A relief to many, invisible braces have hit the market and are growing in popularity daily. They are a better alternative to the traditional wire braces with much less hassle and more discretion.
Invisible braces can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Overbite or overjet
- Crowded or widely spaced teeth
- Crooked teeth
Invisible braces are designed for adults and older teenagers but are not recommended when baby teeth remain. Children and younger teenagers faced with orthodontic problems will require traditional metal braces with brackets/wires on the front of the teeth.
Popular types of invisible braces include ceramic brackets, inside braces and clear aligners.
Ceramic braces are just like conventional metal braces, only that they use tooth-colored brackets (sometimes with colored wires) rather than metal to realign teeth. The tooth-colored ceramic blends in with your teeth, making them less noticeable than metal. Inside braces — aka inside invisible braces, and clear aligners have one thing above the ceramic braces, making treatment virtually invisible.
They are made of composite materials that are weaker and more brittle than metal braces. Ceramic brackets are larger than metal brackets and require small rubber bands to larch them to the archwire. Being white or clear can cause them to stain. Staining is not a big problem because ligatures are changed every time they are adjusted (generally monthly). The “self-ligating” clips do not require retying with wires or elastics.
Disadvantages: Like metal braces, ceramic brackets are not removable until treatment is completed, can produce irritation and discomfort, and may complicate regular tooth care, eating, and speaking.
Because they are not as strong as metal braces, clear braces require a longer treatment time. Ceramic brackets also are usually more expensive than traditional metal brackets. As a cost-saving measure, some patients may opt to have ceramic braces placed only on the most visible teeth — typically the upper teeth or just the upper center teeth — while using traditional metal brackets on the remaining teeth that need straightening. Also, there is some possibility of tooth abrasion if the incisal edges of the upper front teeth touch the lower ceramic brackets.
They are attached to the back of the teeth so they are hidden from view. Current iBraces use scanned images of the insides of the teeth to create special, computer-designed custom brackets that are attached to the insides of the upper and sometimes lower teeth. This makes them appealing to people who are often in public and might feel self-conscious about wearing clear aligners or braces with metal or ceramic brackets/wires on the front of their teeth. Whereas clear, removable aligners can be misplaced or lost, thereby delaying treatment, iBraces are fixed and not removable. Elastics can be used with iBraces to help hasten treatment. Such elastics are available for use with clear aligners but are more difficult to use.
Disadvantages of iBraces include a higher cost than traditional braces used on the front of the teeth due to the computer customization required to make the brackets. Since computer manufactured iBraces represent a newer technique, many orthodontists are not comfortable or experienced in performing invisible braces treatment and, therefore, shy away from offering them as a treatment plan. Speech, comfort, maintaining dental hygiene and removing dental plaque may pose challenges with iBraces.
They are a series of clear, removable aligners custom-fit to your teeth to provide virtually irritation-free treatment with minimal adjustment discomfort. Clear aligners are nearly invisible, minimally invasive and resistant to clouding from wear. With clear aligners, there are no brackets to come off or wires to break and poke. Clear aligners can be removed for eating, drinking and special events, making it easier to brush and floss.
Disadvantages since clear aligners are removable, they may require more motivation and self-discipline to wear consistently, and they are easier to misplace or lose. Lost clear aligners may result in treatment delay and additional replacement costs. While fairly comfortable, clear aligners can cause discomfort or mild pain, particularly at the beginning when new aligners are placed and exert pressure on the teeth to move them. Additionally, clear aligners are available only from dentists or orthodontists manufacturer-certified and trained to offer them; they also may require special and costly maintenance. For example, Invisalign’s custom brand cleansers are available only from their manufacturer and are relatively expensive compared to traditional cleansers used for orthodontic retainers.
Clear aligners are made after your dentist/orthodontist takes three-dimensional impressions of your teeth and sends them to a manufacturer-specific laboratory that fabricates your custom-fit clear aligners using computerized technology. These aligners are then sent to your dentist/orthodontist to be tried on and evaluated for suitability. Clear aligners are provided in sets. The number of aligners will depend on your specific orthodontic problem. You will wear each new aligner set for a specified amount of time, removing them only to eat, drink, brush and floss. With each new aligner set, your teeth slowly adjust and gradually realign to your desired smile. At periodic visits, your dentist/orthodontist will provide the next aligner set and evaluate your progress throughout treatment. Revision aligners are often requested at the end of the first series of aligners to correct any unfinished detailing.