There is a lot of talk these days about “invisible braces” and for good reason. For selected cases, they work great. They can be removed to eat and to brush and floss. However, these type of “braces” do not work on many cases because of the complexity of the case. The invisible braces do not allow for fine control of tooth movement and some movements such as raising a tooth from it’s socket or doing a lot of rotation cannot be done with that method. Many adults and even some teens avoid orthodontic treatment because of the “metal mouth” stigma. For those who are not candidates for invisible braces, there is still hope to get their teeth straightened without having to wear a silver smile. Clear brackets are placed on the teeth as an alternative to the metal ones. These are made of an extremely hard, ceramic material. A metal wire still needs to be used, however, that is so thin that it is not very perceptible from a conversational distance. The ceramic brackets can be more difficult to work with and some orthodontists will charge more due to that. They can especially be problematic treatment wise when torque is placed on them and they can tend to crack due to their brittle nature. But if the only other acceptable treatment is no treatment, the clear braces are certainly a very acceptable alternative.
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Invisible Braces (Invisalign®)
Invisible braces (such as Invisalign®) are a fantastic way to straighten one’s teeth. There is no “metal mouth” look. People can’t even tell that you are having orthodontics done. You can take the aligner out to eat so there are no restrictions of sticky or hard foods. You can also take them out to brush and floss your teeth. Oral hygiene is so much easier to do without all of the nooks and crannies to negotiate around with the brush. No more smiling with a big wad of lettuce hanging from your teeth. The process is started by making precise molds of the person’s teeth. A lab makes a 3-D computer image of the mold and a technician manipulates the teeth in tiny increments until the final result is achieved. A clear, thin, plastic aligner is contructed for every incremental step. As each aligner is worn, the teeth are slowly moved to their intended positions.
Invisible braces are not for everyone. They have a difficult time raising teeth out of the sockets, a movement called extrusion. They will also not be able to treat a tooth that is severly rotated. Teens can be treated with this method, however, all of the 2nd molars (12 year old molars) have to be fully erupted. With all of that being said, for patients who are candidates fo invisible braces, it can be an extremely satisfying experience.
Alternatives for Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain laminate veneers are a fantastic way to create an utterly dazzling smile. Since a small amount of tooth structure generally must be removed, it is not a reverisable procedure. If the teeth themselves look good, and the cosmetic concern is the alignment, then there are other alternatives available to get a great smile. Invisible braces (for example, Invisalign®) are now available for many types of alignment problems. This way, the teeth can be straightened in such a way that there will be no changes in the front of the tooth surface. Therefore, it is a reversible procedure. Many a beautiful smile has been created by simple straightening and bleaching.
The pros of the invisible braces approach are cost and reversibility. Fees tend to be about 60% less than porcelain laminates. The cons of invisible braces are retention and inability to mask stains. Once invisible braces have been completed, the teeth must be retained in their position by wearing a retainer each and every night. It’s not as daunting a task as it sounds, but it still requires one to put the retainer in every night. If the teeth are stained in such a way that they cannot be adequately improved by bleaching alone, then porcelain laminates are usually the better alternative.