For a long time there was a stigma attached to wearing braces, which meant that a number of kids didn’t receive the orthodontic treatment they required because they wanted to avoid wearing dental braces. And it’s not just kids and teenagers, even adults often feel too self-conscious to wear dental braces even though they need it to fix a dental issue.
Full Guide to Lingual Braces
Dental braces are used in orthodontic treatments for various dental issues such as crowding of the teeth, crooked teeth, wide spaces or irregular spaces between the teeth, protruding teeth, irregularities in bite like crossbite and overbite, etc. While the cosmetic concerns that these dental issues raise is an important reason why people opt for orthodontic treatments, there are other serious issues that braces help to prevent. Overcrowding makes it really difficult to clean the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay and the chances of gum disease increases as well. Bite irregularities such as malocclusion makes it difficult to chew food properly, while severe teeth alignment issues can cause speech impediments, specifically problems with pronunciation.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists there are over 4.5 million people in the United States who wear dental braces, and 20% of the orthodontic patients are adults. The dissipation of the stigma associated with dental braces has helped, as has the introduction of new types of dental braces that are either less noticeable than traditional metal braces or hidden from view. Lingual braces are one such type of dental braces.
What are Lingual Braces?
Just like traditional metal dental braces and porcelain or ceramic braces, lingual braces are also made up of brackets and wires. The primary difference between those and lingual braces is that the brackets are fitted to the back of the teeth. The brackets in lingual braces are also smaller in size than those in traditional dental braces. Lingual braces are completely hidden from view and considered the more aesthetic option among dental braces. It, however, doesn’t mean that lingual braces are more effective than dental braces in treating orthodontic issues. In fact, in the more severe cases of orthodontic issues metal braces are more effective than any other type of braces. On average, orthodontic treatment using lingual braces will take longer than treatment using metal braces. It’s worth noting that adults and late adolescents opt for lingual braces more often than kids, because of the aesthetic benefits it provides.
One other thing you need to know about orthodontic treatment using lingual braces is that not all orthodontists are equipped to offer them. The equipments required to fit lingual braces and the techniques involved are different to that used for traditional dental braces. Hence, the dentists need to enroll for educational courses to learn these. It also means that orthodontists who offers lingual braces-based treatment will charge a lot more than other orthodontists. You can use a service like 1-800-DENTIST to find a lingual orthodontist.
How Do Lingual Braces Work?
Lingual braces are custom made. The orthodontist first takes an impression of your teeth. It’s sent to a dental laboratory, where the customized brackets for the braces are made. Computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) are used in making lingual braces. This entire process can take up to 6 weeks or more. The custom-made brackets are then cemented in place behind the teeth using special equipment. Unlike traditional dental braces, in lingual braces there are individual brackets and wires for each tooth. As mentioned earlier, not all orthodontists have the training or knowhow to work with lingual braces. So, you will have to find an orthodontist experienced in working with them.
Lingual braces apply gentle but continuous pressure to slowly shift the teeth and align them in the proper manner, the same as traditional dental braces. The length of treatment varies between 18 and 36 months. Typically, the period of treatment is longer with lingual braces as compared to that of metal dental braces.
Challenges Posed by Lingual Braces
While metal braces and ceramic braces can be worn by all, that’s not the case with lingual braces. The challenges stem from the same reason that has made them so popular. Since, lingual braces are fitted behind the teeth, your teeth have to long enough to provide enough space for the brackets to be fitted. This is also why lingual braces aren’t suitable for kids. The other challenge with lingual braces is that if you’ve severe bite problems, then you can’t wear them.
Lingual braces also cause problems while swallowing as well as slurring of speech. Due to the positioning of the braces, the movement of the tongue is affected, which in turn makes it difficult to swallow during the first few weeks after the braces are fitted. You will have to make a conscious effort to get back to swallowing naturally. You also will have to pronounce certain words and sounds more clearly after the braces are put in place. Orthodontic patients also complain about irritation of the tongue due to lingual braces, which makes the tongue quite tender and can hurt. One way of alleviating the irritation and soreness is to apply wax on the lower teeth, covering the braces.
Cleaning the teeth and general maintenance of the teeth is important during the period of orthodontic treatment with braces. With lingual braces, you need to be more thorough with the cleaning, because it’s difficult to ascertain if all the food particles lodged in the brackets behind the teeth have been cleaned or not. If you aren’t disciplined in cleaning the braces, eventually plaque will form and lead to tooth decay (gingivitis). Buy a slim-headed toothbrush that’s soft and has round bristles to reach behind the teeth effectively. You should brush both the gumline and the teeth. Use a floss threader or interproximal brush to remove any food particles stuck between the teeth, if there’s space between the teeth. It also makes sense to invest in an oral irrigation device. It will flush out food particles stuck around the brackets. End by rinsing your mouth with a fluoride rinse for better oral hygiene. This might seem a bit too much, but it’s necessary. You will spending quite a lot of money for lingual braces, so not maintaining oral hygiene after that will defeat the purpose. You will need professional dental cleanings once every 6 months or so as well.
Cost of Lingual Braces
The average cost of orthodontic treatment with dental braces is $5,000 to $7,000, according to the American Dental Association Survey of Dental Fees. The cost of orthodontic treatment with lingual braces can be anywhere between 25-50% higher than the aforementioned average, bringing the cost of lingual braces up to $8,000 – $13,000. The fact that lingual braces are custom made automatically adds to the cost. Plus, the length of treatment is usually longer than that required for traditional dental braces. So, that further adds to the overall cost.
As mentioned earlier, lingual braces are made up of individual brackets for each tooth, which means that the process of adjusting them during the course of the treatment is both more frequent and more difficult. You will have to visit the orthodontist more frequently for these adjustments, which will inflate the cost as well. Since orthodontists who deal with lingual braces are specialists, their charges will be higher too.
A number of dental insurance plans cover orthodontic treatment, which subsidise the cost to a certain extent. Dental insurance can cover up to 50% of the cost. However, the problem with lingual braces is that along with clear orthodontic aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect, lingual braces are considered to be cosmetic as opposed to traditional dental braces, which are considered to be part of dental healthcare. This means that most dental plans do not cover lingual braces.
Since lingual braces are expensive, most orthodontists who work with them provide discounts and low-interest or zero-interest payment plans. You are likely to get a higher discount if you pay the entire cost of treatment upfront. If you do decide to pay upfront, then consider paying with a credit card that offers cashback. You will be able to save some money. You can also opt for healthcare financing plans offered by the likes of Curae, CareCredit, Capital One, etc.
Advantages of Lingual Braces
- Lingual braces are hidden from view, which makes them a more aesthetic option among the various types of dental braces.
- These braces are custom made, so the braces fit perfectly and provide exactly the right amount of support and pressure, which results in the teeth becoming optimally aligned.
- The braces are made of individual brackets, with one for each tooth, which ensures that each tooth gets optimal pressure during the period of treatment.
- The brackets are smaller in size to those in traditional dental braces, which makes them a little more comfortable to wear.
- You can adapt to lingual braces quicker than to traditional dental braces, which becomes important if you play a wind instrument or if you’re a sportsperson.
Drawbacks of Lingual Braces
- Lingual braces are the most expensive type of dental braces, even more expensive than clear orthodontic aligners like Invisalign.
- Working with lingual braces requires extra training to be able to handle the individual brackets and the equipments used to fit them. Thus, the orthodontists who work with lingual braces are specialists and charge a lot more. Also, the number of orthodontists who work with lingual braces is much smaller, so you might have to travel a bit to find one.
- Lingual braces aren’t effective in treating the severe orthodontic problems.
- The duration of the orthodontic treatment with lingual braces is longer than that for metal braces.
- The number of visits to the orthodontist, after the initial fitting, to get the brackets adjusted is a lot more than what’s required for metal braces. This also adds to the cost and further inflates it.
- All braces require thorough and regular cleaning, but lingual braces require more attention because of its position at the back of the teeth. It’s hard to reach and food particles remain lodged in the brackets, leading to tooth decay.
- Dental insurance plans rarely (if at all) cover orthodontic treatments with lingual braces, which eliminates one avenue of saving some money.
- For the first few weeks after the braces are fitted, you will face some problems with swallowing and pronunciation of certain words. It will get better with time, but you have to consciously work to improve it. Also, these braces cause irritation on the tongue and make it sore.
Final Word on Lingual Braces
The cosmetic or aesthetic reasons are more than a good enough reason to opt for lingual braces over other types of dental braces. You will have to wear them for anywhere between 18 and 36 months or even more, depending on the severity and type of the orthodontic issue. It makes complete sense that you want to feel comfortable while wearing braces and at the same time performing all of the regular day-to-day tasks you normally do. A lot of people feel self-conscious while wearing metal braces, which affects them psychologically and impairs their ability to live a normal life.
However, once you do decide to opt for lingual braces you need to be prepared to be disciplined and responsible during the entire length of the treatment period. Or else your investment, both in terms of money and time, will turn out to be a waste. You need to cut on eating out as much as possible. You also need to avoid foods that might stick to the teeth or the brackets and wires. You need to be disciplined about brushing twice every day and flossing daily. Since the brackets are fitted at the back of the teeth, it will be difficult to clean, but you can’t lose patience or ignore it. Ignorance can lead to tooth decay.
If you think that this is too much responsibility and you won’t be able to remain disciplined for this length of time, then you should probably opt for clear orthodontic aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect instead. These fit like mouthguards and are removable, which makes them a lot easier to clean and maintain.