If the very thought of a metal mouth sends shivers down your spine, conjuring images of junior high headgear and many a ruined photo opp, then it may be time to consider some other options for straightening that crooked smile. Metal braces might be the most common, but there are a number of stealth ways to straighten your teeth. Improved technology and a variety of unique orthodontic treatments have made the years of wearing metal braces and elastic bands a thing of the past.
While these alternative treatments are generally more expensive than traditional braces, it’s a small price to pay for preventing a metal smile from cramping your style — or your social media pics. So, say cheese to these options that will have you grinning pretty with those bright, pearly whites.
Invisalign might be the most talked-about method of straightening your teeth without the use of traditional braces — and for good reason. The process is nearly invisible as a series of about 18 to 30 plastic aligners are custom-made to fit over your teeth and correct a variety of smile issues. The aligners are switched out about every two weeks for the duration of the treatment, which on average lasts about 12 months for adults, although the treatment time depends on the severity and complexity of the correction needed.
Invisalign does have to be removed every time that you eat and drink, which is a drawback for some patients. However, the fact that you can remove them allows for easier brushing and flossing and potentially better periodontal health. One thing to note is that this treatment isn’t appropriate for all dental issues, as some cases are too extensive for the aligners to correct.
2. Incognito Hidden Braces
Staying true to their name, Incognito Hidden Braces are indeed completely invisible as they are placed on the back side of the teeth where they are completely out of sight. Sometimes called lingual braces, they are customized for each patient and can therefore be used to treat nearly any orthodontic issue.
For slightly more minor dental correction, Incognito Lite Hidden Braces are specially designed to fix just the “social six” teeth visible at the front of the mouth. While the hidden braces will likely be more expensive than traditional metal braces, the advantages are many with their truly “incognito” status, customizability, and effectiveness. Given that the braces are behind your teeth and next to your tongue, they can be uncomfortable at first as you adjust to that sensation. They also can be difficult to clean.
3. Ceramic braces
The most similar to traditional braces, ceramic braces are the same size and shape as their metal counterparts but they have enamel-colored or clear brackets that virtually blend in with your teeth. Some even use tooth-colored wires to be even less noticeable. The brackets do require a bit more TLC, as they can stain easily. So it’s important to carefully monitor the consumption of certain food and drinks such as red wine, blueberries, and coffee.
4. Cosmetic dentistry
Another teeth-correcting alternative to braces is cosmetic dentistry in the form of porcelain veneers or dental bonding. If you prefer to avoid the use of braces at all costs, dental veneers are a solid option albeit a more extreme one. The veneers are wafer-thin, hard shells of porcelain that are permanently bonded to the fronts of teeth that might be crooked, misaligned, discolored, or chipped, or have spacing issues. They are incredibly resilient to staining, and since they are firmly attached to your teeth, they are very strong, grounded, and durable. Basically, veneers provide a big improvement in a very short period of time. However, veneers also require the removal of the surface enamel of each tooth — an irreversible procedure — and need to be replaced every five to 10 years.
A slightly more conservative procedure, dental bonding is also being used to improve shaping and spacing issues that would otherwise be treated by braces. With bonding, a resin material is used to cover imperfections and fill in spaces. The bonding hardens so it will remain in place and become durable. However, it really is only appropriate for small improvements to teeth.