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Lingual Braces: Effective and Discreet Straightening with Braces

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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 a truly invisible way to get that perfect smile.

braces hidden behind teeth
Find out if these braces are right for you

Other benefits include:

  • Close monitoring by an orthodontist
  • Suitable for more severe types of malocclusion (teeth misalignment) than clear aligners
  • No marks left on fronts of teeth

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, Brius or Inbrace appliances) 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 US, plus some ways to make them more affordable.

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.

lingual appliance
Lingual braces are hard to spot

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 orthodontist every 6-8 weeks to have them tightened and adjusted.

Some types of lingual brace use standard brackets, and some 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.

The wires that connect the brackets could also be customized through the use of AI technology. This will be based on the treatment plan designed by your orthodontist.

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

different types of braces
Traditional metal braces are far more noticeable

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. That's also why not all clinics offer the customized lingual braces system.

Teens can wear lingual braces provided their teeth are large enough to affix the brackets to.

There is one 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. Invisible braces

If you’re keen to have braces that aren’t immediately noticeable, your two main choices are hidden braces and invisible braces like Invisalign and Candid.

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.

clear retainer braces
Aligner tray braces are not quite invisible

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 fewer restrictions on what you can eat or drink (as long as you clean your teeth before replacing them). Note that your teeth will be sore during the treatment, so biting hard food may be difficult.
  • There are no metal parts that may hurt your tongue or cause mouth sores. However, the edges of the aligners could cut your cheeks or tongue.
  • Invisalign is generally cheaper than lingual braces, and at-home options like Candid are considerably cheaper.

At-home treatments provide mild to moderate straightening, while in-office clear aligners like Invisalign are suitable for 90% of cases. If you have very severe malocclusion, though, you may need fixed braces.

If you're interested in Candid as a cheaper alternative to Invisalign braces, take a quick Smile Assessment to see if you're eligible. This tool is free to use and only takes 30 seconds to complete. You can also read more about Candid here.

Braces comparison

Here is an easy-reference comparison table for the three types of brace just described: traditional, lingual, and invisible.

Type of brace Lingual In-office invisible aligner At-home clear aligner Traditional metal
Estimated cost $5,000 - $13,000 $3,500 - $8,500 Around $2,000 $2,500 - $7,000
Appearance Hidden behind teeth; almost unnoticeable Hard to notice; can be removed Hard to notice; can be removed Very obvious
Suitable for All cases 90% of cases Mild to moderate cases All cases
Typical treatment length 14-20 months 12-20 months 6 months 14-20 months
Appointment frequency 8-12 weeks 8-12 weeks N/A 6-8 weeks
Appointment duration 45 minutes 20 minutes N/A 20 minutes
Cleaning Require special effort to clean properly Can be removed to clean; teeth cleaned as normal Can be removed to clean; teeth cleaned as normal Require special effort to clean properly

In-office treatments like Invisalign are generally a little cheaper than lingual braces, but the most affordable option is a company like Candid where an orthodontist monitors your treatment remotely rather than you having to visit an office for checkups.

Take Candid's Smile Assessment to see if this treatment would be suitable for you, or check where your nearest Candid Studio is and book a free appointment including digital scans.

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.

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.

Incognito braces

braces hidden behind teeth
Incognito braces use a gold alloy

The brand Incognito manufactures its braces in Germany using advanced computer design technology. Each bracket is molded 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.

The cost of Incognito braces 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.

brace bracket lingual
These brackets are very slim but not custom-made

Non-custom systems

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 standardized parts and claims to be “the flattest lingual bracket in the world”. The brackets are fixed directly behind the teeth without any expensive laboratory customization.

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 around $5,000 whereas more complex treatment with a custom-made brand could exceed $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 orthodontists charge usually correspond with the cost of living and running a business in that location. Therefore, lingual braces in big cities may cost more than in other parts of the country where rents, etc. are lower.

It’s worth looking beyond your local orthodontic clinic as you research the price of lingual braces near you. Driving a little further could save you hundreds of dollars 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.

lingual braces
Get quotes from various orthodontists

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.

Ways to save money on hidden braces

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 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 Candid, 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-colored ceramic braces, for instance, are less noticeable than metal brackets.

ways to straighten teeth
A cheaper alternative to custom lingual appliances

Probably the best alternative is clear aligners. These 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.

For clear aligner treatment around $2,000 see if you're eligible for Candid aligners by taking their quick and easy Smile Assessment.

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 orthodontists 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 mold.

braces inside mouth
Standardized brackets should be ready to fit sooner

For braces that are being custom-made, your dental digital model or 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 eight to twelve 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 adjust quickly. 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 lingual braces – she has traditional metal braces on her bottom jaw so she is able to provide a good comparison of the two types.

Another reviewer 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, yogurt, and smoothies. You can follow her progress in her other videos.

tissues to dry mouth
Dry your teeth before applying orthodontic wax

In a later review, she gives some tips for managing with lingual braces. She recommends you keep on 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
  • Straws
  • Waterpik

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 realizing!

Conclusion

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 during the adjustment period, normally for the first three to four weeks of wear.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to lingual braces which is still almost impossible to detect, consider Invisalign, or an even more affordable option, Candid. To see if you're eligible, take their free Smile Assessment now. These aligners are almost invisible and have the added benefit of being more comfortable than metal brace brackets.

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.

Lingual Braces: Effective and Discreet Straightening with Braces
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