Can You Change Ceramic Braces to Metal? Here’s the Process

Do you have clear braces but can’t stand them? You’re not the only one wishing you could change ceramic braces to metal ones. In fact, I’ve had this happen quite a few times in my practice.

Either patients can’t get used to braces at all, and we have to take them off completely, OR we take off their current braces and replace them with a different version.

Removing ceramic braces and replacing them with metal braces is entirely possible but will most likely come at an extra cost. It also increases the risk of tooth sensitivity and enamel scratching if brackets get removed and replaced too many times.

Let’s look into some of the reasons people opt for metal braces instead of clear ones, and how to get through this transition.

First of all, I want to say that you don’t need to have a good “reason” to want to change your braces. It’s your body, your money, and as long as you pay for the orthodontist’s services, you can do whatever you want.

That being said, many patients have complaints about ceramic braces, and they’re entirely justified. Here’s what I hear most often from patients who:

  • Don’t like the look. Ceramic braces can be beautiful and discreet, but some brands are just too big. Sometimes, the color doesn’t exactly match that of the teeth, making clear braces more noticeable. Most of all, ceramic braces do stain and turn yellow, and can look quite unappealing right after eating.
  • Find them uncomfortable. Ceramic braces are typically more rounded than metal, which can help with soreness the first time you get braces. Unfortunately, most patients find ceramic braces too bulky and have trouble closing their lips over them.
  • Talk funny. If you’ve developed a lisp and have been slurring your words ever since getting braces, switching from ceramic to metal can improve the situation a little bit. However, even with metal braces, lisps can develop if you have a large gap, an open bite, or protruding teeth.
  • Treatment is too slow. Ceramic braces move teeth at a slower rate compared to metal braces because of the added friction. I like to warn my patients that clear braces tend to increase treatment time, but some prefer them anyway. It’s not too late to switch to metal braces mid-treatment if your teeth are stubborn or stuck.

Risks of removing and replacing brackets

Before you decide to switch your ceramic braces, I suggest you take at least a week to think about it. Changing braces with a different set is no small thing, and you should take it seriously.

Aside from placing new brackets, your orthodontist will have to remove the existing brackets first. Removing ceramic brackets is not that easy or comfortable, and it’s best to do it as little as possible throughout treatment. This is because ceramic brackets create a much stronger bond with the enamel. Depending on the brand, some of the brackets can even crack and need to be removed in pieces.

Your orthodontist will have to polish all the glue off your teeth, a procedure that will need to be performed once again when the treatment is over. As a result, you double your risk of enamel scratches. Plus, all the pressure from the pliers and heating from the dental bur can cause sensitivity in certain teeth.

Removing metal braces is much easier compared to ceramic ones, so the second time around, you should have a more pleasant experience.

I know some people are nervous about talking to their orthodontist, but that shouldn’t worry you too much. In the end, it’s a long journey to straight teeth, and your orthodontist will want you to be comfortable.

Most people adjust well to ceramic braces, but if that’s not the case for you, it’s a fixable issue. So make sure you openly discuss your concerns with your orthodontist, and they will suggest other options to fit your budget and preferences.

Changing the type of fixed braces isn’t usually part of the treatment plan, so it will come at extra costs. The insurance you have might not cover it, and most orthodontists will charge extra for the materials and appointment. It’s important that you know all these added costs beforehand, and perhaps ask your orthodontist about the possibility of a payment plan.

Lastly, changing your ceramic braces to metal will require a longer appointment, so you may need to wait until your orthodontist has a slot available. Expect the whole thing to take one hour or more, depending on how many brackets you need to replace.

The experience of getting that many braces removed and replaced is not that different from what happens during a braces debond session.

Essentially, you’ll have two appointments merged into one: one for removing the brackets, and one for applying them again. If you’re new to braces, you may be nervous about getting your ceramic brackets removed. Here’s what to expect:

  • Tension and possibly pain in your front teeth. Removing ceramic braces requires a bit of twisting, so you’ll feel that in the front, where teeth are typically the most sensitive.
  • Loud cracking noises. Ceramic braces safely come off inside special pliers, but some might be designed to break in half. Other brands can even crack and leave pieces of glass-like material stuck to your teeth. If this happens, don’t panic, your orthodontist will fix it.
  • Lots of drilling. Your orthodontist will remove all the glue that’s left on your teeth with special pliers and high-speed burs. Expect a lot of dust in your mouth, and a lot of rinsing.
  • Keeping your mouth open for a long time. Once all the glue removal is over, it’s time to dry the teeth and apply the new metal braces. This can take a while, so if you have issues with your jaws and can’t keep them open for too long, let your orthodontist know.

To make your experience more bearable, bring headphones to the office and play your favorite music or podcast. Don’t forget to apply some chapstick so you don’t get cracked lips from all the pulling and stretching.

If you know your teeth to be sensitive, get over-the-counter pain medication and keep it ready, so you can take one as soon as you leave the office.

Most people report feeling much better with their smaller, flatter metal braces once they make the switch. They don’t find them that noticeable and can personalize their metal brackets with colors. Hopefully, you’ll find the change exciting, and, most of all, comfortable.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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