4 Types of Dental Braces
Orthodontist, Dr. Jacqueline Miller of Washington, Missouri, shows patient Shane Lee the progress braces are making to reposition his teeth. (Photo courtesy of the American Association of Orthodontists)
Dental braces aren't for teenagers only. An increasing number of adults are choosing braces to straighten their teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the number of adults getting braces or some other teeth straightening treatment increased 14 percent from 2010 to 2012.
Here are four different kinds of braces adults can choose from to improve their smile:
The most inexpensive type of braces for adults are the traditional, stainless-steel versions. Obviously, the drawback to wearing these is how visible they are. Metal braces hold a thin wire in place with rubber bands to put pressure on the teeth and move them to the desired place.
Metal braces can irritate gums and cheeks at first. Once you have them on, you have to watch what you eat, avoiding things that can stick to the braces, such as caramel or gum. You also have to avoid eating hard food, which can move or dislodge the braces.
Related: Plan ahead for the cost of braces
Ceramic braces cost more than stainless-steel versions, but they're made to blend in with the teeth so they aren't as visible. You can choose between clear elastic ties or white metal ties to hold the braces in place.
Though the braces themselves won't stain, the ties can easily color, especially if you consume foods or drinks that typically stain teeth, such as coffee. Your orthodontist will replace the ties every time he or she adjusts the braces, which is usually every month.
Ceramic braces are more sensitive and can easily break or chip. They require more maintenance and more time to install than metal braces, which increases overall treatment time and cost.
Lingual braces are customized to bond and hide behind the teeth to remain out of sight. They cost more than metal or ceramic braces because the process is more complicated. They require a skillful orthodontist to install them, and not every orthodontist knows how to do it.
Lingual braces don't work well on small teeth and get in the way of the tongue, potentially causing speech problems and injuries, so you have to learn and practice speaking with them on.
Invisible braces, such as Invisalign, cost more than any other types of braces because they are practically invisible. These braces work best for people who don't have significant teeth problems.
Instead of brackets mounted to the teeth, these braces are custom-fitted aligners (rubber trays) that you wear except when eating or brushing your teeth. The teeth straightening process requires you wear different aligners every two weeks to gradually move the teeth to the desired place.
These types of braces can be uncomfortable at first as the tray begins to put pressure on the teeth, but you get used to them. You must be disciplined because the success of these braces depends on you wearing the trays no less than 20 hours a day.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on October, 30, 2012.