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A brunette woman putting on red lipstick as she gets ready for a New Year's Party. She is wearing ceramic braces on her teeth.

You may wonder what the differences are between metal, ceramic, and lingual braces and how they compare to Invisalign treatment. All are a bit different and they are both made and worn differently. Braces are made from various materials and designed specifically for your mouth.

 

Metal Braces and Your Teeth

You’ve likely seen someone wearing metal braces and you know that they make your teeth straighter. But how? It takes a bit of science and the right orthodontic appliance to make that beautiful smile happen. With the most common type of braces—metal braces—you have a stainless steel material that is shaped into specific orthodontic parts that will all go together in your mouth. Often those parts are molded and shaped in a special lab that then ships those parts to orthodontists.

 

Labs will even do custom-made brackets and wires for patients when the need arises. However, most braces have a specific design like metal braces do. Metal braces have several parts that include:

  • Brackets: These stainless steel pieces are those little squares bonded to the middle of each tooth. We use a special bonding glue that will stay on your teeth for the entire duration of your treatment, but will come off easily with the right orthodontic material. Your brackets are small anchors that hold a wire in place. They will have tiny rubber elastics placed around them to protect your teeth and prevent stuck food.
  • Archwire: This metal wire will pass through the brackets on each tooth, all the way to the back of your mouth. Many patients have a bracket that wraps around the back molar that stabilizes this archwire. The wire will follow the curve of your jaws in an elongated have circle. When a thicker archwire is placed or when this archwire is adjusted, it can help move the teeth into place because of the force placed on the brackets.
  • Ligature Elastics: These are the rubber elastics we mentioned. The elastics are what keep the archwire sturdy so it can straighten your teeth.

 

Dental models that have orthodontic appliances on the teeth. An example of metal braces and ceramic braces is seen.

How Teeth Straighten

Your archwire will be adjusted very slightly at your orthodontic appointments every 4-6 weeks. That slight adjustment may seem very small, but it’s what your mouth needs to make a true, straightening change. The appliance is not the only thing changing your teeth into a straighter position. Your teeth are the hardest substance in the body and can even be harder than many metals. Straightening them would seem very difficult, when it’s not. It simply takes time.

 

Your teeth can take a ton of force from chewing, biting, eating, talking and other actions because they are rooted into your jawbone. However, the jawbone is much weaker than the teeth are. So why doesn’t your jawbone get breaks in it when you chew hard things? You have something called the periodontic ligament that is around every tooth root as it goes into your jaw bone. All those ligaments are shock absorbers for your jaws when you chew, minimizing the force your jawbones take. These are key to straightening the teeth.

 

When orthodontic appliances are on the teeth, they will apply a very slight pressure to your teeth and to the periodontic ligaments that surround them. When that pressure is constantly there, your body will produce acids in the jawbone area that will break down tiny parts around the teeth. With new space created, the teeth can shift. Your body will naturally deposit more minerals in areas that have changed to strengthen the jawbone once more. Over time, your jaw is literally breaking itself down on a microscopic level and then rebuilding itself. That is why orthodontic treatment takes months. However, the result is worth it.

 

A close-up view of metal braces that have the ligature elastics around the brackets. The braces are on a dental model.

Ceramic and Lingual Braces

Ceramic and lingual braces are very similar to traditional metal braces, but are made a bit differently. Lingual braces are also a metal braces type, and most types are made from stainless steel in a lab. There can be other types of metal used or a combination of metals. These braces will have brackets and wires just like traditional metal braces, except that they will be placed on the back of a patient’s teeth.

 

Because of placement, children are not usually candidates for lingual braces because of the size of the teeth. Dental impressions of the back of the teeth are made so that metal coverings can be made for the tooth backs, which is a bit different than traditional metal braces. More anchoring is needed with lingual braces, and this is how it is done. The metal material will cover the entire tooth back with a bracket in the center of the tooth, and each is placed individually when a patient gets their appliance. The archwire works the same as other braces.

 

Ceramic braces are very similar to metal braces in their design and how they work. However, they are made from ceramic material, which is naturally white already. This makes the braces blend in with the teeth more, and the metal can even be frosted to blend in with whiter teeth.

 

Invisalign: Customized to the Patient

Invisalign treatment is an orthodontic option that is vastly different than your other options. The most noticeable difference is that there is no metal or ceramic material in your appliance. A patient will have digital images taken of their mouth. With that image, custom aligners are made that a patient will switch out each week. These are a type of plastic material patented by the Invisalign company. It’s a strong enough plastic to cause the same type of shifting you want your teeth to do. Aligners fit snug in the mouth as they are custom made, are switched out each week, and must be worn 20-22 hours of the day. If you are interested in any of these types of braces or want to see how the braces are put on a patient, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016 with your questions!

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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!

 

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Close-up view of a child's braces

Did you know that about 1/4th of all people with braces are children? Millions of Americans receive orthodontic treatment for bite and alignment correction and for straightening the teeth. However, adults require treatment differently and for longer than a child would need, and child orthodontics have different goals for patients than adult orthodontics do. Both of these areas of orthodontics differ, but are also very similar in techniques used to create a beautiful smile.

 

Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment is one of the easiest ways to help improve your health. Braces can help correct major oral health problems and can help avoid dental emergencies in the future. In children and adults, braces straighten the teeth so that they are aligned properly for speech, eating, biting and more. Straighter teeth are easier to clean and easier to manage, which leads to better health. Teeth must come in at specific places in the mouth for both children and adults. Child orthodontics focuses on that proper bite and tooth placement, and adult orthodontics seeks to improve the look of a smile.

 

Child Orthodontics

Did you know that children often wear braces, only to get them again as adolescents? Child orthodontics is a popular orthodontic option for at least 1/4th of braces wearers. Dentistry has been around enough centuries to know that the teeth, bite, alignment and growth happen in a specific way. Teeth must come in at the right spot and must be aligned in a specific manner in the jaw. As a child begins to get their baby teeth, some may be crooked. Depending on oral health conditions, and problems such as thumb-sucking, the shape of the teeth and bite can change.

 

Some children will have teeth that protrude outward, inward, or teeth that are in various directions. This leaves them open to the risk of broken or fractured teeth, tooth decay and problems with speech and development. Child orthodontics is the first phase of getting braces early. It focuses on getting the jaws lined up correctly and the teeth resting on each other in the right way. Once that happens, the baby teeth can fall out and the adult teeth can smoothly come into place. Child orthodontics will correct the major issues a child’s mouth has when they are around 7 or 8 years old. Starting at 11 and later, braces will seek to make the teeth look more attractive.

 

Young girl patient having her teeth and braces examined by an orthodontist

Adult Orthodontics

Most people think that teens make up the majority of patients with braces. However, adult orthodontics is very popular as well, with about 1/4th of all orthodontic patients being adults. There are more adults wearing orthodontic appliances than you realize, especially because of the “invisible options” they have that children don’t have.

 

Adults have a harder time with straightening their teeth than children do. By adulthood, the mouth and jaws have stopped growing, making them less moldable than a child’s jaws. The treatment that would have been easy for a child may take twice as long for an adult, or may require surgical orthodontics to achieve a straight smile, or proper bite and alignment. However, adults get the benefits of Invisalign treatment and lingual braces, which most children can’t have.

 

Invisalign is an “invisible” straightening option for adults and teens that uses a strong, clear aligner to straighten the teeth. Digital scanning creates customized aligners that a patient changes out ever 1-2 weeks, which slowly shift the teeth into their proper place. This invisible option allows adults and teens to brush, floss, eat and play sports without brackets and wires in the way. Lingual braces is another “invisible” straightening option. It has metal brackets and wires, except they’re placed on the back of the teeth. Only an adult can use these, as the baby teeth are not large enough for lingual braces to fit. Both adult orthodontics and child orthodontics correct bite, alignment and tooth issues, but the options available to the two age groups differ slightly.

 

Young boy with braces and headgear to correct bite and alignment problems

Why Choose Either Option?

When considering orthodontic treatment, there are various aspects you have to think about that include cost, health changes, aesthetic appeal and more. Many people think that braces are very expensive, when they are actually quite affordable. Your family may even save more money over time because of the oral health problems that are avoided by proper orthodontic treatment. A major reason so many people have orthodontic treatment is that they want to improve their smiles. Not only does a straight smile look beautiful, but it helps patients feel more confident. Studies show that child orthodontics helps children feel more confident in school and they do better academically.

 

Braces can correct speech problems caused by bite and alignment issues. They can straighten the teeth, making them easier to clean, and thus reducing problems with tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. People socially perceive patients in a more positive way if their smiles are straighter and healthier. No matter if you choose orthodontic treatment for aesthetic appeal or for health reasons, the benefits are worth the time, effort and money you put into your treatment.

 

Conservative Treatment

Dr. Hardy practices a conservative approach to orthodontic treatment. While it is important for children to have an early orthodontic assessment to look for serious dental concerns (around age 7), the majority of children will not require orthodontic treatment before age 11. Your child might need child orthodontics or they may only need orthodontic treatment as a teen. Some people are naturally born with straight teeth that don’t pose them a problem, or their teeth start to shift later on in life. Whether your child needs child orthodontics or you need adult orthodontics, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016 for your free consultation!