Do Braces Set Off Metal Detectors? Busting the Myths!

Now that you’re getting braces, security checkpoints may be making you more nervous than they should. Braces are made of metal, so common sense says they should make the metal detectors beep, right?

Well, not so fast. Whether you have metal braces, expanders, dental implants, or other dental work, the chances that you’ll get stuck in the security line are slim. This article will explain the reasons and answer all specific questions you might have.

Will braces go off in airport security?

While braces do contain metal, airport security machines are calibrated to detect weapons and dangerous metals, not the small amounts found in orthodontic appliances. So, if you’re a frequent traveler, bon voyage, and don’t worry!

Braces are a very common dental procedure, with an estimated 60% of American teenagers receiving orthodontic treatment at some point. Many adults also wear retainers. If every person with braces set off the metal detectors, it would result in enormous security lines and delays.

We live in a world surrounded by metal. Coins, keys, belt buckles, bra underwires, and zippers contain traces of metal that the machines are taught to ignore. Their sensitivity is carefully calibrated to differentiate low-level harmless metals from potential weapons.

While braces do contain brackets, wires and bands made of materials like stainless steel and nickel titanium, the amounts are small and distributed. Plus, as you’ll soon learn, these medical-grade metals aren’t as magnetic compared to other metals.

How do metal detectors work?

Metal detectors are useful tools that help us find metal objects in different places. They work by using a technology called pulse induction. This means they send out small bursts of electromagnetic pulses to scan for metal objects.

These pulses create a magnetic field around the metal detector. When a metal object comes close, it creates its own magnetic field, which the detector picks up, triggering an alarm.

Common Types of Metal Detectors:
There are various detectors tailored for different tasks:

  1. Walk-through Detectors: These are the tall arches you often see at security checkpoints. They’re designed to scan an entire person quickly as they pass through.
  2. Handheld Detectors: Used by security personnel, these are wands waved over a person to find where a metal object might be located.
  3. Ground Search Detectors: Often used by treasure hunters or archaeologists, these have larger coils to scan broad areas of land for buried metal objects.

While wearing braces, you’ll only have to worry about security gates and handheld detectors calibrated to ignore everyday metal. So, in 99.99% of cases, you should be fine.

However, if you have a concentrated amount of metal in your mouth, there is a very slight chance you’ll set off the detectors. I’m talking about multiple titanium dental implants, metal porcelain crowns, or orthodontic appliances like expanders. That’s already a lot of metal.

Are braces magnetic?

But wait, aren’t braces magnetic? No, braces are made from materials that cannot be magnetized. Most braces are constructed from a type of steel called 316 stainless steel, which is widely used in medical devices. This type of medical-grade steel is austenitic, meaning it’s structured in a way that makes it resistant to rust and non-magnetic.

316 medical steel is made of 65-70% iron, but also contains chromium, nickel, and molybdenum. While iron usually makes other metals magnetic, these extra elements change how the iron atoms are arranged and keep 316 steel from being magnetic even with a high iron amount. This is why it works well for medical uses where magnetism could be an issue.

Some braces contain titanium instead of steel. Pure titanium also has non-magnetic properties due to its atomic arrangement. Both titanium and 316 steel are very strong yet lightweight materials suitable for braces.

The chart below ranks common metals based on their ability to conduct magnetism, with the most conducive at the top:

MetalMagnetic Properties
IronHighly Magnetic
Titanium (found in braces)Non-magnetic
316 Stainless Steel (found in braces)Non-magnetic

You can test it for yourself – your braces won’t stick to any magnets. This is good news, not only for metal detection but also for patients who need MRIs. If this is you, we have multiple articles on MRIs and other medical imaging with braces on.

Braces & Metal Detectors FAQs

Will permanent retainers set off metal detectors?

Most permanent retainers are made from either non-magnetic 316 stainless steel or nickel titanium. Due to their composition and molecular structure, these materials will not activate metal detectors. Retainers may contain small amounts of metal too minor to trigger alarm systems.

What about lingual braces?

While lingual braces contain metal brackets and wires, the amount is typically not enough to set off metal detectors. Materials like gold-plated brackets contain non-ferrous metals that cannot be magnetized. The wires and brackets comprise a low mass of metal dispersed across the mouth.

Do ceramic braces have metal?

While some ceramic braces have metal slots or clips for self-ligation, the metal amount is low and dispersed. Traditional ceramic braces rely on non-magnetic stainless steel, NiTI or TMA wires, and metal ligatures that will not activate detectors. The metal elements are generally not present in sufficient concentration to trigger alarm systems.

Other types of dental appliances

Appliances like palate expanders or dental implants contain incidental metal but typically not enough to cause an alarm. Metal-porcelain crowns have a low metal filling concentration dispersed throughout. Unless appliances contain high amounts of solid magnetic metals, they generally will not set off airport or courthouse metal detectors.

Don’t worry

If you have dental appliances and are going through airport security or entering a government building, don’t worry – your orthodontic devices will likely not trigger metal detectors.

Braces, retainers and other dental work commonly use materials like stainless steel, titanium, or gold alloys that either cannot be magnetized or are present in amounts too low to detect. Even devices with higher metal content are typically under the detection threshold.

So, modern dental work is designed to avoid conflicts with security equipment. No need to be concerned if you have brackets or wires – your appliances will not cause delays or issues at security checkpoints. Just breathe easy and go through screening as normal.

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