2021 Guide to Metal Braces: Is It Right for You?

2021 Guide to Metal Braces: Is It Right for You?

In the recent past, many people have taken interest in their dental health with more adults taking action to improve their dental aesthetics and enhance their appearance. Metal braces are an excellent way to align your teeth and improve your dental health, but is it the right choice for you?

In this article, we’ll learn more about metal braces, their components, how to care for them, and answer some of your pressing questions about them.

Key Takeaways: Metal Braces

What Are Metal Braces?

Metal braces are tools dentists use to align and correct crooked teeth and crowding. Traditional metal braces are the most common dental appliance used to treat dental problems [1]. Many teenagers get braces, but adults can get them too. 

They help you gain straight teeth, restore your normal ‘bite’, and in other cases, help you get a perfect smile. Find out more about how braces work.

Components

Let’s look at some key components that make up braces:

metal braces

Orthodontic Brackets

Using bonding cement, your dentist secures your teeth with brackets. They contain a slot where the archwire passes through, allowing your teeth to move in a controlled manner. 

Using tie wings at the corners of the stainless steel brackets, your dentist attaches ligatures that secure the archwire to the bracket.

Molar Bands

If your teeth are difficult to treat using brackets, your dentists will instead use molar bands. These bands have slots that allow archwires to pass through and connect them to other brackets on the teeth. 

Arch Wires

Once your dentist cements the orthodontic brackets in place, they pass an archwire through the slots of the bracket. Archwires can be round, square, and can come in nickel-titanium, beta-titanium or durable stainless steel material.

Ligatures

Once the archwire sets within the slot of the bracket, your dentist can use elastic ties, elastic bands or stainless steel ligatures to secure it in place. Self-ligating brackets, however, do not need ligatures as they auto-tighten to keep pressure on your teeth to adjust them.

Auxiliaries

These are other items that your dentist can use in your dental treatment. They include a power chain and intermaxillary elastics.

A power chain often closes the spaces between your teeth and can also rotate a tooth. Intermaxillary elastics apply a force between both jaws to move teeth and sometimes your jaw, depending on your treatment plan. 

Pros

Here are some advantages of metal braces:

  • They are affordable
  • They straighten teeth and fix tough dental malocclusions. Metal braces can fix misalignment, gaps, protruding teeth, and overcrowding.
  • Metal braces work fast and are an excellent investment for orthodontic treatment
  • Metal braces are durable
  • They eliminate the need for more complex procedures

Cons

  • They are easily noticeable, making them inconvenient to wear
  • They can be painful to use because of regular adjustments
  • You won’t be able to enjoy certain foods, especially ones that can cause damage to the braces or your teeth

Why Are Braces Necessary?

Braces are necessary for many reasons, here are the most common ones:

metal braces
  • Braces help align teeth that are visibly crowded or crooked
  • If you have difficulty pronouncing certain words or sounds because of the position of your tongue under your teeth
  • Stress and fatigue in your upper or lower jaw after eating
  • Difficulty brushing crooked or crowded teeth
  • Biting your tongue frequently
  • To fix teeth that don’t align over each other when your mouth is closed and at rest

How do braces work? Check out more information here. 

Ceramic Braces vs Metal Braces vs Clear Aligners

Besides metal braces, there are other types of tooth alignment devices. You can either use ceramic braces or clear aligners. 

Unlike traditional metal braces, ceramic braces use clear brackets and tooth-colored archwires to help them appear subtle and invisible. They’re also referred to as clear braces for this reason. Clear braces are ideal for people who prefer less visible or discreet braces. People who don’t like metal, lingual braces or invisible aligners will also love them. 

Clear aligners have also become quite popular in recent times, pioneered by the ‘Invisalign’ brand. They’re clear, removable, and require fewer appointments with your dentist. Sometimes, they even work faster than metal braces [2]. Although they have some limitations, patients with fewer dental problems can use clear aligners to straighten their teeth.

For more on clear aligners, check out our Byte Aligners Review and AlignerCo Review.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Traditional metal braces range in price from about $3,000 and upwards without insurance. Clear aligners have a slightly lower price range, starting at about $1,800, depending on the brand. Ceramic braces tend to cost more than metal brackets, starting out at about $4,000. 

Orthodontic care benefits cover braces, but it depends on the plan you purchase. Depending on your provider, you’ll receive a cover of only about 50% of the cost of your braces or aligners. It’s quite rare to find an insurer that gives 100% or unlimited cover.

Length of Treatment

For all these three tools, expect an average treatment time of between 1 and 3 years, depending on the severity of your dental problem. However, people with misaligned bites take longer to treat than those with misaligned teeth.

Clear aligners take a shorter time, and are a better option for people with mild tooth alignment problems [2]. Byte Aligners, for example, are claimed to fix minor misalignments in a matter of 6-18 months.

Find out more about how braces work to reduce the time of treatment.

Maintenance

Clear aligners are much easier to maintain than traditional metal braces. To clean them, you’ll have to remove them from your teeth and soak them in a cleaning solution regularly. 

You can do this in several ways, including using vinegar, baking soda, antibacterial soap or non-abrasive toothpaste. Although you may require routine dental visits, it will be much less frequent than metal braces [3].

With both ceramic brackets and traditional metal braces, you’ll have to pay extra attention to how you clean your teeth. The rubber bands on ceramic braces stain easily and can be hard to keep clean without using proper techniques. 

Using an electric or spindle toothbrush, you’ll carefully clean the exterior and interior surfaces of your teeth. You must also floss to remove any debris stuck between your teeth and the archwire, although this takes time. 

You’ll also have to avoid certain meals for a while to prevent any further problems with your teeth. They include:

  • Chewy foods like licorice and jerky snacks.
  • Hard foods like nuts and corn on the cob.
  • Crunchy foods like ice, potato chips, and popcorn.
  • Foods you bite into like carrots and apples.
  • Sticky foods like candies, chewing gum, and skittles

Durability

Compared to both clear aligners and metal ones, ceramic braces are less durable. Why? Ceramic material is more brittle than metal or plastic. These braces are twice as likely to break as metal braces from contact, even from taking a normal bite. 

Check out these Invisalign Alternatives

Are Clear Aligners Better Than Braces?

Clear aligners are sometimes better than braces. If you prefer a discreet, near-invisible look as you correct the alignment of your teeth, then they’ll do better. They’re an ideal option for adult patients and professionals who don’t want to draw attention to their teeth.

Besides that, they’re easy to remove and clean, making them easier to maintain than braces.

With clear aligners, you can also whiten your teeth. Unlike traditional or ceramic braces, you can eat anything you want without restrictions. Clear aligners are just as effective as metal braces, especially in mild-to-moderate cases [2][4]. They’re also more comfortable to wear.

metal braces Percentage of patients with great improvement following treatment with either clear aligners or fixed braces
42% of patients reported back with great improvement following treatment with clear aligners, not a huge difference from fixed braces
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343314/

Metal Braces vs Fast Braces vs Headgear

Fast braces have no major difference from traditional braces. Instead of using square brackets, fast braces use triangular brackets to increase the gaps between each brace. This design makes the wire more flexible, which makes it easy to correct the position of the roots concurrently. 

Therefore, fast braces affect the whole tooth from the beginning of corrective treatment, speeding up the straightening process.

Orthodontic headgear varies from metal dental braces in this: patients wear them partially outside their mouths. 

“Metal mouth” isn’t always the most attractive look, but a dentist will recommend headgear if your child has severe malocclusion or severe bite misalignment. Headgear can also correct teeth overcrowding.

Check out more alternatives to braces.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Just like other tooth alignment devices, the cost you pay usually depends on the severity of your dental problem.

On average, fast braces cost about $4,000. That’s quite steep, even compared to what ceramic braces cost. They’re on par with clear braces, although some may cost much higher than fast braces.

Headgear treatment costs can range widely from $1,000 to $9,000. This entirely depends on the severity of malocclusion a patient has.

Orthodontic insurance covers both fast braces and headgear. Just like other alignment tools, they pay for the treatment itself, not the tool used. They’ll cover up to 50% of the cost, but this may vary upwards or downwards depending on the insurer.

Length of Treatment

On average, fast braces take a shorter time than metal braces. You can wear them for just up to a year. Headgear will take you just about as long as traditional braces, ranging from 1 to 2 years. Although both methods are effective, you may take longer with these devices if your condition needs severe correction.

Maintenance 

Headgear is much more tasking to maintain than other alignment devices. Without proper advice, you may face a few challenges maintaining them. Your orthodontist will give you special instructions on how to care for it, but the general guidelines include:

  • Brushing and flossing more often than before treatment
  • Follow a regular dental hygiene program to keep your teeth healthy
  • Clean parts of the face bow inside your mouth with toothpaste and wash the metal parts with antibacterial soap before replacing them
  • Wipe the straps of your headgear with a damp cloth or follow your dentist’s instructions

Fast braces are easier to maintain, although you’ll still have to pay extra attention to cleaning your teeth. Here are other recommended things to do:

  • Follow your orthodontist’s advice on keeping your fast braces clean and proper oral hygiene.
  • Avoid foods with hard or sticky consistency as they cause the archwire to bend out of shape.
  • Don’t bite hard on foods as this may cause ceramic brackets to break or you may hurt your teeth.

Durability

Expect both fast braces and headgear to last for long if you handle them with care. These devices use robust metallic construction, as well as other durable materials for the period of your treatment. 

Metal Braces: Before and After (for the graphic and image designer)

Metal braces
Metal braces

How To Care for Metal Braces

Here are some quick tips on how to take care of your metal braces:

  • Use high-quality materials like mouthwash, floss, toothbrush, and whitening toothpaste. Improve your brushing technique to clean out hard-to-reach areas of your mouth and the brackets of your braces [5].
  • Brush your teeth after every meal to remove food and beverage remains. Doing this reduces the build-up of bacteria that causes damage to your teeth and braces, and keeps your mouth fresh.
  • Floss at least once daily. Where possible, use floss threaders for braces or interdental brushes as these remove any plaque building up between your teeth and any food particles stuck on your braces [5].
  • Watch your diet. Avoid hard foods that may break your clear ceramic braces or leave you with broken wires. Stay away from crunchy or sweet and sticky foods that can get stuck in brackets [6].
  • Use an oral irrigator as it can keep your teeth clean, even better than a toothbrush or dental floss.

Find out more on how to floss with braces in this article on how braces work. 

Color Options

You can add a touch of personality to your braces by adding color. How do you do that? Here are some colors your orthodontist can add to your braces:

metal braces
  • Red
  • Green
  • Orange
  • Burgundy
  • Lilac
  • Any other color on your dentist’s color wheel

Picking the Right Color for You

Now more than ever, you can choose the color of braces you want. Your orthodontist will help you select what you want from a braces color wheel that includes different shades of every color you can imagine. 

Brackets can share the same color as the archwire or look different. Besides that, you can change these colors at every dental visit. You can even pick something inconspicuous, like tooth-colored brackets.

You could cycle colors every 3 to 4 weeks, depending on your appointments. Moreover, you can do color combinations or support a cause by choosing certain colors.

What Color Braces Make Teeth Whiter?

Darker colors like navy blue, purple, and black make your teeth appear whiter. Similar to the effect of red lipstick, red and light-blue braces make your teeth appear brighter. 

FAQ

Here are some of the questions people frequently ask about metal braces:

Do Metal Braces Work Faster?

Metal braces are a fast method of treating dental misalignment, but the speed of your treatment depends on your individual circumstances. More severe cases will need extra time to align, regardless of the treatment method. 

However, faster methods of treating mild cases exist. Clear aligners have proven to reduce the treatment time from about 3 years to anywhere between 6 and 18 months.

Do Metal Braces Damage Teeth?

Metal braces will not damage your teeth unless you leave them unattended. They have crevices and grooves that trap food particles when you eat. Without proper dental hygiene, these particles can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

Are Metal Braces Unhealthy?

In most cases, braces are healthy. They are not without their risks, but they have more long-term benefits. With proper dental care and frequent orthodontic treatment consultations, braces have more benefits than drawbacks.

Which Braces Are the Fastest?

Clear aligners, self-ligating braces, and lingual braces are the fastest options for many dental conditions. Fast braces are also, well, fast. However, the severity of your condition also matters. 

Are Clear Aligners More Expensive Than Braces?

In most cases, they are. However, prices for metal, ceramic and lingual braces will change based on the material used, designs, colors and the expertise of your orthodontist. 

Some types of metal and ceramic brackets cost more than clear aligners. Furthermore, treatment for severe dental malocclusion costs more.

Conclusion

If you want to align your teeth, metal braces are effective tools. You can also explore clear aligners like Invisalign, which have been shown to deliver excellent results for mild-to-moderate orthodontic conditions. 

Some aligners like Byte Aligners are available on mail order, and they’re quite convenient, accessible and affordable. However, the American Dental Association and Association of Orthodontists (AAO) do not approve of mail-order aligners. Always seek the approval of a qualified orthodontics expert before purchasing or using any of these commercial devices.

References 

  1. “Braces: Their Parts and Use: Patients at the Faculty of Dentistry Clinics (University of Toronto).” Braces: Their Parts And Use | Patients at the Faculty of Dentistry Clinics (University of Toronto), patients.dentistry.utoronto.ca/braces-parts-and-use.
  2. Weir, T. “Clear Aligners in Orthodontic Treatment.” Australian Dental Journal, vol. 62, 2017, pp. 58–62., doi:10.1111/adj.12480.
  3. “How to Clean and Care for Your Invisible Aligners.” Hampstead Orthodontic Practice, 5 Oct. 2020, www.hampsteadortho.co.uk/blog/how-to-clean-aligners/.
  4. Rossini G;Parrini S;Castroflorio T;Deregibus A;Debernardi CL; “Efficacy of Clear Aligners in Controlling Orthodontic Tooth Movement: A Systematic Review.” The Angle Orthodontist, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25412265/.
  5. “Diet While UNDERGOING ORTHODONTICS.” Diet While Undergoing Orthodontics – Australian Society of Orthodontists, www.aso.org.au/diet-while-undergoing-orthodontics.
  6. Dentalhealthorg. “Orthodontic Treatment.” Oral Health Foundation, www.dentalhealth.org/orthodontic-treatment.
2021 Guide to Metal Braces: Is It Right for You?

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