Braces remain an undisputed go-to teeth straightening treatment for a reason: they reliably correct simple and complex misalignments alike, giving orthodontists the flexibility necessary to treat complex conditions (such as underbite and crossbite) with relative ease – even in adults.
That said, braces are no longer the only orthodontic treatment available, and they’re certainly not right for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of traditional braces treatment and discuss some alternatives in case they’re not the best fit for you.
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Pros and Cons of Traditional Braces
- Highly Effeective: Braces are the most powerful teeth-straightening treatment, capable of treating just about any mild-to-severe dental or jaw misalignment
- In-Person Oversight: Braces are administered and monitored during regular appointments with an orthodontist
- Consistently Powerful: Since braces are always on your teeth, they’re always working and you don’t have to remember to remove and replace them
- Versatile: Braces can incorporate attachments and appliances to induce more complex teeth movements.
- More Expensive: Braces are more expensive than most other teeth-straightening treatments (often around $5,000)
- Less Discreet: With their metal brackets and wires, braces are more visible than other treatment options
- Long Treatment Time: In many cases, it takes 18-24 months to complete braces treatment
- Can Be Damaged by Food: Particularly sticky, chewy, or crunchy foods can break or dislodge brackets.
How Do Traditional Braces Work?
Braces are so effective that people have been using them for centuries, with modern braces dating back to the 1800s. Of course, orthodontic technology has come a long way since then, and today’s braces are more powerful and efficient than ever.
They use two simple components to induce highly complex teeth movements: brackets and wires. Orthodontists use dental bonding to attach a small metal bracket to the front of each tooth, then connect them with an arch wire. They will tighten this wire to exert gentle, consistent pressure on your teeth and gums. Over time (typically 18-24 months), this pressure slowly shifts the teeth to their new locations.
What Conditions 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 their versatility, braces are typically a good fit for anyone who has a case of malocclusion or teeth misalignment.
Braces can also correct problematic bite issues like overbite, crossbite, and overjet. In these more severe cases, orthodontists typically use supplemental attachments, like elastics or springs, to enhance treatment and facilitate more extreme transformations. As a result, 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 sometimes they seem less appealing to adults, but they’re a good option for cases that are too complex for a more discreet, 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.
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How Much Do Braces Cost?
Braces aren’t cheap. Their average price is $5,000 and often range between $3,000 and $10,000, but it ultimately depends on your condition’s severity. Luckily, most orthodontists offer financing plans, 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, most payment plans have hefty interest rates, which will increase your total cost.
Some health insurers may cover the cost of traditional braces, but it varies widely, depending on the provider and your particular insurance plan. If you’re considering braces, we recommended reading through your current policy and coverages thoroughly. If you’re unsure what your insurance covers, give your provider a call and one of their representatives can discuss your plan. It may even be worth purchasing supplemental dental insurance if your current policy does not cover 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 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.
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 will be sore for several days, but the pain should be manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers.
The average total treatment time for 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.
Once your treatment is complete, your orthodontist will make a set of retainers 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.
What Kind of Results Should I Expect?
Traditional 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.
Even after your treatment is complete, you’ll need to wear a retainer all day for a few months, then just at night. This will keep your teeth from drifting back and requiring further treatment.
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/or more convenient 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 instead of 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 as traditional braces, including most cases of spacing and crowding (although patients with severe bite issues may not be a good fit). Treatment time with lingual braces is usually comparable to 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 that help hide your braces even more.
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, 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. 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
Home teeth aligners are very similar to the ones 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.
Thanks 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 biggest drawback is home aligner treatment’s lack of versatility, since they’re only suitable for mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing.
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!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do braces cost?
In most cases, a course of traditional metal braces treatment costs between $3,000 and $7,500, with the average falling somewhere around $5,000. Ultimately, your cost will depend on the severity of your condition and your orthodontist’s rates.
How long do braces take?
Traditional braces often take 18-24 months. However, since the specific timeline largely depends on the complexity of your condition, it’s possible for treatment to take longer or shorter.
What conditions can braces treat?
Pretty much everything. With regular oversight and adjustments from an orthodontist, braces can incorporate numerous orthodontic attachments and appliances to induce powerful and intricate teeth and jaw movements. This makes braces a viable option for anything from mild crowding/spacing to severe bite issues, and everything in between.
What foods should you avoid with braces?
Any food that is especially sticky, chewy, or crunchy can potentially damage metal braces. While you’re wearing braces, you should avoid foods like caramel, gum, hard candy, bagels, pizza crust, pretzels, and apples, which can dislodge or break your brackets and wires.
Do braces hurt?
Each person has a different experience with their braces, but some people experience discomfort while wearing them. In most cases, this discomfort occurs at the beginning of treatment, or after an orthodontist tightens them during a routine office visit.
Do braces affect your speech?
It’s possible, but doesn’t happen to everyone. Some people experience slight speech alterations when they first get braces. But these changes often subside as a person’s mouth adjusts to the new treatment.
What are the best alternatives to braces?
It depends on your condition, but we think clear aligners are a good option for most people. If you have a severe case of crowding, spacing, or a bite issue, an in-office treatment like Invisalign could be a great choice. If your condition is mild or moderate, at-home clear aligners like those made by byte and SmileDirectClub are an affordable and convenient alternative.