If you want to improve your smile, the best option is to go for braces. Several dental conditions can be effectively combated by wearing braces. Whether you choose traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, Damon braces or lingual braces, all of them help align and straighten teeth and improve your overall appearance.
Apart from cosmetic benefits lingual braces and other braces also improve overall dental health. Correcting teeth using braces helps relieve stress on the gums and jaws.
What are Lingual Braces?
Lingual braces are often referred to as hidden braces, inside braces or invisible braces. Lingual braces are very similar in functionality to their traditional counterparts. The most significant difference in lingual braces is the absence of metal supports in front of the teeth. These braces are fitted to the rear of your teeth and not in the front. This effectively hides all the metal parts even as it effectively realigns your teeth.
How Do Lingual Braces Work?
The principle behind lingual braces is the same as for traditional braces. Lingual braces apply strategic forces on your teeth to get them to move into the desired position. Just like with standard braces, brackets and wires are part of the process. Unlike with traditional braces the appliances for lingual braces are customized for each individual case.
Do Lingual Braces Hurt?
Like with most braces you can expect to experience soreness and discomfort for a few days after the adjustment appointments. Those are caused by both the movement of your teeth and the friction between metal parts of your braces and the soft tissues in your mouth.
Like with traditional braces, the pain you will experience should be mild and temporary. There are different over the counter solutions and home remedies that can help you deal with it.
Since your tongue will be directly touching the metal brackets you can expect it to become irritated especially when you spend a lot of time speaking during the day. Orthodontic wax * is one of the best ways to protect your tongue from unnecessary irritation.
Lingual Braces Pros and Cons
The aesthetic value might be the most obvious advantage of lingual braces however that is not the only reason to get them. Like many other teeth straightening methods, lingual braces have a hall list of advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Lingual Braces
- Almost invisible
Lingual braces are probably the least visible braces that currently exist. Since the brackets and wires are placed behind the teeth no one can really know those are there, unless they look right into your mouth.
This is ideal for people who are very conscious about their appearance.
These braces are popularly used by patients of all age groups and are especially popular among the adults who do not want their braces to interfere with their day to day life.
- Stains are not easily shown
Although keeping a good oral hygiene with lingual braces is incredibly difficult and is actually one of its major flaws, the results of a poor one are hard to notice. With regular braces or especially with ceramic ones, not being thorough enough with your brushing technique will almost immediately result in noticeable stains. Since lingual braces are placed on the back of your teeth, stained brackets and ligatures will not affect your appearance.
It is, however, important to note, that although not visible, bad oral hygiene will have a tremendous impact on your dental health and can cause tooth decay and even gingivitis.
- More suitable for those playing wind instruments or sports
Those who play wind instruments or contact sports find lingual braces to be a safer and more convenient option.
- A great alternative for those who have allergies
Although it is not common, some people experience an allergic reaction to plastic. For those, removable teeth straightening solution offered by Invisalign is not an option. Lingual braces are ideal for those who are sensitive to the plastic material and cannot use Invisalign aligners.
Another allergic reaction that is sometimes experienced by orthodontic patients is an alergy to nickel. Nickel is commonly used in varies braces appliances, including wires and brackets. There are however alternatives that can be used for those with nickel allergies.
Gold plated or pure titanium wires can replace the ones that contain nickel. Traditional brackets can be replaced with ceramic or gold plated brackets. All of those can be incorporated into the traditional or lingual system. Some lingual systems are gold plated, to begin with.
Disadvantages of Lingual Braces
- Hard to keep clean
Maintaining a proper oral hygiene is a challenge with every type of braces. Lingual braces, however, bring the challenge to an advanced level. Since the braces are placed on the back of your teeth you don't get to see them very well and, therefore, it is hard to evaluate the condition those are in. If getting your way between brackets and wires is not hard enough, in the case of lingual braces, you need to do it almost blind fully.
One of the solutions to this problem is getting professional cleaning more frequently. But you need to add that to the costs that are pretty high to start with.
- Cause tongue irritation
Traditional metal braces and ceramic braces as well will usually cause some sort of discomfort and soreness each time you adjust them. Your gums are the ones that will most likely be affected by the traditional brackets. With lingual braces, your tongue will also be directly affected.
- May cause speech impairment at the beginning
Once you get braces attached to the back of your teeth, your tongue will inevitably touch them when you try to speak. It will take some time to get used to them. You might expect to have difficulty pronouncing certain words and you might also produce whistling sounds when you try to speak. That is until you adjust, which means at leats few days.
- Don't work for very complex dental conditions
Lingual braces can work for various dental conditions. They work the best to fix misalignment problems in the front teeth. Severe misalignment cases can not be treated with lingual braces.
- Much more expensive
Lingual braces are much more expensive that traditional braces, ceramic braces, and even Invisalign. In most cases, you can expect the price to be as high as twice the price you would pay for traditional braces fixing the same dental case.
- Less specialists
Since lingual braces are harder to place and require the orthodontist to get a special training, fewer orthodontists specialize in this particular braces system. Finding an orthodontist that is well experienced with lingual braces can be challenging, to say the least.
- More time at the dentist's office
This one does not apply if you opt in for self-ligating lingual braces. In case, you don't, placing and adjusting lingual braces takes longer than any other type of braces. You need to be prepared that the time you will spend on each adjustment appointment will, at least, double. The adjustments themselves are likely to be needed more frequently than with regular braces.
Lingual Braces vs. Invisalign
Both Invisalign and lingual braces are designed to make the teeth straightening process more discrete. However, those are completely different systems. Invisalign system is based on a series of transparent aligners that are worn on top of patient's teeth. The aligners are not fixed to the teeth and can be removed for different purposes during the day.
The Advantages of Lingual Braces over Invisalign:
- Completely invisible from the front
- Can not be lost
- Less chances for alergic reaction
- No need to worry about noticiable stains
- Treatment is less dependent on patient's cooperation ( with Invisalign not wearing the aligners for the required amount of hours during the day has a negative impact on the results of the treatment)
The Advantages of Invisalign over Lingual Braces:
- Can be removed for eating, playing a musical instrument or sports
- Easier to keep the teeth properly clean
- Usually more affordable
Lingual Braces vs. Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces is another braces system that offers an aesthetic advantage to those who don't want their braces to interfere with their everyday life. Among Invisalign and lingual braces, ceramic braces are the most noticeable ones. Ceramic braces include wires, brackets and elastic ligatures that are placed on the front teeth. What makes the braces discrete is the tooth-colored material of the brackets.
The Advantages of Lingual Braces over Ceramic Braces:
- Stains are not showing ( Easy staining is one of the biggest disadvantages of ceramic braces)
- The most invisible solution
The Advantages of Ceramic Braces over Lingual Braces:
- Less expensive
- Offered by many dental clinics
Lingual Braces Procedure
As you visit your dentist for lingual braces, he/she will first make a mold and take an impression of your teeth. Every single bracket in the braces is then custom-made in a specialist lab to exactly fit your teeth. The brackets are then transferred to the back of your teeth and are cemented in place.
Eating with Lingual Braces
Be prepared to eat more soft foods during the first few days after getting braces. Your mouth will most likely be irritated and chewing can cause pain and discomfort. That is almost always the case with traditional braces as well, not just lingual braces. Just plan your meals so they include more soups and smoothies. Mashed potatoes, polenta, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, guacamole, and puddings are great foods to include in your after braces diet.
Types of Lingual Braces
Traditional Lingual Braces
Traditional lingual braces use the same appliances used in standard metal braces to influence teeth movement. Those appliances include brackets, wires, buttons, and elastics. Having the option to attach elastic rubber bands to the braces gives the orthodontist more control over the possible teeth movements.
In lingual braces, rubber bands are often attached to buttons on the lingual brackets. The rubber bands connect the two archwires on your teeth and that applies certain forces that can not be achieved without them.
Self Ligating Lingual Braces
The self-ligating system is based on an elastic free, advanced technology that moves teeth by applying more natural and lighter forces. With self-ligating braces, the wire is free to move through the "doors" on each bracket. That simplifies the adjustment process, speeds up the treatment, causes less friction and contributes to a better oral hygiene.
Since long adjustment appointments, difficulty in maintaining good oral hygiene and extra irritation are few of the main disadvantages of the standard lingual braces, the introduction of the self-ligating system to lingual treatment eliminates many of those disadvantages.
The Advantages of Using Self-Ligating Brackets on Lingual Braces:
- Shorter Adjustment Appointments
- Less Adjustment Appointments are Needed
- Shorter Treatment Time
- Less Painful
The Disadvantages of Using Self-Ligating Brackets on Lingual Braces:
- Certain fast tooth movement initiated by bent wires can in some cases cause an unwanted movement of the neighboring teeth
Brands of Lingual Braces
There is a constant progress in the Orthodontic industry. Different systems, wires, and brackets are constantly being developed and improved. Lingual braces are not an exception. Since those are the more challenging braces system, different brands work hard to introduce an advancement in this field.
Among the different brands offering parts for lingual braces, you will find ones that offer smaller size brackets. Smaller brackets for lingual braces mean less tongue space occupied. That directly correlates to less tongue irritation.
Brands differ from each other by the materials each of them uses the parts and software that goes along with their braces.
Incognito and Harmony are two of the most poplar brands used in lingual orthodontics:
Incognito Lingual Braces
Incognito is a lingual brace system by 3M Unitek. It offers low profile customized brackets that are optimized for your unique and specific dental case. That makes the treatment more effective and often lessens a number of required adjustments. The brackets in the incognito system are gold plated and that eliminates the risk of the patients developing nickel allergies.
Harmony Lingual Braces
Harmony is a self-ligating lingual braces system that uses rounded brackets and robotically bent archwire series. Since the system is self-ligating, it is expected to deliver faster teeth straightening results and make your adjustment appointments shorter.
Other popular lingual brands include: STB Lingual Systems, Suresmile, iBraces, MTM and In-Ovation.
Lingual Braces Treatment Time
Like with standard braces, there is no one answer that is right. Each case is different.
While lingual braces with self-ligating brackets are believed to shorten the treatment time, using traditional lingual braces may actually take longer to achieve the desired results.
One of the reasons for the treatment time being longer is the fact that inner arch radius of the teeth is smaller. That results in smaller torques applied on teeth and longer time to achieve the desired movements.
Lingual Braces Cost
You can expect the price for your lingual braces to be anywhere between 5000$ to 13000$. That is much more expensive than what you would pay for standard metallic braces. Actually, all other types of braces would most likely cost you less than lingual braces.
Lingual braces are more expensive due to various reasons:
- Fitting lingual braces is a labor intensive procedure and requires a lot of skill from the orthodontist.
- The adjustment appointments are longer and that means more time from your orthodontist.
- Lingual braces have to be customized to each patient and that greatly contributes to their price.
For some patients, the high cost of lingual braces far outweighs the aesthetic and functional benefits it offers.
Lingual Braces Insurance
Having an insurance that will at least partly cover lingual braces can significantly lower your costs. First, you need to make sure your dental insurance covers orthodontic treatments. Certain insurance companies cover up to 80% of the treatment cost.
If your dental plan does cover orthodontics, then most likely lingual braces are covered as well. In most cases, the plan covers the results of the treatment while the technique you are being treated with is up to your orthodontist. The insurance will most likely have a maximum coverage cost. Since lingual braces are pricey, it will end up covering a lower percentage of the total price than it would of with traditional braces.
Each insurance plan is different and the only way to know for sure if your dental insurance will cover your lingual braces is to check with them directly.
Having an insurance is not the only way to save money on dental treatments. Signing up for a dental saving network might be just as good. You can check for affordable dental care plans here.
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