With more and more adults turning to orthodontic treatment for the ‘perfect’ smile, we’ve seen a growing demand for less conspicuous braces. Metal train tracks are no longer the only route to a straight smile, and image-conscious adults can now choose from alternatives such as clear aligners and lingual braces – which are hidden behind your teeth.
While they’re both undoubtedly discreet, clear aligners and lingual braces like eBrace are otherwise quite different from each other. But which option is the better of the two?
It’s difficult to choose an outright winner, and the best brace for you will depend on your lifestyle and what you’re looking to achieve. The best person to help you find the right option will be your orthodontist – but in the meantime, here’s a rundown of what both types of brace can offer.
Clear aligners and lingual braces are often referred to as ‘invisible’ braces, but unfortunately no brace is actually invisible and their level of discreetness can vary.
Clear aligners, as their name implies, straighten teeth using removable plastic aligners. Once they’re positioned over the teeth they’re virtually undetectable unless you get very close. One thing that can affect their visibility, however, is the use of attachments. Small, tooth-coloured attachments might be added to the teeth to help the aligners achieve certain movements. These small bumps can make the brace more apparent.
Lingual braces use brackets and wires just like a traditional brace – but, unlike with a traditional brace, everything is placed behind the teeth. It’s not often that anyone looks behind your teeth, so they’re extremely discreet; so discreet, in fact, that some patients choose to keep their treatment a secret from friends and colleagues.
While looks are important, you also want a brace that’s going to cause as little disruption as possible to your day-to-day life, particularly if you’d like your orthodontic treatment to go unnoticed.
Clear aligners can be easily removed for eating, drinking and brushing. On one hand this is great, because your diet and brushing routine can carry on as normal; on the other hand it means you will need to take your aligners out periodically throughout the day – and make sure you put them back in promptly. For this reason, clear aligners may not be the best option for anyone who could lack the discipline to wear them for the required amount of time (usually around 20 hours a day).
Lingual braces are attached to your teeth for the duration of your treatment, so you don’t need to worry about taking them in and out, and they’re always at work straightening your teeth. However, this does mean you’ll need to be a bit careful about what you eat during your treatment. You won’t be able to bite into very hard, chewy or crusty foods, which could damage your brace. You’ll also need to step up your brushing routine and use special interdental brushes to clean around your wires and brackets.
Another key issue is comfort: after all, we all know how sensitive our mouths can be. Thankfully, our mouths also adapt very well to change.
Clear aligners closely hug the teeth and they’re very smooth, helping to minimise any irritation to your gums or tongue. Like any brace, they’ll be applying pressure to your teeth, so they may feel a bit achy and tender at first. Aligners can also have an impact on your speech, causing a slight lisp for the first few days.
eBrace lingual braces have been designed with smooth edges to make them as comfortable as possible. But because they’re attached to the backs of your teeth they can irritate the tongue, causing some soreness and even ulcers just after your brace has been fitted. You will quickly adapt, though, and you can try placing some orthodontic wax over the parts of your brace that are rubbing to prevent any discomfort.
Lingual braces can also cause some initial tenderness and a lisp at first. But rest assured: all of the symptoms associated with both types of brace should quickly go away.
Not everyone is suitable for both clear aligners and lingual braces, and your orthodontist will go through your options during your initial consultation.
Clear aligners can now be used to treat a wide range of different malocclusions (different types of crooked teeth). However, because they provide your orthodontist with less control, they’re not always the best option for complex problems. Certain problems, such as severely rotated or tipped teeth, may be better suited to fixed braces.
Because lingual braces are a fixed brace, they provide your orthodontist with more control – and they’re capable of treating both mild and complex problems such as crowded teeth, overbites, underbites and widely spaced teeth. The precision of a fixed brace also allows your orthodontist to make very exact movements and achieve excellent results.
The cost of both types of brace will vary between providers, but as a general rule lingual braces are usually more expensive than clear aligners. This reflects the cost of the materials, equipment and experience needed to provide lingual treatment. Clear aligners can be provided by both dentists and specialist orthodontists, while lingual braces are usually provided by specialist orthodontists and dentists in training to become orthodontists.