Lingual Braces: History and Benefits

A brunette woman with red lipstick on tilting her head to the right slightly and smiling at the camera.

Several decades ago, traditional metal braces were the only option available for patients to get a beautiful, straight smile. However, the traditional take on braces changed when lingual braces were introduced. These are metal braces that go in your mouth, except they are bonded to the back of your teeth instead of the front. This option is a popular one for teens and adults, as they can hide their metal braces in their mouth as they straighten the teeth.

 

What Are Traditional Metal Braces?

Metal braces are “traditional” because the bracket-and-wire design they have has been used for decades. Before 1970, orthodontists anchored metal brackets to the center of each tooth and wound wires around the teeth to straighten them. After 1970, orthodontists continued to use metal anchorage devices (called brackets) on the front and center of each tooth.

 

A metal archwire was sufficient for straightening when it ran along the upper and lower jaws across the front of the teeth. Traditional braces use a system of archwires and brackets that are bonded to the teeth to shift them into their ideal position. When we see you at your frequent checkups, we will adjust the archwire, which will exert more pressure on your teeth, moving them in place.

 

The back molars will have metal bands that fit all the way around the back molars of the teeth. This is where the archwire will attach and be stabilized. Both top and bottom jaws will have these bands on them. The brackets on each tooth will have a rubber band around them, which are removable. They help keep your bracket hooks from catching on your mouth.

 

Close-up view of the inside of a patient's mouth with lingual braces on the teeth.

How Are Lingual Braces Different?

Lingual braces are similar to traditional metal braces. Many people don’t aesthetically like the look of metal braces, but they love their final straight smile. Metal braces are the strongest and are highly effective for achieving a beautiful smile. What can patients do if they want a straight smile but they don’t want braces front and center? Put that metal on the inside of the mouth between the teeth and the tongue!

 

Lingual braces are metal braces just like the traditional version, except that they are on the tongue-side of your teeth. However, there isn’t as much room on the back of your teeth like there is on the front of your teeth. If you notice, there is also a bit of a curve to the back of some of your teeth. That bracket-and-wire design can’t be exactly like the traditional version, but the design can be similar.

 

Using the same idea as traditional metal braces, you can achieve the same results as traditional braces, only with a hidden treatment apparatus on the tongue-side of your teeth. Patients that choose this option have impressions made of their mouth that focus on the backs of their teeth. After those impressions are sent to a special lab, metal backings for the teeth are made that are then bonded to the back of your teeth. They are almost like metal coverings for the entire tooth back, and often are silver or gold in color. These metal coverings also have small metal brackets and wires that discreetly correct bite and alignment issues over time. The concept is similar, but the design is tweaked to give lingual braces the same stability as traditional metal ones.

 

A close-up view of a woman's teeth that are beautiful and straight.

The Invention of Lingual Braces

  • The push for hidden braces first started in the 70s with celebrities and public figures that wanted straighter teeth without visible metal braces.
  • Craven Kurz and Jim Mulick were the first to develop prototypes for these braces in 1975. Craven Kurz was an orthodontist who later founded the American Lingual Orthodontic Association. Jim Mulick was the man Kurz partnered with from the UCLA School of Dentistry.
  • The first prototypes of lingual braces led to tongue irritation and bracket breaks, which were resolved by inventing an inclined plane for these braces.
  • Lingual braces are usually made of stainless steel, but they can also be made out of titanium.
  • Craven Kurz applied for a patent in 1976 and the first lingual braces were produced in 1979. Ormco was the company Kurz partnered with that eventually created 7 different generations of lingual models until the current model.
  • Each model involved changes to the orthodontic appliance including the additions of hooks and crannies, anterior and molar brackets and hooks, inclined planes, torque values, transpalatal bar hooks and a heart-shaped inclined plane.
  • There are various designs of lingual braces that will vary based on how they look and how they are attached to the teeth. We use the “Incognito” style, but you may also hear types such as “iBraces”, “In-Ovation”, “STb Light Lingual System” and “Suresmile Lingual QT”.

 

How Do You Benefit?

Getting braces at all is a major step in the right direction if you want to be successful. Studies show that people who straighten their teeth often feel more confident in themselves, and their actions become more confident. Due to social, economic or aesthetic concerns, many patients may have the desire to straighten their teeth, but they don’t want to have metal braces on their teeth. For adults with careers or active social lives, they may view traditional metal braces as something only children and teens have.

 

However, at least 1/4th of patients with braces are adults. You simply may not see those braces because they have invisible braces like lingual braces. Lingual braces can achieve the same effect as regular metal braces without being seen. For a career setting, you can keep your white smile as it slowly becomes straighter overtime. For athletes, there isn’t a worry about dental injuries, as brackets and wires won’t cut up the cheeks or gums. Those who play wind instruments will find that lingual braces are much easier to play with than traditional braces. You get both the aesthetic appeal with sturdy straightening power with lingual braces. If you would like your free consultation, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!