Coloured Braces: How They Work and How to Choose the Right Colours

Getting your teeth straightened needn’t be a drag. Coloured braces let you show off your fun or fashionable side while your smile is improving. The only problem you’re left with is deciding which braces colours to choose!

Fortunately you’re not stuck with one colour of braces for your entire treatment so you can experiment with plenty of different combinations. In this article we’ll give you some ideas for choosing the best braces colours for you. We’ll also explain why you need those little bands on your braces in the first place.

How coloured braces work

smile with colour braces

Coloured braces can add to your style

Although they are often called ‘coloured braces’, this type of brace is actually made from metal. It’s the small elastic bands fitted to the brackets which allow you to add some colour.

Your orthodontist fixes a metal bracket to each tooth with a strong dental cement, then connects the brackets with a wire called an ‘archwire’. Small bands hold the wire in place. The orthodontist tightens the wire in different places to gradually pull your teeth into alignment.

It will take one or two hours to fit your braces, but each checkup will only be around 20 minutes. The actual fitting shouldn’t hurt but your teeth may feel uncomfortable for a few days afterwards, and after each subsequent adjustment.

Treatment with coloured braces usually takes 18-24 months, depending on how misaligned your teeth are.

Private vs. NHS braces in the UK

If you or your child are eligible for braces on the NHS, you’ll be given fixed metal braces. Should you wish to have braces which are less obvious there are several options to choose from. However, any other type of brace will only be available privately.

You might consider removable invisible braces or hidden lingual braces if you want to have straighter teeth without brackets fixed to the front of your teeth. There is also the option of clear braces or ceramic braces which work in the same way as metal braces but are much less obvious.

Even if you or your child are not deemed eligible for NHS braces, you’ll probably find fixed metal braces are still the cheapest option with a private dentist. You might have access to more exciting colour options as a private patient, too.

There is one type of metal brace which doesn’t use coloured bands. Self-ligating braces (like Damon braces) have a different style of bracket which lets the wire move automatically, so no elastics are needed to keep the wire in place. Self-ligating braces are only available with private dental treatment.

If you’re considering Invisalign clear aligners for you or your child, their free smile simulation tool lets you view the potential results just by uploading a selfie. This can be a good way to help you decide whether it’s the right treatment for you.

Coloured bands on braces

Ligatures hold the wire in place on each bracket

Why do braces have coloured bands?

There are two main kinds of orthodontic elastics used in braces, each serving its own purpose.

Tiny elastic bands are placed on each of the metal brace brackets to hold the archwire in place. These are also known as ‘ligatures’ or ‘o-rings’. The wire plays a big part in controlling how your teeth move, so those elastics have an important job to do. Ligatures are usually available in a wide range of colours with an NHS dentist.

Dentists use a special tool to fit and remove these fiddly little bands, as you’ll see in the video below.

Larger rubber bands may also be placed between the upper and lower jaw to help with alignment. This is more often the case with children’s braces. They are connected to special hooks on the brace brackets.

These are known as ‘inter-arch elastics’ and look more like the rubber bands you would use at home. They are less commonly offered in different colours, but they are usually placed on the sides of the mouth so are less visible. If your braces need inter-arch elastics you will need to learn to fit these yourself as they have to be replaced several times a day.

Here is a short video showing how a dentist fixes the archwire in place using ligatures:

Colour choices

Dentists understand that having different colour braces for teeth can make patients feel more confident with their smiles. You can often view the available colours on a braces colour wheel at your clinic. Some possible options include:

  • White and clear (for a more subtle look)
    colour palette for braces

    The braces colour palette for brand 3M

  • Grey and silver (to match the metal brackets)
  • Bright neon colours
  • Darker metallic shades
  • Glow-in-the-dark elastics

However, keep in mind that different brands of braces will come with different colour options. You’ll need to ask your dentist about the exact range of colours you can choose from. Ask to view their braces colour wheel at your first appointment so you’ll have time to pick colours you’re happy with. The last thing you want is to rush your decision and later regret your choice.

How often can I change the colour of my braces?

You’ll be able to change your braces colours every time you visit your orthodontist for an adjustment. This is usually every 6-8 weeks during your treatment. This could mean 12-20 different colour combinations in total, so you’d better get thinking!

What colour braces should I get?

There are many different ways that people choose the best braces colours for them.

Some people prefer to start off with something low-key and gradually get more adventurous. If you can’t choose just one or two colours then what about rainbow braces?

Also consider whether you want your braces to stand out or blend in. It can be fun to show off bright colours at school, but neon elastics might look out of place in an office job.

Here are some other braces colour ideas you might like:

  • Complement your eye colour
  • Match the clothing colours you like to wear
  • Choose bright colours in summer and cool blues in winter
    colours on metal braces

    Use your braces colours to make a statement

  • Red and green for Christmas
  • Black and orange for Halloween (but remember they’ll be on for up to two months!)
  • Your favourite sports team’s colours
  • Red, white and blue braces to show your patriotism

You could also take a more scientific approach to finding the best colour of braces for you. Different colours and shades look good against different skin tones, so you could pick some good braces colours that way instead.

The great thing is that since your elastics change so often, you’ll have the chance to try plenty of combinations. If you decide you don’t like your current one, you’ll only have to live with it for a few weeks before being able to update your style.

Practicalities and braces colours to avoid

If you’re a fan of colourful foods like curries and tomato sauces you might want to avoid white and clear bands on your braces. This is because they are more easily stained (just like a white shirt). Wine, coffee and tea are also staining culprits. If you want a colour that’s discreet but won’t show stains as easily, try grey or silver to blend in with the metal brackets.

Another downside of white braces is they can make your teeth look yellower in comparison.

Some people choose to avoid yellow braces – especially light yellow – as from a distance they may look like stains. Similarly, green braces might be mistaken for a bit of spinach left over from lunch!

Black isn’t a popular colour (except perhaps for teens wanting to make a statement). But if you want¬†braces colours that make teeth look whiter, you might go for dark purple or dark blue. These darker colours provide contrast to make your teeth appear lighter.

Here is a summary of the effects that various colours of brace can have:

Braces colourEffect
White or clear Less noticeable but picks up stains and can make teeth seem discoloured
Dark colours Make teeth appear whiter
Yellow and gold Could look like stains and highlight yellowness of teeth
Dark blue, gold, turquoise, violet, red, green, orange and pink (bright colours) Suit darker skin tones and hair colours
Light blue, dark purple, bronze, teal, plum, soft reds and pinks Suit lighter skin tones and hair colours

Colour braces for children and teens

As a parent, you may be dismayed at your child’s choice of colour for their braces, but keep in mind that this is just another way for them to express their personality. It’s really no different to them choosing which colour clothes to wear each day.

Your child or teen may not be too happy about having to wear braces in the first place, but you can make the experience more enjoyable by letting them have full control over the band colours they choose.

A braces colour picker can help you visualise how a particular combination will look once fitted.

You’ll also have to help your child take care of their braces. This will include:

  • Cleaning and flossing carefully every day
  • Avoiding certain foods as directed by your dentist
  • Wearing a mouth guard for any contact sports
  • Attending regular checkups
  • Wearing a retainer after braces are removed

Popular braces colours

Pink smile braces

Pink can complement your lips or lipstick

It’s up to you whether you choose a completely original colour combination or select colours for your braces based on what’s popular. Here is some final inspiration from us based on the most common colours for braces.

Pink braces

It’s a fact that many girls love wearing pink, but this colour can look good on boys, too. You can’t go wrong with a purple and pink braces combination.

Women often choose colours for braces that match their favourite shade of lipstick or their natural lip colour. There’s nothing like a fully co-ordinated look!

Blue braces

Dentists usually offer several shades of blue braces. Pairing a lighter and darker shade is a pretty safe bet for any patient. Blue is also a good colour for braces because it’s unlikely to clash with any of your clothes. Plus, if you have blue eyes it will help bring out the colour in them.

Rainbow braces

Can’t choose just one or two colours? Then go for a whole rainbow across your teeth! Do note that some dentists restrict patients to just two different colours of braces at each visit, so you’ll have to check whether you’ll be allowed to get rainbow braces at your local practice.