It’s no longer necessary to have a mouthful of metal to rectify misaligned and crooked teeth. The latest innovations in dental technology have made dental braces a lot more appealing option to all age groups.
If you have crooked teeth it’s likely to impact your self confidence and you may be reluctant to smile as often as you would want. Fortunately, there are many orthodontic teeth straightening solutions available that will leave you with beautifully straight teeth and confidence to smile more.
Before delving into the why’s and wherefores of dental braces there’s a little background information to cover first.
What’s an Orthodontist
Orthodontists first go to dental school and become dentists, then they have to complete an additional two to three years of post-dental school education studying Orthodontics. This additional learning covers the diagnosis, prevention and correction of wrongly positioned teeth.
When braces may be necessary
Orthodontic treatment may be necessary if you have problems like crooked or crowded teeth, protruding teeth, overbites or underbites, an incorrect jaw position or disorders of the jaw joints.
If left untreated, any of these problems can result in:
- tooth decay
- gum disease
- biting or chewing problems
- speech problems
Before moving on to the types of braces and treatments available there are some questions that are frequently asked:
How long does the treatment last?
The length of time braces need to be worn depends on each individual case and the treatment method used. The average treatment is two years. There are methods for moving teeth faster, but not everyone will be suitable for those methods.
Metal braces work the best because they are made from the strongest materials. Ceramic braces, while strong and better looking, often take more time because they are not as strong as metal braces. Inside braces also can take more time to work effectively.
Do dental braces hurt?
There are 2 stages of your treatment that may cause some pain:
- just after having them fitted
- after you have had them tightened
Having braces put on usually doesn’t hurt at all. However, on a time scale of a few hours to 48 hours after the fitting; your teeth will most likely begin to hurt a little bit. Not only will your teeth feel sore, but the brackets will rub the insides of your gums and lips and can cause mouth sores.
The reason braces hurt when you have them put on is because they are applying force on your teeth that makes your teeth move. After a few days, the pain usually goes away as your teeth have already begun the process of moving and the tension in the wire has gone down.
The pain isn’t a sharp pain, it’s more of a dull pain; it’s not pleasant, but fortunately this stage only lasts a couple of weeks.
Bear in mind that we all experience pain in different ways. For some people there will be little of no pain and for others it can feel more painful.
When you go in to have your braces tightened, the orthodontist will usually evaluate how your teeth have moved and put in a new wire to keep them moving into the correct position. The new wire will have some tension in it and may cause you some discomfort until your teeth have moved into their new position.
This discomfort generally is most painful in the initial 24 hours after they are tightened but should resolve within two to three days. After that, your teeth should feel great until you go in for your next appointment.
When you have your braces removed, the orthodontist takes out the wire and removes the brackets from your teeth. The brackets should just pop off easily and the process is not painful.
After the brackets are removed, the orthodontist will make sure that all of the glue that secured the brackets has been removed. Your newly aligned teeth may get a polish for good measure.
Types of braces
Modern dentistry has come a long way in recent years and dentists now have a plenty of alternatives to traditional braces.
Metal (traditional) braces
Traditional braces consist of a small bracket that is glued to the front of each tooth and the molars are adjusted with a band that encircles the tooth. Metal braces remain the most versatile orthodontic option available in terms of what they can correct. However, this adaptability comes at the cost of appearance because the brackets and wires are in plain view.
- available to NHS patients/li>
- the cheapest private option
- strong and durable
- very effective, proven over many years
- more noticeable than newer options
- not removable for eating
- more difficult to clean than removable alternatives
Under 18’s can get metal braces free on the NHS, adults registered with the NHS pay around £219 if it is not just for cosmetic reasons.
Privately it’s going to cost between £2,000 and £2,500
Ceramic (Clear) braces
Ceramic or clear braces are very similar to metal braces. The main difference is that that they use tooth coloured brackets, and sometimes tooth coloured wires, to realign the teeth. This has the effect of making them less noticeable by blending the braces with your natural tooth colour.
Ceramic braces are made of composite materials that are weaker and more brittle than metal braces. They also require larger brackets and small rubber bands to hold them in place on the archwire. However improvements are being made all the time. Brackets can now be made much smaller and are self-ligating. Self-ligating is where the bracket itself traps and holds the archwire instead of being bound in place with elastic bands.
Because they are not as strong as metal braces, clear braces may require a longer treatment time as your orthodontist may need to apply more and smaller adjustments than metal braces allow.
Generally speaking, ceramic braces are a viable option to metal braces but there are a few circumstances where they are not suitable. A consultation with your orthodontist will let you know whether your particular case is suitable for ceramic braces.
The cost of ceramic braces is roughly between £2,500 and £3000, although this varies from region to region.
Although I can’t find a definitive answer; I don’t think ceramic braces are available from the NHS, I believe they only offer metal braces.
- less obvious than metal braces
- effective at straightening teeth
- retain enough strength for most orthodontic uses
- the clear wire stains easily by certain foods and drinks
- more expensive than metal braces
- may require replacement, at additional cost
Lingual braces are the same as traditional metal braces, except that the brackets and wires are placed on the inside of teeth. This is done for specific dental reasons, but does offer the added benefit of remaining out of sight from everyone.
- not noticeable from the outside
- shorter treatment time than plastic aligners
- not appropriate for severe cases
- more expensive than metal braces
- difficult to clean
- can be more uncomfortable than other solutions
- regular adjustments take longer and are more difficult than with traditional braces
The cost of lingual braces can be £4000+, notice a trend here? I didn’t specifically order the treatment options in a low to high cost order, the ordering is actually based on the most common treatments.
When I first came across these, my first thought was how the hell are these things going to straighten anyone’s teeth? Well the story goes like this:
Over the course of treatment, you will be supplied with a series of aligners. These aligner trays are made of smooth, comfortable and virtually invisible plastic that you wear over your teeth. Wearing the cause the teeth to gradually shift from their current position. After approximately two weeks, you will start using the next set of aligners, which will continue the teeth straightening process
There are no metal brackets to attach and no wires to tighten. You just pop in a new set of aligners approximately every two weeks, until your treatment is complete. You’ll achieve a great smile with little interference in your daily life. The best part about the whole process is that most people won’t even know you’re straightening your teeth.
- almost invisible
- you can eat and drink whenever and whatever you want
- available for adults and teenagers
- won’t solve serious dental problems
- expensive compared to other options
- treatment time may be longer than for other treatments
- not available for children
This is very much dependent on how many sets of aligners are required, the advertised prices range from £3000 to £5000. Bear in mind, despite some obvious advantages of this form of treatment; it won’t be a suitable option for everyone.
As someone who had to wear braces as a kid, it’s good to see the technology advancing and providing more and more options. Even the metal braces are a vast improvement on what I had to wear.