Orthodontic Braces

Do your teeth need straightening? Find out what you can expect when getting orthodontic braces and what types of braces are available.

Orthodontics is a special branch of dentistry. It is a profession that focuses on straightening and aligning teeth. Orthodontia is often cosmetic in nature, but it is also functional. Properly aligned teeth make it much easier to chew food, as well as speak clearly. In the United States, the process of orthodontic dentistry dates back to 1900. Edward H. Angle established the first American orthodontic practice. Since then, the orthodontia industry has become so popular that there were more than 5,000 orthodontists practicing in the United States in 2021.

One of the most common practices in orthodontia is the use of orthodontic braces to straighten teeth. Braces are often recommended for children. However, as an adult you may also find yourself in need of orthodontic braces. If so, you may have many questions about the process. For example, you may wonder how long it takes to straighten your teeth or what types of braces are available to you. Answers to those questions and more are provided below.

What Are Orthodontic Braces?

Orthodontic braces come in several forms, but they all have the same purpose. They are devices designed to straighten teeth and improve alignment. That includes aligning lower teeth or upper teeth with the teeth next to them. It also includes aligning upper and lower teeth so they line up with each other. A primary goal of doing so is allowing brace wearers to be able to bite foods more comfortably. Braces are also used for purposes like:

  • Aesthetic Improvement of Smiles

  • Reduction of Tooth Decay

  • Strengthening of Teeth and Gums

  • Improved Speech

  • Elimination of Tooth or Jaw Pain

Orthodontic braces work by slowly aligning teeth over time. They gently cause teeth to shift positions. The braces also cause the bones supporting the tooth roots to slowly change. Pieces of them alter their shapes over time, as the braces hold the teeth in certain positions. Those slow, subtle changes help the teeth stay positioned properly after the braces are finally removed. 

What Types of Braces Are Available?

If you think you may need orthodontic braces, you must consider the type of braces you may want or need. In some cases, you have a choice in the matter. However, there are situations that call for specific types of braces. Therefore, you must take the opinions of your orthodontist into account. Here are the top types of braces:

  • Metal Braces Metal braces are also known as traditional braces for a good reason. They have been widely used in multiple countries for over a century. However, they were traditionally quite bulky. Metal braces today are much more comfortable for patients to wear. They consist of metal wires and elastic ties, which are now available in multiple colors to make the braces more visually pleasing.

  • Ceramic Braces – Ceramic braces were not used in the U.S. until the 1980s. Ceramic braces also have wires, but the wires are connected to glued on brackets attached directly to each tooth. Ceramic braces are somewhat misnamed because they are often made from a combination of materials, including metal.

  • Self-Ligating Braces – Self-ligating braces use brackets secured with door-like components. They allow easier and faster adjustment. That makes them ideal for patients with dental phobias or medical disorders that make sitting in a dentist's chair for long periods difficult.

  • Lingual Braces – Lingual braces are non-traditional and less common than other braces. Although, they have increased in popularity in recent years. They differ from other braces because they are installed behind teeth. They are popular with adults who want to correct their bites without wearing obviously visible braces. Some parents of teenagers also opt to allow their children to wear lingual braces.

  • Clear Aligners – Clear aligners are brace-like devices. They differ from actual braces in several ways. The main differences are they are nearly invisible and they are not actually affixed to the teeth in a long-term way. Patients can remove and reinsert them at home, as desired.

What is the Difference Between Invisalign and Metal Braces?

Invisalign is the most popular clear aligner brand in the United States. There are several differences between Invisalign (or any other clear aligner) and traditional metal braces. As mentioned above, Invisalign braces can be inserted and removed by the wearers at will in a similar fashion to sports mouth guards. They are aesthetically beneficial because they are nearly invisible. Also, they are convenient because they don't require the same amount of dental appointments for adjustments. 

The main disadvantage of Invisalign compared to metal braces or other orthodontic braces is Invisalign devices are limited in the types and severity levels of the conditions they can treat. They are designed only to correct fairly mild or somewhat moderate orthodontia issues. Another disadvantage of Invisalign is it is easy for Invisalign users to forget to wear their devices as often as required. That is particularly problematic for many teenage patients. Although, it is also an issue for some adult patients.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

The cost of braces depends on multiple factors, such as the type of braces selected. For instance, lingual braces cost $8,000 to $10,000 on average. Traditional braces, clear aligners, and ceramic braces all have starting costs of approximately $3,000 or $4,000. However, they can also cost much more, depending on various circumstances. Factors that go into determining the costs of braces include but are not limited to:

  • Geographic Locations of Orthodontia Practices

  • Ages and Oral Conditions of Patients

  • Individual Pricing Decisions Made by Orthodontists Based on Their Experience Levels

  • Dental Insurance Coverage Types Patients Have

What is the Typical Length of Time to Have Braces?

A final issue to consider when contemplating getting braces is the length of time you may need to wear them. All experts do not agree on the average length of time to have braces, but most say you can expect to wear them for up to three years under most circumstances. However, children usually need to wear braces for less time than adults. If you are an adult, you may need to wear braces for longer than three years. Therefore, the total cost may increase due to additional adjustment appointments you must attend. That is why you must make sure braces are covered by your insurance or fit into your budget before starting the process of correcting the alignment of your teeth.