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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lingual Braces, An Introduction with Pros and Cons

Dental mirror showing lingual braces
When it comes to our teeth and we hear the word "braces", many thoughts come to mind, from painful wires to perfect, pearly whites. "Brace-Face", "Train-Tracks", and "Metal-Mouth" are nicknames that most brace wearers have probably heard and weathered. Traditional braces are now common place for elementary through high school age children and even becoming more popular with adults. However, when aesthetics are a concern, there are more cosmetic options to straighten your teeth.

Two common alternatives to traditional braces include using clear, plastic brackets or Invisalign (a series of clear, custom made retainers that work to straighten teeth). While both are effective methods depending on the type of orthodontic treatment you require, a lesser known but equally effective option to consider is lingual braces.

Lingual braces work just like traditional braces except that the brackets and wires are fixed to the tongue side of your teeth. Metal brackets are glued to the surface of the tooth. A series of wires and devices are attached to them and work over a period of months to years to pull teeth into optimal positions for a more favorable bite and straighter smile.

The Pros:

The biggest perk to lingual braces over the traditional placement is the cosmetic factor. Because brackets are placed on the back side of your teeth they are virtually invisible during treatment (unless someone is looking very closely at your mouth from certain angles). They can also be advantageous to wearers who play wind instruments. (Brackets on the front of the teeth can cause sore mouth and lips when practicing and increase the difficulty of playing some notes on several types of woodwind/brass instruments.)

The Cons:

In certain cases, lingual braces are not appropriate to treat misaligned teeth even when traditionally placed braces are an option. This is especially the case if a patient has particularly small teeth (and the back side of them is not large enough to allow efficient bracket placement) or when an excessive overbite is present. Because of the bracket placement against the tongue, some wearers report that talking, swallowing and chewing takes a little getting used to and treatment time may be slightly longer with lingual than traditional braces.

The Cost:

The cost for lingual braces is higher than that of traditional braces, mostly because the brackets fit to the back of the teeth need to be custom made for each patient. According to "Embrace It", a campaign presented by Oral B and Crest that aims to educate parents and patients about braces, the average cost for lingual braces is from $8,0000 - $10,000 (compared to the $3,000 - $7,000 range for traditional braces). Cost varies per every treatment plan, orthodontist and area though, so ask your provider about specific costs. Many orthodontists will offer a free exam and consult.

Also keep in mind that most offices offer payment plans, orthodontic treatment is covered or partially covered by many insurances and that braces are almost always an acceptable expense for Flex Spending Accounts and HSAs. This means that the money you set aside for these costs is untaxed. Dental health care costs can also be tax deductible.

Besides the obvious cosmetic benefits successful braces treatment offers, aligned teeth and a corrected bite aid in chewing and speaking. Additionally, straight teeth are much easier to keep clean, minimizing your risks for gum disease and tooth decay.

If straightening your teeth could be beneficial to your lifestyle and keeping the "metal mouth" to a minimum is a priority (for professional, functional, or personal reasons, lingual braces might be a great option for you! Talk to your orthodontist to find out if you are a candidate for this treatment and start working towards your dream smile today!