The Braces Decision: How to Know What Type You Need

When you first start thinking about braces, it’s completely normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain. Questions might swirl around in your mind like: Where do I go? What type of braces should I ask for? And hey, do I even have a say in choosing the type?

It might come as a relief to know that yes, you do get to decide on the type of braces you want! However, it’s essential to understand that your decision could be limited by the complexity of your case. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of the various types of braces available to you. From traditional metal braces to ceramic options and even clear aligners like Invisalign®, there’s a solution for everyone. You might not become an expert overnight, but you’ll start feeling more comfortable with the process and understanding how your case can affect your choice.

Can You Choose What Type of Braces You Get?

As a patient, you will always have a say about what type of braces to get, as well as the specifics of your treatment plan. Your orthodontist’s job is to guide you and warn you about the limitations of certain devices, but they’ll also consider your personal preferences.

So what aspects of your treatment and braces can you actually choose? When it comes to treatment plans you can choose how invasive your orthodontic treatment is going to be:

  • Social 6 vs. bite correction. Some people only want a single tooth fixed into alignment, while others need their entire bite corrected. This influences whether you get partial braces that only focus on the 6 front teeth, or full braces that take longer and are more complex.
  • Extraction vs. non-extraction. Patients with crooked teeth are often faced with this difficult decision, after hearing out their orthodontist’s arguments. This dictates the future treatment plan as well as the types of braces involved.
  • Surgery vs. camouflage. This is another tough choice patients sometimes have to make. Many cases involve some degree of jaw misalignment that can only be fully corrected through surgery. If surgery is off the table, then masking the bite issue with braces is the second best option.

As for what type of braces to opt for, your choice will likely be influenced by three factors:

  • Budget. Braces can be a significant investment, but there’s a range of options that vary in cost. The most budget-friendly option is traditional metal braces – luckily these are also the most effective option so far, but some people are put off by their appearance.
  • Esthetics. If you plan on keeping your braces journey more discrete, you might consider lingual braces, which are completely hidden, or clear aligners. However, some cases require fixed braces, so ceramic or sapphire brackets may be your plan B.
  • Treatment complexity. You may want social 6 braces on your front teeth alone, while your bite needs a lot of work. Or clear aligners for super crooked teeth that need extractions. Your orthodontist will try to accommodate your wishes, but you might not always get the braces you expected.

My advice is to embrace the process with confidence, knowing you have a say in what goes on your teeth, while also remaining open to changes along the way.

In this next section we’ll go deeper into the nitty gritty of orthodontic treatment, explaining why certain teeth can benefit from all types of braces, while others are limited to more functional options.

How Do You Know What Type of Braces You Need?

When it comes to figuring out which braces are best for you, the decision ultimately lies in the cooperation between you and your orthodontist.

You’ll need to consider the biological limitations of your case and the complexity of your dental situation, which can range from minor to moderate or complex cases. Let’s explore each of these categories and the suitable braces for them.

Minor Cases

A minor case may involve a few basic misalignments such as slightly crowded or crooked teeth, minimal spacing, or a barely noticeable overbite or underbite. In these instances, all types of braces can be effective solutions. Options include:

  • Partial braces: These focus on a specific area, rather than the full set of teeth. Their advantage is that they’re quick and minimally invasive. You can choose from lingual braces on just 6 front teeth or traditional partial braces. The effect is mostly cosmetic, so there’s no bite correction involved.
  • Active retainers: These removable devices are intended to maintain teeth in the desired position, but they can be modified to put pressure on teeth that have slightly relapsed. They’re best suited for people who’ve had braces in the past.
  • Clear aligners: You’ll be wearing a series of clear plastic trays that will shift your teeth with gradual movements. Clear aligners can work on both minor and moderate misalignments. The difference is that in minor cases it will just take fewer trays to complete the correction.

Moderate Cases

In moderate cases, you might have more noticeable malocclusions that require further adjustments, such as a larger overbite or underbite, overlapping, or moderate crowding.

In these instances, some types of braces may not be sufficient. It’s recommended to stay away from active retainers and social six braces, as they might not provide the necessary adjustments. Aligners may also have limitations in addressing these issues. Options for moderate cases include:

  • Fixed braces: Traditional braces with brackets and wires that apply consistent pressure on your teeth.
  • Clear aligners: Multiple removable, transparent trays that can slowly adjust your teeth over time (e.g., Invisalign). Aligners may use attachments, which look like small plastic braces glued to your teeth, as well as rubber bands to settle the bite.
  • Lingual braces: Similar to traditional braces, but placed on the inner side of the teeth, making them less visible.

Complex Cases

For complex cases, you might be dealing with severe crowding or spacing (anything over 8-10mm), significant issues with your bite that require jaw surgery, extractions, or other interventions like expanders or bite correctors. In these situations, it’s best to stick with the following options:

  • Traditional braces: The most common type of braces, using brackets, wires, and bands to gradually move your teeth into the desired position.
  • Self-ligating braces: Similar to traditional braces, but with a specialized clip or sliding mechanism instead of elastics, which can make treatment faster and more efficient.

Choosing the right type of braces is important for the success of your orthodontic treatment, but always remember to consult with your orthodontist to determine the best option based on your specific needs and preferences.

Can You Change Your Mind about braces?

In my practice, I see my braces patients having second thoughts all the time – it’s entirely normal on such a long journey! While making changes to your treatment plan might not always be possible, let’s explore what you can and can’t do if you want to switch things up.

Replacing Braces with Clear Options and Vice Versa

Some people start with metal braces but can’t get accustomed to the look, or feel like they want an upgrade to more esthetic options. While removing and re-gluing braces isn’t great for your enamel, and I don’t advise it, it IS possible to switch braces. Especially if your new choice is clear aligners that are removable and help your enamel and gums heal.

Other patients have clear braces on, ceramic braces or even aligners, and feel like they’re not making any progress. Sometimes, the mechanics on ceramic braces won’t work as efficiently as metal braces would. I’ve had to make the switch a few times to speed things up.

All these changes will almost always bring up additional costs, so discuss your situation with your orthodontist. And if it’s a matter of efficiency, perhaps you’ll get a discount if your initial set of braces didn’t work as planned.

Removing Braces for A Few Days

Do you have a special event coming up, like a wedding, and you’d like to remove your braces for a few days? It’s not a common request, but you’re not alone. Most orthodontic treatment take years to complete, and in that time people get married, get pregnant, or sometimes, unfortunately, get sick.

I’ve had to remove fixed braces for various occasions, like weddings, TV shows, and even disease, or investigations like MRIs, only to glue them back on again when the patient was ready to restart treatment. With clear aligners it’s easier, because you can take a break for a few hours without compromising your results.

Remember, you have the right to decide what happens to your body, but removal and reapplication will likely involve additional costs. Just make sure to talk to your orthodontist as soon as possible to get the best advice for your specific situation. As long as you’re wearing a retainer in the meantime, you should be good to go.


In the end, determining the right type of braces for you or your child depends on the specific dental needs and preferences. There are a variety of options available, including metal, ceramic, lingual and removable aligners. Consider factors like budget, appearance, and functionality while making your choice, and last but not least, trust your orthodontist’s customised treatment plan.

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