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Types of Braces: All About Fixed and Removable Braces

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If you have crooked or misaligned teeth, you may be considering getting braces. But, there are so many different types of braces out there, which ones are right for you?

Crooked teeth can have a really detrimental effect on your confidence, but then again so can the idea of having a mouthful of metal train tracks. Don't let that put you off though; there are different options, some more subtle than others.

types of braces
There are many different types of braces to choose from

We will discuss all kinds of braces so you can get a better idea of what may suit you and your dental needs, including:

  • Traditional metal braces
  • Lingual braces
  • Ceramic braces
  • Self-ligating braces
  • Invisible braces
  • Clear aligners
  • Orthodontic appliances

Teeth straightening treatments and technology have come a long way since the original train track braces. There are all sorts of braces to choose from now, but the best ones for you may come down to your dental circumstances.

Let's get started with the 2 main types of braces.

What are the different kinds of braces?

There are 2 main types of braces, fixed and removable. Fixed braces are braces that can only be removed by a dental professional, whereas removable braces can be taken out by the patient at any point.

Fixed braces consist of brackets that are cemented to each tooth and are joined by wires that apply pressure to gradually align teeth. With traditional metal braces, elastic bands also help move teeth into the desired position.

Removable braces are invisible braces, also known as clear aligners which are custom made plastic trays that align your teeth. Generally, clear aligners involve a 3D scan or moulds at the start of treatment so that trays can be made. A dentist or orthodontist monitors every step of the process so that they can make sure everything is moving in the right direction.

Fixed braces

The most well known fixed brace is the traditional metal brace that consists of a system of stainless steel brackets and wires to straighten teeth. They are most commonly worn by children, but with the advances in technology, braces are becoming more popular with adults.

The NHS offers metal braces to those that meet their stringent criteria for braces. And unfortunately, they don't offer other options when it comes to braces, for those you will need to go privately.

However, over the years even the traditional braces have become more modern, smaller and lighter, and therefore more comfortable to wear. So, you may be happy to get metal braces with the NHS if you are eligible.

The following video explains a few things you need to know if you want to get braces with the NHS.

Dr Gareth Williams BDS (Wales) MJDF RCS (Eng) Dip.Clin.Hyp (Staff) MOrth RCS (Ed) MSc (Ortho) (L'Pool) DDSc (Ortho) (L'Pool), Registered Specialist Orthodontist, runs through how to increase your chances of getting NHS Braces. Follow me on Instagram! @dr.williamsortho (Dentistry) Please subscribe for more updates! Tepe brushes (other brands are available and just as good!): Use the smallest ones (Pink in the case of Tepes): https://www.tepe.com/uk/products/interdental-brushes/ My more detailed video on brushing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qusMtlE8mE&t
metal braces
You can jazz metal braces up with coloured bands

If you are wondering how to know if you need braces, read our article or book an appointment to speak with a dentist and get your teeth accessed.

Metal braces

Metal braces, also known as train tracks, traditional braces or conventional braces are the oldest and most well-known type of braces. And, although there have been many advancements with braces, they are still the go-to treatment if you get dental care from the NHS. They are the least expensive option for safe and effective teeth straightening.

They consist of metal brackets and wires that along with rubber bands help to treat even severe orthodontic problems. In more modern times dentists have started using heat-activated arch wires that makes adjustments easier.

You can also jazz them up a little bit with the use of colourful bands. Some of the pros and cons of metal braces include the following.

Pros

  • Most affordable type of braces
  • Durable and not prone to damage
  • Can treat even severe orthodontic problems
  • Can use colourful bands to add a bit of fun

Cons

  • Very noticeable
  • Cannot be removed
  • Regular orthodontist or dentist trips to tighten wires
  • Can cause gum irritation and discomfort

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces or clear braces are very similar to traditional metal braces except they are clear or tooth coloured. The brackets are made from ceramic material instead of metal, and the wires are metal.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Durable and not prone to damage
  • Can treat even severe orthodontic problems
  • More comfortable than metal braces
  • Less noticeable

Cons

  • Cannot be removed
  • Regular orthodontist or dentist trips to tighten wires
  • Ceramic is more brittle than metal

Lingual braces

Lingual braces are fixed braces that are attached behind the teeth, so they are not visible from the outside unless the mouth is open. They are also known as hidden braces or incognito braces. Lingual braces work very similarly to metal braces except for the fact they are positioned on the other side of the teeth.

Lingual braces are good for patients who are very self-conscious about their smiles and appearance. And, although treatment takes longer, some people may prefer them to the more obvious alternatives.

Pros

lingual braces
Lingual braces are hidden behind the teeth
  • Hidden, so good for those concerned with appearance
  • Suitable for those who play musical instruments with their mouth
  • Not prone to calcification like traditionally placed braces

Cons

  • Take longer to treat
  • Harder to adjust
  • More expensive than traditional braces
  • Regular orthodontist or dentist trips to tighten wires
  • Can cause irritation to the tongue or speech problems

Self-ligating braces

Self-ligating braces have become more popular in recent years due to the fact they are less painful than the more traditional braces. They work and look very much the same as regular braces, except they do not use elastic bands to move teeth into alignment. Instead, they make use of a sliding bracket system with doors or clips that attach to the wire.

They are much easier to adjust and more comfortable, they also come in different ceramic and metal colours.

Pros

  • Less painful
  • Shorter treatment time than traditional braces
  • Need fewer visits to the dentist for adjustments

Cons

  • Not suitable for everyone
  • More expensive than traditional braces
  • More noticeable than other types of braces
  • Need careful attention to dental hygiene and special equipment for cleaning

Removable braces

Removable braces have become very popular with adults due to the fact that they are practically unnoticeable when worn. They are easily removed which makes eating more comfortable, and they can be worn when you are asleep and removed more in the day for meals and snacks. They use pressure to gradually align and move teeth into the desired position over time.

Clear aligners

Also known as invisible braces, these are custom-made plastic trays that help to align teeth over time. They cannot treat as severe cases as fixed braces, but they can treat mild to moderate cases for those just wanting straighter teeth.

The most popular type of invisible brace is Invisalign, which can treat up to 90% of orthodontic cases and is very effective. Invisalign works closely with dentists and orthodontists to ensure you get the most effective treatment for your needs.

The best types of clear aligners involve custom made clear aligners and regular visits with dentists; be cautious with those that don't.

We always recommend consulting your dentist before choosing a type of clear aligner or any type of dental treatment.

Pros

invisible braces
Invisalign is the most popular clear aligner on the market
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Almost invisible
  • Removable
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Faster treatment time

Cons

  • Not suitable for severe dental problems
  • More expensive than traditional braces
  • Less noticeable than other styles of brace

Functional Braces

While functional braces are not necessarily braces, they can be used prior to treatment to help with misalignment and malocclusion. They are orthodontic appliances that are two removable parts that work together to align your bite and change your facial profile.

Twin block braces are a type of orthodontic appliance that restricts you from closing your jaws completely unless they are in the desired position. Over time this will persuade your jaw and bite into the correct position.

Pros

  • Aligns your bite
  • Changes facial profile
  • Easy to clean
  • Removable

Cons

  • Can add up to 12 months to your treatment
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear
  • More suitable for children with growing jaws

Conclusion

If you want to straighten your teeth and improve your smile, but are not sure about wearing braces, don't let that put you off. There are many kinds of braces to choose from, and even if your orthodontic case is severe you may have options.

Fixed braces are more commonly used for more severe problems. However, if you are concerned about your appearance ask your dentist or orthodontist which types of braces you are eligible for.

If you are getting private care you automatically have more options. But if you opt for the NHS then you may be offered metal braces, provided you meet their criteria.

If you need fixed braces but are concerned about how they look, ceramic braces or lingual braces might be a good option for you. Invisible braces are also a good option if you don't want your braces to be noticeable, however it may depend if they are suitable for your orthodontic needs.

If you still have concerns, speak with your dentist to help you make a decision on which braces are best for you.

FAQS

What are ceramic braces?

Ceramic braces are similar to traditional fixed braces, except the brackets are made from clear or tooth-coloured ceramic material. These braces are more subtle and comfortable than metal braces.

What is the difference between fixed braces and removable braces?

Fixed braces are braces that consist of brackets and wire that are cemented into place and can only be removed by a dental professional. These are commonly used for more moderate to severe cases.

Types of Braces: All About Fixed and Removable Braces
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Amanda combines her medical background with her love for writing to bring you informed and accurate content at Dentaly.org.