Metal Braces 101: Everything You Need to Know

Are you new to the world of braces? If so, learning about metal braces is the best place to start. Not only are they the most affordable types of brackets, but they’re also the most effective, so you get the best of both worlds. The only downside is how they look, but there are ways to fix that.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions about metal braces: how do they work, do they hurt, how much can you expect to pay, and is there any specific type of metal braces that works better than others? We’ll cover all this and more.

What Are Metal Braces?

Metal braces are the most common type of braces used worldwide for correcting misaligned teeth and crooked bites. They consist of square, stainless steel brackets fixed to the front surface of teeth with a special dental cement. These brackets are crucial in controlling minute movements, like the way teeth and their roots tilt and rotate.

An arch-shaped wire runs through each of these brackets all the way to the back molars, and is secured to the brackets with the use of small rubber bands called elastic ties. This wire follows the natural curvature of the jaw and applies gentle constant pressure to teeth, helping them straighten and create a wide smile.

There are multiple other components of metal braces, like steel ligatures, rubber bands, bite turbos, etc., but we won’t be covering them in this article. All you need to remember is that, while metal braces look complicated, they remain the most popular choice, and we’ll see why in a moment.

What Do Metal Braces Correct?

Metal braces are designed to address various dental misalignments (malocclusions) that may not only affect your appearance but also lead to oral health problems. While the motivation for getting braces may be cosmetic, teeth misalignments can have some surprising and potentially dangerous side effects:

  • Difficulty Cleaning Teeth: Misaligned teeth can make it difficult to clean your teeth properly, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Gum Disease: Misaligned teeth can increase the risk of gum disease, which can lead to inflammation, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. Gum disease has also been linked to an increased risk of other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  • Jaw Pain: Misaligned teeth can put extra pressure on your jaw, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Speech Problems: Misaligned teeth can affect your speech, causing lisps or other speech impediments.
  • Chewing Problems: Misaligned teeth can make it difficult to chew properly, leading to digestive problems.
  • Headaches: Misaligned teeth can cause headaches due to the extra pressure on your jaw’s surrounding muscles.
  • Tooth Wear: Misaligned teeth can cause uneven wear on your teeth, leading to chips, cracks, and dental sensitivity.
  • Self-Esteem Issues: Misaligned teeth can affect your self-esteem and confidence, causing you to feel self-conscious about your smile.

So rather than getting braces to correct your overbite, underbite or deviated midline, in the end, we’re focusing on correcting the repercussions of crooked teeth and bite imbalances.

It’s important not to dismiss cosmetic concerns either, as feeling self-conscious about your smile can negatively impact your mental health, potentially contributing to anxiety or depression.

Which type of metal braces is best?

With so many options available, I’m sure you’re wondering which are the best metal braces out there? There’s no clear cut answer, but the most versatile and universally effective braces are traditional metal braces, which are the type of metal braces that use rubber bands to secure the wire in.

Metal braces come in many shapes and sizes. You have conventional metal braces, self-ligating metal braces, mini braces and special braces like Fastbraces or Speed braces. They all work, but some are less effective for more complex cases.

The only time-tested version of metal braces that works on all types of teeth without fail is traditional metal braces.

If you’re wondering about what brand is best, it’s ultimately up to your orthodontist and the materials they prefer to use. Most professionals use high quality brackets from reputable brands like:

  • 3M Unitek
  • American Orthodontics
  • GAC International
  • Ormco
  • Rocky Mountain Orthodontics

Do metal braces hurt more?

Are metal braces more painful than their more advanced alternatives? The answer is: it depends, and it’s hard to compare different types of braces from this standpoint, since patients are all so different.

Some people may have a higher pain tolerance and find metal braces tolerable, while others with a lower threshold may feel more discomfort. Other factors include age, previous orthodontic experiences, and sensitivity of teeth and gums.

However, some studies do suggest that self-ligating braces are less painful in the initial phases of treatment compared to conventional metal braces. Clear aligners, while still painful, may be easier to endure thanks to their smooth profile and the fact that they’re removable.

But in the end, comparing pain from different types of braces is a bit like comparing apples to oranges because few people get two types of braces to be able to compare. All types of orthodontic pain is manageable with over the counter medication and switching to soft foods.

How Much Do Metal Braces Cost?

Metal braces can cost between $4000 and $7000, covering complete orthodontic treatment for both upper and lower teeth, along with retainers. However, the price you’ll pay depends on factors such as:

  • The complexity of your situation
  • Your insurance coverage
  • The dental clinic you choose

Compared to other orthodontic options, metal braces are more affordable. This is because conventional metal brackets cost less to manufacture and are widely available. They’re also easy to replace when broken, since most orthodontists carry many extra sets for emergencies.

The full cost of orthodontic treatment with metal braces typically covers pre-treatment evaluations, x-rays, follow-up appointments, required adjustments, emergency care, retainers, and post-treatment check-ups.

How Much Do Metal Braces Cost with Insurance?

With dental insurance, you may be able to cover part or even all of your metal braces treatment expenses. If you’re looking for more savings beyond your insurance provider, consider employment-based savings accounts.

For qualifying children and teenagers, state-funded programs like CHIP and Medicaid can potentially cover the full cost of metal braces. However, keep in mind that adult patients won’t have coverage under these plans due to age limitations.

In 2021, the average cost of traditional metal braces with private, non-subsidized insurance was $3,407. Additionally, upper and lower retainers may cost anywhere from $300 to $900. If paid in monthly instalments over the course of two years, you can expect your orthodontic treatment to cost you anywhere from $150 per month and up.

How Long Will My Braces Stay On?

It usually takes around two years for orthodontic treatment with traditional metal braces. Yet, you might see some small changes in your teeth after the first 4 to 6 weeks.

The time it takes for braces to do their job can be influenced by factors like bone density, your age, and how severe the dental issues are. Most people can expect the treatment duration to be close to these estimates.

When comparing the speed of metal braces with ceramic or clear ones, there is no clear winner. Although Invisalign and braces often finish at about the same time, some factors can impact the treatment speed, such as:

  • The expertise and experience of the orthodontist
  • How severe your dental problems are
  • How well you follow your orthodontist’s instructions
  • The density of your bone

Remember, Invisalign and braces are only as effective as the professional using them. Just like you wouldn’t be able to fly a plane if you’re not a pilot, it’s not wise to allow your dentist to treat your complex bite issues without the proper training and expertise that often takes many years to acquire.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Metal Braces

Good Things About Metal Braces

  • Metal braces excel at tackling severe misalignments and overcrowded teeth compared to other treatments.
  • They are generally more budget-friendly than other orthodontic options.
  • Younger patients might enjoy the option to personalize the colors of brackets and elastics.
  • With metal braces fixed in place, there’s zero chance of losing them or getting them dirty.

Not-So-Good Things About Metal Braces

  • These braces are more noticeable than ceramic or clear alternatives, which could affect your confidence.
  • You’ll need to steer clear of some foods that might damage the brackets or archwire.
  • It’s normal to feel discomfort and soreness in the first week, and some tightness after each adjustment.
  • Fitting in monthly appointments might be challenging for those with busy schedules.
  • You can’t remove or adjust metal braces on your own – it has to be done by a professional. This means dealing with potential complications at home, like loose brackets, broken wires, etc.
  • Metal braces call for more frequent brushing and maintenance.

Metal Braces vs. Invisalign: Deciding on the Right Choice

Invisalign can look more appealing to most patients because it’s so comfortable, convenient and discreet. However, it does come with a much higher price tag because you’re looking at switching multiple trays (sometimes as many as 30) over the course of your treatment.

The cost of Invisalign can range from $2,500 to over $10,000, typically higher than metal braces due to the pricey production of custom clear aligners. These charges cover the aligners, which are made using 3D teeth impressions. Sometimes adjustments need to be made, which means extra trays and added costs to your treatment.

Many people prefer Invisalign over classic braces despite the higher costs, but clear aligners may not be suitable for everyone. So while you might want to go with Invisalign, it’s best to consult with your orthodontist to determine the best option for your particular situation.

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.

Looking for advice, a second opinion & support on your braces journey? Join the Facebook group!

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