When someone considers orthodontics to get their teeth straightened, two of the newest choices for treatment are lingual braces and clear aligners called Invisalign®. Traditional orthodontics consist of brackets, wires and sometimes elastics, but with these new choices available, a patient needs the facts concerning all types of orthodontic methods before deciding which system suits their needs.
Lingual Braces Vs. Invisalign®
Lingual braces and Invisalign® treatment are gaining popularity because of their aesthetic advantages. You can't usually see either set of braces: Lingual braces are on the back of the teeth, and Invisalign are clear and just as hard to notice. The teeth are moved into correct position without the front-facing metal brackets and wires most people don't care to wear.
More than four million people in the U.S. currently have braces, according to Humana, and a quarter of those patients are adults. Most orthodontists will even tell you the fastest growing area of their practice is in the adult market. Many in the baby-boomer generation either had orthodontics as children and want to re-straighten their teeth, or are now ready to do so because their children wore them, grew up and moved out! Some adults are self-conscious about braces, and lingual braces or Invisalign® orthodontic therapy is certainly appealing.
Lingual braces, inspiring services like MTM® No Trace, have been around since the 1980s. A lot of dentists have yet to offer this technique, though, because special training is required. In most cases, this type of treatment takes the longest because the brackets are glued to the lingual (tongue) side, and tend to move the teeth a little more gradually. The same photographs, X-rays and molds are required for the lingual braces treatment, along with the extraction of severely crowded and/or wisdom teeth. The patient will then have small brackets glued to the inner surfaces of the teeth, and a wire and elastics will be used in the same manner as traditional orthodontics, but hidden from view.
As with traditional orthodontics, cleaning teeth while undergoing treatment will be a longer and more complicated process with lingual braces.
Invisalign® is developed by Align Technology, which claims dentists in more than 45 countries have used their treatment. After consulting with your orthodontist or general dentist, treatment usually consists of diagnostic photographs of the teeth, preliminary radiographs (X-rays), and impressions (molds) of the mouth. If necessary, crowded teeth and/or wisdom teeth may then need to be removed before orthodontic treatment can begin.
The general dentist or orthodontist will fabricate a set of clear plastic forms (aligners) that are worn one after the other in a special order over a period (usually one to two years) to straighten your teeth over time. The cost of the Invisalign® treatment can be the same or less than traditional orthodontics, and most patients require retainers that are also clear when they are finished treatment.
Uniquely, aligner trays are removed when brushing and flossing teeth, allowing patients the convenience of normal brushing as opposed to the more elaborate methods associated with metal and lingual braces.
Whether a patient chooses to take advantage of lingual braces or Invisalign® orthodontic treatment, good oral hygiene is a must throughout treatment. Flossing is a necessity regardless of what's in your mouth, and gels like Colgate® Phos-Flur® keep teeth clean in areas covered by braces which are more susceptible to decalcification.
No matter your choice in the lingual braces vs. Invisalign® decision, the great majority of patients opting in have considered it well worth the investment!
About the author: Dr. Huot is the founder and CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants Inc. He has lectured at many meetings, and his past articles have been featured in Dental Products Report, Dental Economics, Dental Practice Report, ADA News and state dental journals. Dr. Huot recently retired from the USAF Reserve Dental Corps after 30 years of military duty, and his most recent assignment was as the Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, Florida. A Past President of the Maine Dental Association in 1994 and the 2006 President of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association in Florida, Dr. Huot is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.