Ceramic braces, also known as clear braces, have been on the market for decades. Although they’ve become less popular since the rise of clear aligner products like Invisalign and SmileDirectClub, they remain a great option for adults seeking relatively discreet orthodontic treatment.
Ceramic braces offer patients a less visible form of braces that is still comprehensive and capable of correcting a wide variety of alignment issues. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the major pros and cons of ceramic braces and help you decide whether they’re the right choice for your teeth.
Table of Contents
Pros and Cons of Ceramic Braces
- More Discreet: Because they use clear or tooth-colored materials, they’re less visible than traditional braces treatment
- In-Person Oversight: Treatment is facilitated and monitored during regular office visits with an orthodontist
- Highly Versatile: Powerful enough to treat a wide range of teeth misalignments
- Consistently Powerful: Since they’re affixed to your teeth, they’re always working and there’s no need to remove and replace them every day
- Less Durable: Not quite as sturdy as metal braces and not as viable for severe conditions or bite issues
- Higher Average Cost: More expensive ($6,000 on average) than traditional braces and clear aligner treatment
- Less Convenient: Requires regular office visits for oversight and adjustments
- Long Treatment Time: They often take 18-24 months to achieve the desired results, longer than most other treatments, especially at-home clear aligners
How Do Ceramic Braces Work?
While the history of braces dates back centuries, ceramic braces only date back a few decades. They were first introduced in 1987 as a less visible alternative to traditional metal braces. Despite the name, ceramic braces are often made from certain types of clear, medical-grade plastics.
They function almost exactly like metal braces do. An orthodontist wil bond the clear brackets to the front surfaces of your teeth, then connect them with a clear or tooth-colored wire. As the wire is tightened, it exerts gentle pressure on your teeth and over time (usually 18-24 months) moves them slowly into place.
Today, there are a few different reliable brands of ceramic braces, each with its own advantages. Damon Clear braces use tiny clips to hold the wire in place rather than elastics, which means fewer adjustments. Radiance Plus, from American Orthodontics, are known for their sturdiness and reliability. Clarity from 3M uses custom tooth-colored brackets and wires and prioritizes comfort in their design.
Ceramic vs. Traditional Braces: What’s the Difference?
Like traditional metal braces, ceramic braces still require regular trips to the orthodontist. The extra one-on-one time allows for a more tailored treatment plan that ensures quality results and a low risk of relapse (your teeth moving back to their original position). Ceramic braces also typically require about the same treatment time as braces, at around 18-24 months.
The main differences between ceramic and traditional braces come down to aesthetics, cost, comfort, and maintenance. Depending on your priorities, you may find ceramic braces to be more convenient and suitable for your lifestyle.
While traditional braces use bulky and highly visible metal, ceramic braces use clear brackets and white or tooth-colored wires instead. Because of their transparent nature, ceramic braces tend to blend in with the teeth and are more difficult to detect. This is often a huge perk for adults who want a thorough treatment option, without the typical look of braces.
Unfortunately, the elastics used on each ceramic bracket tend to stain easily. Patients with traditional metal braces do not experience this issue. Also, ceramic braces have slightly larger brackets than traditional braces. However, since the brackets are clear, this is typically not considered to be a deal-breaker.
Ceramic braces employ the use of a more advanced material than their traditional counterparts. So, it makes sense that the average cost of treatment for ceramic braces is slightly higher. Opting for the nearly invisible, clear brackets comes at a price. The average cost for ceramic braces is $6,000, about $1,000 more than traditional braces.
Still, for some people, the low-profile aspect of ceramic braces is well worth the higher cost. If you’re the type of person who may feel embarrassed to have traditional metal braces as an adult, ceramic braces could be a great alternative.
Traditional braces aren’t just visible, they’re also uncomfortable. Traditional braces’ metal brackets can be irritating and may rub against the lips, causing some pain and scratching. Ceramic braces, on the other hand, are made of more innovative material and are generally considered to be the more comfortable option.
The material used to make ceramic braces is much less abrasive and typically provides a more comfortable overall experience. Ceramic brackets won’t aggravate your gums or leave the inside of your cheeks feeling chafed. In fact, most patients only experience pain after tightening appointments, and even then, it’s usually very manageable.
As we previously mentioned, ceramic braces have clear brackets and tooth-colored or transparent wires. Because of this, they are very prone to staining. Patients with ceramic braces should avoid food or drinks that will likely cause stains, such as red wine and coffee. However, if you can’t live without your morning coffee, rinsing your mouth with water and brushing your teeth immediately after will help to ward off stains. Smoking is another stain hazard – it may cause your brackets and wires to become yellow or brown in appearance.
If you decide to get ceramic braces, increased attention to detail when brushing and flossing is imperative. Orthodontists recommend that you brush 3-4 times per day and floss at least once daily to keep them in good shape. If you think that this will be too much of a commitment, it may be beneficial to consider a more low maintenance treatment option.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Ceramic Braces?
Ceramic braces are a viable treatment option for anyone who has all of their adult teeth and has generally stopped growing. They’re an excellent choice for someone seeking a less noticeable form of braces and less discomfort. People who value one-on-one time with an orthodontist will also appreciate the fact that ceramic braces still require regular office visits throughout treatment. The primary purpose of these visits is to tighten your braces. However, you’ll also have a chance to ask your orthodontist questions and let them know if you’re experiencing any abnormal pain or irritation.
Mild-to-moderate spacing and crowding are typically no problem for ceramic braces. However, patients with more severe alignment or bite issues may not be a good fit. The clear brackets used for treatment are less durable than those used for traditional braces and tend to break more easily. Severe misalignments may put too much pressure on the brackets and cause them to break, delaying, or even preventing appropriate treatment.
Smokers and people who have poor oral hygiene should think twice about getting ceramic braces, due to their tendency to stain. Ceramic braces are best for people who already brush and floss regularly and won’t have a hard time incorporating the extra effort into their oral hygiene routine.
What Is It Like To Wear Ceramic Braces as an Adult?
The first step is to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist. If they determine that you’re a good fit for braces, they’ll start by taking x-rays and impressions of your teeth. Then, you’ll make a separate appointment to have your braces applied. Typically, it will take about 1-2 hours for your orthodontist to bond your braces to your teeth. There may be some pressure, but usually no pain. Afterward, your teeth may be sore for several days, but the discomfort should be manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers.
The average total treatment time for ceramic braces is 18-24 months. Proper oral hygiene is required to keep your braces in good shape, including diligent flossing and twice-daily brushing. Flossing may be challenging at first. However, your orthodontist will advise you on proper techniques to help you clean around your braces. During treatment, you will need to visit your orthodontist every 4-6 weeks to have your braces tightened and to change the elastics attached to the brackets. After these tightening appointments, your teeth may be sore for a few days.
You’ll also want to avoid certain foods during your braces treatment. Especially chewy, crunchy, and sticky foods can break your braces’ brackets and wires. So steer clear of things like hard candy, caramel, pretzels, bagels, nuts, apples, and similar foods.
What Kind of Results Should I Expect?
Ceramic braces stay on your teeth until they’ve reached the desired position, so by the end of your treatment, you’ll have a perfectly straight smile. It might take up to two years, but by the end of the process, your teeth will have slowly and safely shifted, and you’ll have a brand new smile.
You’ll need to wear a retainer from your orthodontist to ensure that your new smile stays in place. It is essential to consistently wear these retainers until your orthodontist advises otherwise, as your teeth may move back to their original position.
Other Discreet Treatment Options
Ceramic braces are popular because they offer most of the same benefits as traditional braces without being highly noticeable. Still, ceramic braces are not the perfect fit for everyone. If you think that you won’t be able to manage the increased maintenance or higher cost of treatment, you may want to look into alternative options. There are plenty of orthodontic treatments on the market that are still discreet, but also cheaper or more convenient.
Lingual braces look very similar to traditional braces but are placed behind the teeth, making them almost invisible. There are two types of lingual braces – incognito and standard. Standard lingual braces use “one-size-fits-all” brackets, which are applied to the back of your teeth. Incognito lingual braces are much more popular and are customized to fit perfectly along the back of your teeth.
The biggest advantage of lingual braces is their low profile. Lingual braces are very hard to detect in the mouth and are definitely the more inconspicuous option. Unfortunately, though, lingual braces can be challenging to clean and may irritate your tongue and gums. Lingual braces are also much more expensive, at around $8,000 – $10,000.
Invisalign is the original clear aligner system. The industry leader in size and experience, they’ve treated more than 8 million patients worldwide. ClearCorrect, a competing clear aligner provider, provides a comparable service with its own version of clear aligners. The primary benefit of clear aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect is the lack of wires and brackets. Although you need to wear the aligners for 22 hours per day throughout the average 18 months of treatment, they are removable and typically don’t disrupt everyday life much.
Invisalign or ClearCorrect treatment tends to run between $3,000 and $5,000, and Invisalign is the more expensive of the two brands. And, although both providers have been proven to treat most cases of crowding and spacing, patients with moderate-to-severe bite issues aren’t typically good candidates for treatment.
Home Teeth Aligners
At-home clear aligners products like SmileDirectClub are very similar to Invisalign, but treatment is administered from the comfort of your home. Rather than visiting a dentist or orthodontist in person, home aligner patients simply take dental impressions at home and send them to their chosen provider for analysis and approval. Once approved, the company customizes the aligners based on the patient’s impressions and sends the aligners to their door.
Due to the lack of in-person dental visits, home teeth aligners are the cheapest option on this list, running $1,900 on average for a full course of treatment. Treatment with home aligners typically takes between 3-6 months (depending on the provider you choose).
Ceramic braces are a great option for adults seeking a less noticeable (but still comprehensive) treatment alternative to traditional braces. That said, they aren’t the right choice for everyone. While clear brackets and tooth-colored wires may be tempting features, these perks come with a higher price point and a bit more upkeep.
If you’re the type of person who values convenience first, a more easy-going option like home aligners or Invisalign may be a better fit for you. Before you decide to get ceramic braces, it’s best to schedule a consultation with a dentist to discuss your options and make sure you’re choosing the best treatment for your teeth!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do ceramic braces cost?
The average cost of ceramic braces is around $6,000. Ultimately, your cost will depend on the severity of your condition and your orthodontist’s rates. More complex conditions can cost more, while milder ones can be less expensive.
How long do ceramic braces take?
About the same amount of time as traditional braces: 18-24 months on average. However, since the specific timeline largely depends on the complexity of your condition, it’s possible for treatment to take longer or shorter.
What are ceramic braces made of?
Today, most ceramic braces are made of a clear plastic material, although sometimes, their made from a tooth-colored porcelain or ceramic. It depends on which type your orthodontist offers and thinks is best for your teeth.
How durable are ceramic braces?
While they might be more discreet, ceramic braces aren’t as durable as metal ones. They don’t break easily, but you’ll want to be a little more careful about what you eat.
Do ceramic braces stain?
The brackets and wires involved with ceramic braces are generally stain-resistant. The elastic bands used on each bracket to hold the wire in place, however, may stain if you have a lot of dark-colored food and beverages.
What foods can you eat with ceramic braces?
You can still enjoy many of your favorite foods while wearing ceramic braces, but you’ll want to avoid things that are especially sticky, crunchy, or chewy. So, you might want to hold off on hard candy, gum, apples, pretzels, bagels, and similar foods until you get your braces off.
What conditions can ceramic braces treat?
Ceramic braces can easily handle most mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing. Since they’re slightly less durable, they might not be the best option for more severe cases and bite issues, which can put added pressure on the brackets.