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Traditional braces have been used to straighten smiles for many years. They typically consist of small metal brackets, which are attached to the front surface of each tooth and then moved using a metal archwire.
Lingual braces work in a very similar way, but the brackets and wires are cleverly hidden away behind the teeth.
The main advantage of lingual braces over traditional appliances is obvious, but how do the two compare when you consider the whole package?
Lingual braces (pictured below) are undoubtedly the most discreet option. In fact, they’re the most inconspicuous brace on the market. They’re sometimes promoted as an ‘invisible’ brace, and while this isn’t quite the case, they’re the next best thing. Because they’re fitted behind your teeth, friends will have to try quite hard to see them. You could very easily complete your orthodontic treatment without them ever realising that you’re wearing a brace.
Traditional metal braces (pictured below) don’t win many prizes for their looks and over the years they’ve attracted some unfortunate comparisons: train tracks, for example! However, things have improved, and the latest ceramic fixed braces are designed to blend in discreetly with your teeth. You can still see them, but they’re far less obvious than metal braces.
Just after your brace is fitted you’re likely to experience some discomfort while your mouth adapts to your brace. As your teeth start to move, they might feel slightly achy.
You may also find that your brace’s brackets rub against your cheeks, or in the case of lingual braces, your tongue. This can result in sore patches and/or ulcers. Rest assured, though, your mouth will quickly toughen up and your orthodontist can give you some wax to soften the parts of your brace that are rubbing.
Both braces can cause these problems, but based on anecdotal feedback, lingual braces can be considered more uncomfortable thanks to their proximity to your tongue.
Some patients find that they develop a lisp after their lingual brace is fitted. Just like any initial discomfort this will soon subside, but it’s something to consider when you plan your treatment. Presentations are best avoided for the first few days!
The key to a quick ‘recovery’ is to practice talking as much as you can. English speaking patients might find it helpful to read the Rainbow Passage aloud a few times each day – it contains most of the different sound combinations found in the English language.
While it’s not impossible, it’s very rare for traditional braces to cause any problems with speech.
Both traditional braces and lingual braces can achieve fantastic results, and providing your case is suitable for both options you should have an excellent outcome. Because both braces are fixed to the teeth, they provide your orthodontist with a high level of control and precision, allowing them to refine your teeth until they’re in the best possible position – something that isn’t always possible with removable aligners.
Obviously, the skill of your orthodontist is a vital part of the equation, and most orthodontists will be happy to show you photos of patients they’ve treated using similar appliances. If your case is very complex and your orthodontist has more experience with traditional braces, they may recommend this option to help ensure the best outcome. Similarly, there are certain orthodontic problems that are better suited to traditional braces.
Occasionally orthodontic treatment can result in the discolouration of teeth, either through staining around the brace’s brackets, or from white spots caused by decalcification. While both problems can be avoided through good oral hygiene, if the worst does happen, the effects will at least be hidden if you opt for lingual braces.
Trying to work out how much your brace will cost can be tricky until you see an orthodontist for a consultation. You’ll be able to find a guide price online, but because there are so many variables, you’ll need to receive a personalised quote.
If you’re shopping around, make sure you compare your quotes carefully and look at exactly what the price includes. For example, you’ll need to wear retainers once your brace is removed and follow-up care can be important for maintaining your results.
Typically, lingual braces do cost more than traditional braces, which is the case for several reasons. Customised lingual braces like eBrace are made bespoke for each patient using computer-aided design and manufacturing technology, so the cost of the appliance itself can be higher, compared to ‘off the shelf’ brackets and wires.
Lingual orthodontic treatment also requires special equipment and expertise, both of which may be reflected in the cost of your treatment. Appointments to adjust your brace may also take slightly longer, due to the less accessible location of your brace. Additionally, most of the clinicians who offer lingual treatment are specialist orthodontists – as opposed to general dentists. This means they’ve completed specialist training and are particularly experienced at straightening teeth.
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We hope this information helps you to appreciate some of the differences and similarities between traditional and lingual braces. Ultimately, every patient is different, and we would recommend that you find an orthodontist who offers both techniques to discuss your options with.