One challenge when committing to any orthodontic care is how to stay confident in your appearance while wearing braces. If your child is about to celebrate a major milestone, you might wonder how ceramic braces compare to metal braces in terms of appearance and functionality. You may even wonder whether it's possible to change materials mid-way through the treatment.
Get the facts on different types of braces, so you can decide – with the help of a dental professional – which look and functionality is best for your child.
Metal braces typically consist of brackets placed on either the front or back of the teeth, and wires that are tightened to help move the teeth and bite into correct and straighter alignment, as per the American Dental Association. Metal braces are made of stainless steel brackets and wires that are a type of metal alloy, says the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO). They are adjusted with the help of ligatures or the rubber bands that attach the wires to the brackets. Traditional braces are comprised of brackets, wires and ligatures as the main parts, while self-ligating braces have clips instead of ligatures that hold the wires to the brackets.
If your teen feels self-conscious and you want them to be confident and smile wide in photos, let them know that a metallic smile is normal. Many of their peers sport similar shiny grins.
Ceramic braces, on the other hand, have tooth-coloured or clear brackets and ligatures, while still having metal wires, notes the AAO. You can also choose between traditional and self-ligating braces. Just like metal braces, traditional ceramic braces and self-ligating ceramic braces respectively have ligatures or clips that attach the wires to brackets.
Metal and ceramic braces have the same functionality. Each applies pressure to the teeth, causing the teeth to move over a period of months or years, says the Cleveland Clinic. On average, this can take about one to three years.
If you're concerned about your appearance during that time, however, or your child is looking forward to an event, the key difference is that metal braces have metal brackets, whereas ceramic braces have brackets that blend in with the colour of your teeth. But you should consider that both are attached with metal alloy wire, so the wire will always be visible when smiling.
Talk to your dentist and take the time to study images of both metal and ceramic braces to decide what you or your child would prefer aesthetically. You might opt for ceramic braces as they are less noticeable on the whole. As such, choosing ceramic braces may seem like a straightforward decision. According to the Cleveland Clinic, however, ceramic braces can become stained or discoloured over time. Treatment may also last longer due to the ceramic brackets creating friction against the wires.
Metal braces tend to be less costly and treatment time isn't affected by the way the appliances work together. But treatment time is dictated by the same factors for either option: the severity of the misalignment, the distance your teeth need to move, the health of your mouth, and adherence to your treatment plan, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
It may also be possible to switch from one type to the other mid-treatment, though this involves more money and time in changing out and re-applying the new brackets.
Keeping your teeth and mouth healthy are key to reducing the risk of staining, both on your teeth and if you (or your teen) choose ceramic braces. For important photo occasions, white teeth keep your smile looking great with braces.