When you think of orthodontic treatment, traditional metal braces are probably the first image that comes to mind.
Braces remain an undisputed go-to treatment option for a reason: they’re widely trusted to correct simple and complex misalignments alike. They provide orthodontists with the flexibility necessary to treat complex conditions (such as underbite and crossbite) with relative ease — even in adults. This versatility is likely why dental professionals continue to recommend traditional braces as the most comprehensive orthodontic treatment.
All that said, braces are no longer the only orthodontic treatment option available, and they’re certainly not right for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of treatment with traditional braces and discuss some alternatives in case braces aren’t right for you.
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Who Are Traditional Braces Right For?
Traditional braces are capable of correcting a wide variety of misalignments and bite issues. Even people with moderate to severe cases of teeth crowding and spacing are considered good candidates for braces. Given its versatile nature, braces are typically a good fit for anyone who has a case of malocclusion or misalignment of the teeth.
Braces can also correct problematic bite issues like overbite, crossbite, and overjet. In these more severe cases, orthodontists typically use supplemental appliances, like elastics or springs, that enhance treatment and allow for more extreme transformations. Because of this, patients often turn to braces if they aren’t considered a good fit for less flexible treatments like Invisalign.
Traditional braces are very visible and sometimes inconvenient. So, they’re usually only recommended to adults when their case is considered too complex for a more discreet and affordable option. While braces are very effective, a vast majority of cases are treatable with more innovative treatments like clear aligners or Six Month Smiles.
How Much Do Braces Cost?
One of the major disadvantages of braces is cost. The average price of treatment with traditional braces is $5,000, but ultimately the cost depends on the severity of the case. Luckily, most orthodontists offer financing programs, which allow patients to pay for braces over time, typically throughout treatment. Unfortunately, these financing programs usually require a credit check, so approval is not guaranteed. Also, as with most payment plans, a hefty interest is generally applied to the total cost of treatment.
Some health insurers may cover the cost of traditional braces. However, this varies widely, depending on the provider and your particular insurance plan. If you’re considering getting braces, it is recommended to read through your current policy and coverages thoroughly. If you’re unsure what your insurance covers, give your provider a call and have one of their representatives discuss your plan with you. It may even be worth it to consider purchasing supplemental dental insurance if your current policy does not cover any orthodontic treatments.
What Is It Like To Wear Braces as an Adult?
Today, braces are a viable treatment for patients as young as 10 years old. Because they’re such a popular go-to treatment for teenagers, it may be hard to imagine what it would be like to wear braces as an adult. In reality, adults tend to be more diligent with their oral hygiene and are more likely to complete treatment without any significant complications. Most adults assume they already know all there is to learn about braces. Still, it can be beneficial to receive a refresher on what to expect during the treatment process.
The first step to get braces 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 an impression of your teeth. Then, you’ll make a separate appointment to have your braces applied to your teeth. Typically, it will take about 1-2 hours for the braces to be applied and cemented to your teeth. There may be some pressure, but usually no pain. After the braces have been applied, your teeth will be sore for several days, but the pain should be manageable with OTC pain relievers.
The average total treatment time for braces is about 2 years. While you have braces, proper oral hygiene, including diligent flossing and twice-daily brushing, is required. Flossing may be challenging to master 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 about once per month to have your braces tightened and to change the elastics attached to the brackets. After these tightening appointments, your teeth may be sore for up to a few days.
Once your treatment is complete, you’ll receive a set of clear retainers to ensure your new smile will stay 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.
What Are My Other Options?
Traditional braces may be the tried and true option for orthodontic treatment, but they’re not the only option available. If your case of misalignment is mild-to-moderate, you may benefit from a cheaper, and more affordable, option. If you fall into this group, there are several alternative treatment options on the market.
Lingual braces are very similar to traditional braces but are placed on the back of the teeth as opposed to the front, making them much more discreet. For this reason, lingual braces are a popular choice for people who want a less visible treatment option.
Overall, lingual braces are capable of treating virtually the same alignment issues that traditional braces can address, including most cases of spacing and crowding. However, patients with severe bite issues may not be a good fit. Treatment time with lingual braces is usually about the same as that of traditional braces. However, lingual braces are generally much more expensive, coming in at around $8,000 – $10,000.
Ceramic clear braces perform just like traditional metal braces but have clear brackets and no elastic ties. These braces tend to blend in with the teeth and are almost invisible to the untrained eye. Some options even include tooth-colored wires for treatment to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Aside from the major advantage of being less noticeable, clear braces are also a popular choice because they require a shorter treatment time than traditional braces. Most people can complete treatment in about 18 months, an average of 6 months quicker than conventional braces. On the flip side, clear braces tend to be a more expensive option, at around $6,000 for the average patient. The clear brackets also tend to stain fairly easily, so diligent brushing and flossing during treatment is important.
Invisalign is the original clear aligner system, leading the industry and having treated more than 5 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 the aligners should be worn for about 22 hours per day during the average 18 months of treatment, they are removable and typically don’t cause much of a nuisance in everyday life.
Treatment with Invisalign or ClearCorrect tends to run between $3,000 and $5,000, with Invisalign being 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 are typically not considered a good candidate for treatment.
Home Teeth Aligners
Home teeth aligners are very similar to the aligners provided by Invisalign and ClearCorrect. However, unlike their competitors, home teeth aligners require no trips to the dentist. Providers send their patients’ custom-made aligners through the mail to complete treatment from the comfort of their own home.
Due to the lack of in-person dental visits, home teeth aligners are much more affordable than traditional treatments, running $1,900 on average. Home teeth aligners also boast a much shorter treatment time (3-6 months). The drawback to home aligners is the lack of versatility, since they’re only suitable for mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing.
All that said, not all home aligners are created equal. Each company has its unique perks — for instance, byte offers the shortest average treatment time (only 3 months) while Candid offers free teeth scanning as an alternative to taking dental impressions at home. To learn more about the various providers, check out our comprehensive comparison.
As you can see, adults today have a variety of orthodontic treatment options. Although traditional braces are arguably one of the most comprehensive treatment options available, there are plenty of others that could be a better fit for you.
Unless you have a very severe bite issue, you may find a cheaper or more convenient option more appealing. If you’re considering getting braces, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with a dentist to discuss your treatment options and find out if braces are the right choice for your teeth!