Lingual Braces: Effective and Discreet Straightening with Braces Behind Teeth
Many people are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth and consider having them straightened. However, the idea of wearing “train track” braces can be off-putting for adults and teens alike. Lingual braces, although made from metal, are hidden behind the teeth, offering an almost undetectable way to get that perfect smile.
Other benefits include:
- Precise control over results
- Visible results during treatment
- Suitable for all ages and all types of malocclusion (misalignment)
- Any marks left on teeth are also hidden
There are some drawbacks to lingual braces too – we’ll cover these as well as some alternatives such as Invisalign and ceramic braces.
If you’re considering lingual braces (including Incognito braces) for you or your teen, keep reading for information about how they work and what to expect from your treatment. You will also find out what lingual (or “hidden”) braces cost in the UK and US, plus some ways to make them more affordable.
Table of contents
- 1 What are lingual braces?
- 2 Types of lingual brace
- 3 How much do lingual braces cost?
- 4 Ways to save money on hidden braces
- 5 Getting fitted with braces behind teeth
- 6 To summarise
What are lingual braces?
The term ‘lingual’ relates to the tongue and the surrounding area. Lingual orthodontic appliances are placed on the back of the teeth, where the tongue rests, meaning they are hidden from plain view. Only if someone opened their mouth very wide would you notice that they were wearing these braces.
This makes them ideal for people who want to straighten their teeth inconspicuously. This could be a teen who is worried about bullying or an adult who wants to maintain a professional look at work.
They are also popular for people who have a big day, such as a wedding, coming up. You can get a straighter smile without worrying about having a mouth full of metal in those all-important photos.
Hidden braces are very versatile as they can be used to treat a wide range of misalignment and malocclusion problems.
You may hear this type of brace referred to as ‘incognito braces’. Although this is actually a brand name, it has become synonymous with lingual braces in the same way that Invisalign has for invisible braces. We’ll talk more about Incognito lingual braces and other brands later on in this article.
How do they work?
In much the same way as traditional braces, lingual braces use a wire and bracket system to gradually pull teeth into the desired position. You’ll need to visit your dentist every 6-8 weeks to have them tightened and adjusted.
Some types of lingual brace use standard brackets, but increasingly they are custom-made to fit each specific tooth.
Custom-made braces can speed up treatment times and give your orthodontist greater control over results. They are also more comfortable to wear as they are typically slimmer than standard brackets. They do, however, come at a higher cost due to the fact that each piece is made to order.
In this incredible time-lapse video you can see lingual braces before and after from both the inside and outside of the mouth:
Lingual vs. traditional metal braces
Generally speaking, lingual braces cost more than traditional metal braces. This is especially true for those which are custom-made to fit each tooth. In addition to the manufacturing costs, they take longer to adjust at each checkup so you’re paying for more of your dentist’s time during the course of treatment.
In the UK, traditional braces are available on the NHS to qualifying under-18s and to adults with particularly severe cases requiring orthodontic treatment. If you choose a more aesthetically pleasing style of brace, you’ll have to pay the full cost yourself with a private dentist.
Children can wear lingual braces provided their teeth are large enough to affix the brackets to.
The British Lingual Orthodontic Society notes a further benefit of lingual appliances: any damage to the teeth is less visible than with traditional braces. It’s possible for fixed braces to leave some plaque residue or white spots (decalcification) on the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. If this does occur while you’re wearing braces on the back of your teeth, at least the damage won’t be obvious.
Lingual braces vs. Invisalign
If you’re keen to have braces that aren’t immediately noticeable, your two main choices are hidden braces and invisible braces like Invisalign.
Invisible braces are a totally different way to straighten teeth without using any wires or brackets. Instead, they use a series of clear plastic aligners to gently guide the teeth into the desired position.
Although called “invisible”, you actually can spot people wearing them if you know what to look for. Braces on the back of teeth, however, are designed to be completely hidden unless you open your mouth very wide.
There are a number of benefits to Invisalign which make them a good alternative to lingual braces:
- The aligners are removable so it’s much easier to clean your teeth and braces
- There are no restrictions on what you can eat or drink (as long as you clean your teeth before replacing them)
- There are no metal parts that may hurt your tongue or cause mouth sores
- Invisalign is generally cheaper than lingual braces
They do, however, require a degree of discipline since the aligners must be kept in for 20-22 hours per day.
The severity of your tooth misalignment may affect the type of braces you can wear. Invisalign braces are suitable for 90% of cases but if you have a very severe malocclusion you may need fixed braces. To find out which category you fall into, take advantage of a free Smile Assessment from Invisalign. It takes just two minutes to enter your details and you can quickly find out whether you’re a suitable candidate for this type of treatment.
If you’d prefer to discuss your treatment in person, find your nearest Invisalign provider here.
Here is an easy-reference comparison table for the three types of brace just described: traditional, lingual and invisible.
|Type of brace||Lingual||Invisible aligner||Traditional metal|
|Estimated cost (UK)||£1,500 - £10,000||£1,500 - £5,500||£1,500 - £3,000|
|Estimated cost (US)||$5,000 - $13,000||$2,000 - $8,000||$2,500 - $7,000|
|Appearance||Hidden behind teeth; almost unnoticeable||Hard to notice; can be removed||Very obvious|
|Suitable for||All cases||90% of cases||All cases|
|Typical treatment length||12-18 months||12-18 months||12-18 months|
|Appointment frequency||6-8 weeks||4-6 weeks||6-8 weeks|
|Appointment duration||30 minutes||15 minutes||15 minutes|
|Cleaning||Require special effort to clean properly||Can be removed to clean; teeth cleaned as normal||Require special effort to clean properly|
You may also consider clear braces which, although noticeable close-up, are more subtle than traditional metal braces. They are usually more affordable than behind-teeth braces, offering a balance between cost, effectiveness and appearance.
However, if you want braces that are really hard to spot but don’t cost as much as lingual braces, Invisalign is probably the best option for you. Read more about clear aligners like Invisalign in our invisible braces guide.
Remember, if you’re interested in Invisalign braces you can take a free Smile Assessment online in just two minutes.
For more information on different types of braces you can read our full article about orthodontics for adults and teens.
Types of lingual brace
Once you have decided this is the type of brace you want, you’ll need to choose between different brands and styles.
The brand Incognito manufactures its braces in Germany using advanced computer design technology. Each bracket is moulded to fit a specific tooth and is made as flat as possible. This means there is less chance of the braces interfering with speech or causing inflammation in the mouth.
Incognito lingual braces are made from a gold alloy which heavily reduces the chances of an allergic reaction.
In the UK Incognito braces cost anywhere from £4,000 for a full set. In the US, the cost can easily reach five figures. Other brands are available for less but each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The parent company, 3M, also manufactures Incognito Lite braces. These are a more cost-effective solution for patients who only need to have their front six or eight teeth straightened – they are around half the price of a full set.
Self-ligating lingual systems
Hidden brace wearers can take advantage of self-ligating technology with wire that automatically adjusts itself gradually. This leads to a more comfortable experience when compared to the traditional method of tightening every few weeks.
STb Light Lingual System, produced by Ormco (the company that makes Damon braces), is one of the self-ligating options available.
For patients who want the discreetness of hidden braces but can’t afford the high price tag of custom-made brands, there are options like Forestadent braces. This system is made in Germany from standardised parts and claims to be “the flattest lingual bracket in the world”. The brackets are fixed directly behind the teeth without any expensive laboratory customisation.
This cheaper style of lingual brace is best suited to patients with mild crookedness. For more complex orthodontic work, a custom-made brand will be more effective.
How much do lingual braces cost?
As you saw in the table above, the cost of lingual braces covers a large range of prices. Straightforward cases with a standard brand may cost £2,000 – £3,000 or $5,000 whereas more complex treatment with a custom-made brand could exceed £10,000 or $13,000.
Not every orthodontist is trained to carry out treatment with lingual appliances. It’s usually a specialist area, and this means you’re paying extra for the expertise required. And remember, with bespoke braces you’re paying for the time and effort involved with shaping them to fit your teeth perfectly.
As with any kind of dental treatment, lingual brace prices can also vary greatly from one area to another. The prices that dentists charge usually correspond with the cost of living and running a business in that location. Therefore, lingual braces in London or New York City may cost more than in other parts of the country where rents, etc. are lower.
However, there is also the element of competition to consider. Where several dentists are competing for business, they have to keep their prices reasonable. If you have fewer dentists to choose from in your area, prices may be higher.
Because of this, it’s worth looking beyond your local dental surgery as you research the price of lingual braces near you. Driving a little further could save you hundreds of pounds over the course of your treatment. Do also consider that you will need regular checkups during your lingual orthodontic treatment, so you must factor in the cost and time involved with each trip to your chosen clinic.
When obtaining quotes, also check what level of aftercare is included in the price. This may or may not include follow-up visits and retainers, which are needed to keep your teeth in their new position.
Aside from shopping around in your local area, there are other ways you may be able to save money on your braces.
- Mix and match
Most people’s upper teeth are much more visible than their lower teeth when they smile. One way to save money on your orthodontics, then, is to have lingual braces placed on your top arch but traditional metal braces or clear braces on the lower arch.
If you only need minor tooth correction, another option is to have braces behind just the front few teeth which are most noticeable. Your wonky back teeth can be left just as they are!
- Consider a cheaper alternative like Invisalign or ceramic braces
If your main concern is hiding the fact that you’re straightening your teeth, there are cheaper alternatives to lingual braces. Tooth-coloured ceramic braces, for instance, are less noticeable than metal brackets.
Probably the best alternative is Invisalign clear aligners which fit over your teeth and are almost invisible. They have a number of benefits over lingual braces, as we outlined earlier, but in particular the lower cost makes them an appealing option.
- Research different brands
We mentioned some of the better-known brands earlier, but other lesser-known brands may turn out to be more affordable. Ask different dentists which brand(s) they recommend, and why.
- Spread the cost
Ask dentists whether they offer payment plans that let you spread the cost of treatment. Although this won’t save you any money, it can make braces more affordable. Make sure you get a 0% interest plan, otherwise you’ll end up paying a lot more.
- Insurance plans
If you have dental insurance, it’s worth checking whether your plan will cover part of the cost of orthodontic treatment. Basic plans usually only cover essential dental work but if you have a premium plan you may be eligible to claim back some of the cost of your braces.
Getting fitted with braces behind teeth
Now let’s look at what’s actually involved with getting these braces fitted.
The first thing your orthodontist will do is create an impression of your teeth. This is usually done using a dental mould.
For braces that are being custom-made, your dental impressions are sent away to a laboratory where your braces are created. This process typically takes around six weeks, and then they are ready to be fitted.
Your orthodontist uses a dental cement to securely affix each brace bracket to the correct tooth. Since fitting braces behind the teeth is quite a fiddly process, it might be spread over two visits. Ask your dentist what to expect.
You’ll have regular checkups every six to eight weeks. At these checkups your orthodontist will check the progress of your treatment against the expected results. He or she will then make adjustments to the wire connecting your brace brackets. The continued tension on your teeth keeps them moving in the right direction.
Because hidden braces allow you a clear view of your teeth, you’ll be able to notice results more quickly – often within just a few weeks of beginning treatment.
It’s normal for patients to experience some discomfort when they first get braces fitted behind their teeth, but most soon adjust. Orthodontic wax can be used to cover any parts which are irritating the tongue and paracetamol should relieve any achiness after initial fitting and subsequent adjustments.
Some patients develop a lisp after their braces are fitted but this usually disappears after a few days.
Most treatments with behind-the-teeth braces take 12-18 months, although for less complex cases it may be as quick as six months while some cases can take several years.
Lingual braces reviews
There are plenty of reviews of lingual braces available to read on online forums. You can also view endless video reviews on YouTube, which should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Here is one user sharing her experience with Incognito braces in the first few days after having them fitted:
She reports how using orthodontic wax helped immensely with easing tongue pain at this stage. She also describes how she had a meeting with her boss, who didn’t seem to notice anything different. On the second morning she found the aching worst than the first, and she was only managing to eat soup, yoghurt and smoothies. You can follow her progress in her other videos.
In a later review she gives some tips for managing with lingual braces. She recommends you keep to hand:
- An electric toothbrush with a special orthodontic head
- Orthodontic wax and tissues to dry your mouth before applying it
- Interdental brushes
- Mouthwash and breath freshener
Finally, if you want some honest lingual brace reviews, try asking around your friends and colleagues. Since these braces are so inconspicuous, someone you know may have had them without you even realising!
Lingual braces consist of brackets fitted to the back of teeth, next to the tongue, connected by a wire. The main reason people choose these braces is so that nobody else knows they are wearing them. While they are an effective way to straighten teeth they are also fairly costly – particularly if you opt for a custom-made variety – and can be quite uncomfortable.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to lingual braces which is still almost impossible to detect, consider Invisalign. These aligners are almost invisible and have the added benefit of being more comfortable than metal brace brackets.
Invisalign braces are suitable for 90% of orthodontic cases. It’s easy to check if they will work for you – just take a quick Smile Assessment online now. It’s completely free and takes less than two minutes to complete.
If you discover you’re an eligible candidate and want to find out more, book an appointment with your nearest Invisalign provider.
Getting lingual orthodontics or any other kind of braces is a big decision. We hope this article has helped you make up your mind about what’s right for you.