When deciding on an orthodontic treatment, patients might have the choice between metal and clear braces. Although both options are functionally similar, there are some differences that need to be weighed before a patient makes a final decision. Aesthetics, case complexity, cost and duration of treatment are all things to study when considering clear braces vs metal braces.
Both options work the same way to move teeth into the right position. Brackets are bonded to each tooth, and an arch wire, attached with small rubber bands to the brackets, runs through the teeth, causing pressure. This pressure slowly helps to move teeth into the right position. The wire is adjusted about once a month to guide the gradual movement of the teeth. Sometimes, elastic bands are also used to correct the occlusal or biting relationship of the teeth in unison with the braces.
Though the treatment is similar, there are some fundamental differences between clear braces and metal braces. First, the material used to make the brackets is different. Metal brackets are made from stainless steel. Some brackets also use titanium as an additional material. Metal braces continue to be the most popular choice of braces. Clear braces are made from either polycrystalline or monocrystalline alumina. These materials are used because of their strength and color properties. One results in a clear finish, and the other results in a tooth-colored finish. They are also non-porous, so they are stain and odor-resistant.
Clear braces are more appealing aesthetically because they are either almost completely translucent, or they blend in with a tooth-color finish, but they do have some drawbacks. The material is harder than tooth enamel, and overexposure to it can actually harm the finish and cause abnormal deterioration. They also tend to be more expensive than metal braces, and the treatment usually last somewhat longer than with metal braces.
The average length of treatment for braces is about two and a half years since the process is slow and delicate. Teeth are moved gradually to protect them. Orthodontists usually adjust the wire that puts pressure to move the teeth about once every month. Because the material for clear brackets is more brittle than the one for metal braces, the orthodontist tends to use slightly less pressure when adjusting the wire. This lengthens the overall time for treatment, but goes a long way to prevent bracket failure and the need to either replace or reattach the bracket.
Cost is a major factor in any form of orthodontic treatment, but not always the overriding consideration. The cost of metal braces can run between $5,500 and $8,000. The price can be substantially higher or lower depending on the complexity of the individual case as well as the location of the dental office. Clear braces are more expensive and can run at least $500 more than metal braces for the total treatment. A more economical option is to use clear brackets only on the top 6 teeth, which are more visible, and metal brackets on the rest of the teeth. This runs about $200 more than the cost of regular metal braces.