Patients who need orthodontic treatment in the form of braces can choose from traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces and Invisalign. Ceramic braces are often chosen since they are aesthetically more appealing than the traditional ones. Ceramic braces for adults are a preferred method of orthodontic treatment because they allow the adults to have their teeth corrected while at the same time avoiding the associations that traditional braces have with teenagers and children. When studying their options and weighing ceramic braces vs. metal braces, patients will usually consider the way ceramic braces work, how they look and how much do ceramic braces cost.
Ceramic braces use tooth-colored or clear brackets bonded to the teeth. Since these brackets are less visible than the traditional metal brackets, patients feel less self-conscious when they wear braces. An archwire, which can be coated or frosted to blend in with the teeth, is threaded through and attached to each bracket with small elastics or thin wire ties. The archwire is adjusted about once a month during the duration of the treatment.
Adjustment of the archwire is necessary to apply pressure gradually to the teeth so they can move into the right position. Teeth move slowly and are given some time to settle into their new position before a new adjustment is made to continue the movement. If too much pressure is applied to quickly, the teeth can become looser and a patient can experience tooth loss.
Some patients also need rubber bands or inter-arch elastics to apply additional pressure in specific locations during the treatment. To maintain the aesthetic appeal of the ceramic braces, these rubber bands can be flesh-colored. These rubber bands are attached to the lower and upper brackets and pull in a certain direction. Rubber bands are worn all day but must be removed for meals.
The brackets used in ceramic braces, which are also sometimes called invisible ceramic braces or clear braces, are made from either polycrystalline or monocrystalline alumina. One material yields the clear, transparent brackets and the other material yields the tooth-colored brackets. These materials are chosen because they are strong and durable. They are also non-porous and resist odors, many stains and general wear.
However, these materials are also harder than tooth enamel, and overexposure of the teeth to the brackets can lead to extensive, damaging wear on the teeth. The orthodontist reviews each patient’s bite and studies the way the teeth overlap before deciding if this treatment is the best treatment for a patient. This is one reason why invisible ceramic braces are not an option for all patients. The brackets are also more brittle than metal brackets and must be handled with less pressure.
Another concern for patients is the ceramic braces cost. The cost of these braces is higher than that of traditional metal braces. On average, ceramic braces cost between $6,000 and $8,500, but the cost can be higher or slightly lower depending on the complexity of the patient’s case and on where the dental clinic is located.
If the ceramic braces cost is prohibitive for a patient, an orthodontist can recommend a compromise of treatment using both ceramic and traditional braces. One way is to use these braces only on the top teeth.
To lower the costs of the treatment even more, and to protect the teeth from overexposure to the brackets’ material and prevent enamel damage, many orthodontists recommend that patients have the invisible ceramic braces installed only on the top six front teeth, which are the most visible ones, and then use traditional metal braces on the rest of the teeth, which are less visible. This only adds about $200 to the cost of traditional treatment while allowing an aesthetically pleasing result for the patient.
Patients should be aware, however, that dental insurance normally covers ceramic braces for an amount similar to that available for traditional metal braces. If the patient is not covered under dental insurance, he can seek other methods of paying for the treatment. Most orthodontists and dental clinics offer payment plans for their patients, which include a larger down payment and monthly manageable payments to cover the balance.
Patients can also choose to buy discount dental plans that can help the patient save up to 50 percent of the total price of the braces. Another option that can help patients save money is to use the dental clinic of a dentistry school. These clinics can help patients save up to 30 percent of the cost of treatment. They normally offer basic and advanced dental treatment performed by students who have completed all their coursework and are gaining actual experience before graduation. The student dentists are supervised by professors and licensed dentists.
Another concern patients have when considering ceramic braces vs. metal braces is the maintenance involved with ceramic braces. The brackets used with ceramic treatment are larger than the metal ones. Their size makes cleaning the teeth harder so patients need to be particularly vigilant of their oral hygiene routine. They should brush their teeth often and floss daily. Decay can build up quickly and cause problems and the calcium in the teeth can also be affected. Visually, ceramic braces should hold their color or transparency well during the duration of the treatment since the materials are stain-resistant.
However, the small elastic bands used to attach the archwire to each individual bracket are not stain resistant. And the tooth-colored brackets can be stained if the patient consumes too much coffee, tea, red wine, curry or tobacco products. They do become stained and affect the overall look of the braces. The elastic bands cannot be cleaned, but they are replaced during the monthly adjustment.
During treatment, patients also should consume a diet of soft foods, particularly during the days after the monthly adjustments of the wire. Some foods need to be avoided completely during treatment since they can damage the brackets, breaking them or causing them to fall off. These foods include gum, nuts, hard candies and other hard foods.
Although the materials chosen for the brackets are chosen for their strength and durability, these brackets do tend to be more brittle than metal ones. Orthodontists will usually apply less force when adjusting the archwire during monthly visits, which causes slower progress, and this extends the total duration of the treatment. The lesser force is applied to protect the bracket from either breaking or falling off. Ceramic braces have a higher probability of bracket failure even with the more delicate handling, and this also affects how much do ceramic braces cost, since orthodontists can anticipate needing to replace or reattach a bracket during the treatment.
Average treatment for orthodontic traditional braces ranges from one and half years to three years. The actual complete time for treatment is based on each individual patient’s case. More complex cases result in longer total treatment duration. However, when ceramic braces are used, the duration of the treatment is somewhat longer than with metal braces anyway since the orthodontist needs to be more delicate when doing his adjustments. While the time is extended by a few months and results in additional visits to the orthodontist, the brackets are protected from unnecessary damages.
Minor pain and discomfort are experienced with orthodontic treatment with braces. This is true for ceramic braces as well as for traditional ones. A patient can expect to feel some pain and discomfort in his mouth when the braces are first installed and during the days after the subsequent monthly visits for adjustments of the archwire. The area will feel sore and some additional pain will also be present when the patient chews or when his teeth come together. Patients are advised to eat a diet of soft foods that do not further irritate the area. They can also use over-the-counter pain medication to treat the pain or hot and cold compresses in the sore area.
Patients can also develop sores in their mouth from the rubbing caused by the brackets. This is most common when the braces are first installed because the lips and the inside of the cheeks are not used to the rough surface of the brackets rubbing against the skin and need to adjust. Covering the sore with cotton or some wax will usually help with the pain. Sores normally disappear after a few days, but if a sore persists, the patient should visit his orthodontist to have it examined.
Discomfort during treatment can also be caused by archwire that either pokes out from the last brackets and scratches the inside of the cheeks or from loose wire ties that stick up and scratch and irritate the area around it. Patients can bend the wires with a pencil eraser, cut any extra wire with a sterilized nail cutter, or they can visit the orthodontist for adjustment.
Not all patients are good candidates for ceramic braces, though most patients will be able to use them if they so desire. Generally, though, ceramic braces are used by adolescent and adult patients who are concerned with the aesthetic impact of braces during the treatment. If the dental problems of these patients are not extreme, the orthodontist will usually agree with ceramic braces as the right choice.
Patients suffering from extreme dental problems that would require stronger than normal pressure applied to the teeth cannot use ceramic braces because of the risk of bracket failure. Ceramic braces are not recommended for patients with deep overbites or with abnormalities in their teeth, such as long cusps on the opposing teeth because these problems would cause more exposure to the bracket material, harming the tooth enamel. Patients involved in contact sports should not use ceramic braces since the risk for bracket failure is even higher with athletes. Additionally, patients with weakened tooth enamel cannot use ceramic braces.
Orthodontic treatment with braces is different for children and adults. This is true for all types of braces. Children’s bones are still growing, which makes them more pliable and easily guided into the correct position. If treatment is started early enough with children, more complicated dental problems related to crowding, crooked teeth and misaligned jaw issues can even be prevented. Treatment for children can begin as early as 7 years old and is usually designed to prepare the arches and teeth for any later treatment that might be needed. Children and teenagers can also use braces to open up the space in their mouth, or open their jaw, since the bones have not hardened into their permanent space and size.
Treatment for teenagers can vary in time, but it usually lasts between 18 and 24 months. The duration of treatment is affected by the rate of bone growth for each adolescent. Since every person is different and experiences bone growth at a different rate, patients with similar problems might experience different amounts of duration of the treatment. The estimates for the duration of the treatment can also be different from the actual duration since adolescents are in the middle of a transition into adulthood.
Because adult bones are no longer growing, the orthodontist approaches treatment differently. The duration time for treatment with ceramic braces for adults will last longer than that of children, since the bones are less pliant and the orthodontist will need to apply less pressure during the monthly adjustment visits. This will cause slower movement of the teeth, extending the duration of the treatment and increasing the cost. Treatment is also different because adults cannot really use orthodontic treatment to enlarge their mouth by stretching their jaw since the bones have already hardened. Adults who need to stretch their jaws will have to undergo surgery. Orthodontic treatment with braces for adults is only used to straighten teeth.
Only an orthodontist can decide what treatment is best for each patient. And patients must be willing to follow everything indicated by their dentist in order to have a successful experience with braces. The result, however, is a more beautiful smile and greater dental health.