces have lots of small parts that can break or snap. However, the downside is that losing clear aligners is worse than breaking a bracket. You will need to replace the whole aligner, which will slow your progress. Before choosing Invisalign for your child or teen, make sure they understand the importance of keeping their aligners secure at all times.

The total cost of Invisalign treatment will depend on several factors, such as the complexity of your case, how long you will need treatment, where you live, and whether your insurance plan covers Invisalign or reimburses for some of the cost. On average, Invisalign costs anywhere between $3,000 and $7,000. Because such a wide range exists, it is important to schedule a consultation with your Invisalign-certified orthodontist and contact your insurance company.

Cosmetic Alternatives

In many cases, orthodontic treatment serves a medical purpose in addition to cosmetic. However, if no structural issues exist with your jawbone or bite, and the desired corrections are minor, full-scale orthodontics might not always be necessary. Two cosmetic options— dental veneers and dental bonding—can provide results similar to braces at a much faster speed.

Veneers

Dental veneers are typically used as a cosmetic option to improve the appearance of teeth that are broken or discolored. They also can be applied to the front of crooked teeth to create the illusion of a perfectly straight smile. Dental veneers are composed of thin, custom-made shells of tooth-like material. The most common veneers are porcelain, which resists stains and has the appearance of natural teeth.

Veneers are an appealing option for cosmetic concerns because they offer near-immediate results. A cosmetic dentist can typically apply them in one or two visits. Additionally, no aftercare is involved. You don’t have to worry about following a special diet or a more complex cleaning regimen as you would with braces, and there is no lingering discomfort or pain.

One drawback is that the procedure damages part of your natural teeth. To apply veneers, the dentist scrapes away healthy enamel. Dental veneers can be quite pricey, with typical costs above $1,000 per tooth. To get the even look and spacing that orthodontic work achieves, you likely will need veneers on almost all your teeth. In addition, you will need to replace your veneers every five to 10 years, which means that long-term results could get rather expensive.

To determine whether braces or veneers are most appropriate, you and your orthodontist will need to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is the application of tooth-colored resin (a durable, plastic material) using adhesives and high-intensity light. Most often, bonding is used for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance of a discolored or chipped tooth. This material applied to the tooth can close spaces between teeth, make teeth look longer, or change the shape or color. However, it only is appropriate for minor cosmetic changes and cannot improve imperfections with your alignment and bite.

Your dentist will apply the tooth-colored, putty-like resin. The resin is molded and smoothed until it’s the proper shape and solidified with an ultraviolet light or laser. After the material hardens, your dentist will shape and polish it to match the tooth’s surface so that there are no awkward bumps or textures, and the result will feel natural.

The composite resin can be matched very closely to the color of your natural tooth. The dentist will use a shade guide to select the best color match for your smile. Like veneers, bonding is easy to perform and typically lasts about 30 minutes per tooth. Depending on the number of teeth you bonded, it is usually achievable in one or two office visits. Bonding usually lasts for several years before it needs reapplication. However, the composite resin used in bonding is not as strong as your natural teeth, making them more prone to chipping or breaking.

Tea, coffee, and other traditional stain culprits can discolor the resin. To prevent or minimize stains, it’s essential to avoid eating or drinking foods that can stain for the first 48 hours after application. After that, it is recommended that you rinse your mouth thoroughly after eating or drinking staining substances, as well as practice excellent dental hygiene and have your teeth professionally cleaned as recommended.

Comparison of Orthodontic Treatment Types

TYPE

PROS

CONS

AVG. COST

Metal Braces

  • Most efficient
  • Most affordable
  • Conspicuous

$3,000 – $7,000

Ceramic Braces

  • Match teeth exactly
  • Less discomfort
  • Larger brackets
  • Hypoallergenic

$4,000 – $8,000

Plastic Braces

  • Stain resistant
  • Easy to replace 
  • Less damaging to the teeth
  • Larger brackets
  • Anything stuck in the bracket is noticeable

$4,000 – $8,000

Lingual Braces

  • Least visible option
  • Can correct complex issues
  • Fully customized 
  • Most expensive option
  • Difficult to clean
  • Irritating to the tongue

$8,000 – $10,000

Removable Aligners

  • No restrictions on food and drink
  • You can brush and floss normally
  • Requires self-discipline
  • Possible to lose

$3,000 – $7,000

Dental Veneers

  • Instant results
  • No specialized aftercare
  • Most expensive
  • Damages healthy teeth
  • Need to be replaced

$1,000 – $2,500 per tooth

Dental Bonding

  • Immediate results
  • Minimal removal of enamel
  • More prone to staining
  • Bonding material is somewhat fragile

$100 – $400 per tooth

Ready to start orthodontic treatment? Schedule your consultation today.

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