Clear Braces vs. Metal Braces: What’s the Difference?

Orthodontic braces are used for cosmetic and practical reasons to correct the placement of teeth that are misaligned, crooked or unevenly spaced. Unfortunately, many people avoid them due to the notorious visibility of braces and the discomfort associated with treatment. Increasingly, however, these disadvantages are being cast aside by people who opt for clear braces rather than the unsightly metal ones. However, both types of braces have distinct upsides and downsides. Below is more information about the differences between these options.

Basic Differences

In both types of braces, metal wires are used to apply pressure to teeth, causing them to shift over time. These wires are attached to teeth by brackets, but the bracket is different in clear braces versus ones made of metal. Metal brackets are made of stainless steel. While newer, bonded metal brackets are less visible than the old “banded” ones, they are still much more conspicuous than the clear brackets available today. Clear braces can be made of plastic or ceramic. Designed to match the color of teeth, clear braces are not very obvious, but some types can be vulnerable to staining through consumption of coffee, wine and other heavily pigmented foods and drinks.

Cosmetic Value of Each Type

To the casual observer, clear braces blend into the teeth, making them a top choice for people who are mainly concerned about cosmetic qualities of their braces. With metal braces, patients can choose from among different colored “elastomeric ligatures,” which are the tiny rubber bands that hold the arch wires into the braces.

 Cost Considerations

Metal braces are less expensive due to the high cost of fabrication associated with clear braces.

Durability Compared

In general metal braces are slightly more durable than their ceramic counterparts and far more durable than plastic ones. Each patient must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of metal and clear braces to decide which is best for his or her teeth. Many patients will have the option to choose between the two types with help from their orthodontist. With information about lifestyle and expectations from treatment as well as an orthodontic exam, the orthodontist will be able to explain how the characteristics of each type of braces can serve the patient best.

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