Metal Braces: Weighing the Pros and Cons

If you’re researching braces, you probably already know that metal braces are the most popular. And for good reason, they’re budget friendly and they work. But it might come as a surprise that many people choose metal braces when money isn’t really an issue. I’ll explain why that happens in this article.

We’ll be weighing the pros and cons of these time-tested braces, and hopefully you’ll be able to decide if you need classic metal braces or something more modern.

If you’re a parent deciding which type of braces to choose for your child, we have an article just for you (spoiler alert: it’s metal braces), but you’ll still find some value in scanning the pros and cons of traditional metal braces.

10 Advantages of Metal Braces

1. Metal Brackets are Very Durable

Metal braces are made from high-grade medical stainless steel, making them extremely durable and long-lasting. You don’t have to worry about them breaking or wearing out during your treatment. This means they can handle the pressure of thick wires and withstand bite forces.

Ceramic braces (and even aligners) on the other hand, are more friable, and can easily chip and crack, which calls for frequent replacements.

Some metal brackets will still come off during treatment, but they can be glued right back (although, since they’re so affordable, they’re often replaced with fresh ones).

2. They are the Most Affordable Type of Braces

When it comes to orthodontic treatments, metal braces are usually the most cost-effective option, plus the only one available at a large scale worldwide. Not only are they the most budget friendly, but metal braces are also the most efficient. Cheap is not low quality in this situation.

Other options like ceramic braces, lingual braces, or clear aligners typically cost more, because the components and/or technology is more expensive.

3. They are Suitable for Complex Cases

One of the reasons metal braces are still widely used is their ability to handle complex cases of misalignment and overcrowding. Some alternative orthodontic treatments may not be as effective in addressing severe malocclusions.

Clear braces can cause too much friction in the wire, while clear aligners may not be powerful enough. If you have a complicated dental issue, metal braces might be the best choice for you.

4. Metal Braces Have a Proven Track Record

Metal braces have been used for decades, and their success in straightening teeth and correcting various dental issues is well-documented. Since they are so widespread, orthodontists all around the world are most experienced in handling traditional metal braces.

With a long history of effectiveness, you can trust that these braces will get the job done.

5. They are Customizable with Color

A fun aspect of metal braces is the option to customize the color of the elastics that go on top of brackets. This can make the orthodontic treatment experience more enjoyable, especially for younger patients.

You can express your personality and style through your braces. No worries if you’re not sure what to choose, you’ll be changing these bands at every appointment.

6. They are Made from Hygienic Materials That Don’t Stain

The stainless steel used for metal braces is a hygienic material that resists staining. This ensures that your braces will maintain their clean appearance throughout your treatment.

The same can’t be said about clear braces that can develop a yellow tint over time. As with all braces, regular hygiene is very important, as well as choosing elastic tie colors that don’t stain.

7. They are Able to Produce More Precise Movements

Metal braces offer greater control and precision when it comes to moving your teeth into their correct positions. Your orthodontist has many tools at their disposal to make minute targeted moves using bends in the wire, bracket repositioning and rubber bands.

Clear aligners are also good at targeted treatment, but sometimes the desired movements aren’t as easily expressed.

8. Metal Braces are Suitable for Patients of All Ages

Although metal braces may be more common among children and teenagers, they are suitable for patients of all ages. Thankfully, there is no more taboo or judgment when it comes to wearing braces as an adult.

Adults go with metal braces for various reasons, but most often it’s because metal braces are within their budget or their particular case is more complicated.

9. They are the Go-to Option for Jaw Surgery & Extraction Cases

In cases where jaw surgery or tooth extractions are necessary, metal braces are typically the preferred choice by orthodontists. This is because they provide the required stability and control needed during the treatment process.

Metal braces are also more hygienic, which is important considering that surgery and extraction cases typically last longer. Having braces on your teeth for more than 2 years can increase the risk of caries, and metal braces, with their small size and low profile can make brushing easier.

10. Metal Braces are Faster Than Clear Fixed or Removable Braces

In general, metal braces tend to work faster at aligning teeth compared to other methods, such as clear fixed or removable braces. This is because metal braces provide lower friction and sufficient force to move teeth effectively.

Self-ligating metal braces can be slightly faster than traditional metal braces within the first few months, but toward the end of treatment, the duration seems to level out in both types of braces.

Clear aligners can take longer because they depend on patient compliance and they are more difficult to control by less skilled professionals.

10 Disadvantages of Metal Braces

1. Metal Braces are Highly Visible and May Look Unattractive

One drawback of metal braces is their visibility. The silver stainless steel that covers half of the teeth’s surface can make them quite noticeable. Many people may feel insecure or self-conscious about their appearance while wearing them.

If you’re concerned about aesthetics, you may want to explore other options like ceramic braces or clear aligners.

2. They Can Cause Irritation or Sores on the Cheeks, Lips or Tongue

Metal braces can be uncomfortable, especially when you first get them. The sharp edges and hooks on brackets may rub against your cheeks, lips or tongue, causing irritation or even small sores.

You can alleviate some this discomfort by using orthodontic wax, but it’s still something you’ll need to be aware of during the treatment process. Ceramic brackets are a bit more comfortable, while clear aligners are the smoothest of them all.

3. They Require Frequent (Monthly) Adjustments

You’ll have to visit your orthodontist routinely, often monthly, for adjustments – this can be inconvenient and time-consuming. These appointments are necessary to change the colorful elastics, switch to a new wire, bond new brackets, etc. Metal braces can be quite “hands-on”.

However, aligners like Invisalign and even self-ligating brackets typically require fewer in-person checkups.

4. Eating Certain Foods with Metal Braces is a Challenge

With metal braces, you’ll need to avoid certain foods. Sticky or hard foods can damage brackets and wires. Stringy meat and vegetables can wrap around brackets and wires, and it can be an ordeal to fully remove them.

The same goes with ceramic and lingual braces. If you don’t want to give up your favorite foods, clear aligners have fewer food restrictions and are removed while eating.

5. They Require More Brushing and Flossing, Plus Special Tools

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial while wearing metal braces. The brackets and wires can trap food and plaque, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease. You will need to brush and floss more often, and might also need some special tools:

  • An interdental brush
  • Orthodontic floss
  • A water flosser

6. They Can Trap Food Particles, Leading to Bad Breath or Tooth Decay

Even after thoroughly brushing, food particles can get still get trapped in the brackets and wires, especially around the back teeth, resulting in bad breath and a higher risk of tooth decay.

To prevent these issues, orthodontists often recommend a professional cleaning appointment with your hygienist every couple of months.

7. They Can Cause Damage to the Enamel of the Teeth Upon Removal

When your braces are removed, there’s a chance that the adhesive holding the brackets may cause slight damage to your tooth enamel. Removing the adhesive with improper burs can also lead to fine scratches and tooth sensitivity.

While this is usually not a major concern, and the teeth can be polished, it’s good to know about this issue in advance so you can bring it up with your orthodontist.

8. They Can be Uncomfortable During Physical Activities

If you’re an athlete or someone who enjoys vigorous physical activity, metal braces may cause discomfort or even injuries. The brackets can catch on your cheeks or lips if bumped, causing cuts or sores. A mouthguard tailored to accommodate your braces will be critical to protect your mouth during sports and other physical activities.

9. They May Not be Suitable for Patients with Allergies or Health Issues

Some people may be allergic to the materials used in metal braces (especially nickel and latex). Be sure to inform your orthodontist of any allergies you have – they may recommend alternative materials or treatments.

10. They Can Cause Staining Around the Teeth If Not Properly Cared for

If you smoke or don’t maintain good oral hygiene during your treatment, staining may occur around the brackets. These stains can be difficult to remove, even after your braces are off. Ensuring proper cleaning and avoiding heavily pigmented foods and drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, red wine, berries) will help prevent staining.

Metal braces are not the perfect solution for everyone, no type of braces is, but they are pretty much universal. They are the choice of patients from all walks of life, all budgets, from simple to complex. If you’re still on the fence about choosing metal braces because of their looks, check out this article on invisible braces and consult with your orthodontist if you’re a good candidate for more discreet options.

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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