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Cosmetic Braces

Traditionally, braces have consisted of metal brackets and wires. However, some people, especially adults have feared the idea of “train tracks” and a “metal mouth” so much that they refuse to wear braces altogether, missing out on the possibility of a beautiful smile. It is for this reason, cosmetic brackets were invented.

Cosmetic braces are made of Ceramic which is a translucent glass like material known as Transparent polycrystalline alumina (TPA). It was originally identified by NASA and a company called Ceradyne in developing the technology for tracking heat seeking missiles. Ceradyne then partnered with Unitek/ 3M to develop cosmetic brackets made of TPA.

Ceramic braces are the cosmetic alternative to metal braces and far less noticeable than conventional metal braces. They are nearly invisible when viewed at normal distances, thus providing a more attractive and esthetic option for the wearer. Since ceramic is non-porous and 99.9 percent pure, these braces are extremely resistant to staining or discoloration and the brackets maintain their original appearance all the way through to the end of treatment.

As with traditional metal braces, small elastics are used to hold the arch wire onto the ceramic brackets. The small elastic ties are transparent but they may stain after a period of time particularly with curries, coffee and red wine. In such instances tooth colored ligatures are used to hold the wires in the brackets These do not stain.

Another development in ceramic brackets is self ligation i.e. a bracket design that does away the need for elastics to tie the archwire to the bracket (which increases friction). This new ceramic bracket has a built-in sliding door which fits over the arch wire. Since self-ligating braces do not need elastics (which can stain), they are more esthetic than conventional ceramic brackets. An excellent example of such a cosmetic bracket is the Damon Clear system. Self ligation also speeds up the treatment time.

In more esthetically demanding situations a special archwire can be used which is coated with a tooth colored polymer to conceal the metallic appearance of the archwire.

Advantages of Ceramic brackets :

  • Ceramic braces are the cosmetic choice for a majority of adults.
  • Some people also feel that ceramic brackets are more comfortable than ceramic brackets and cause less irritation to the gums.

Disadvantages of Ceramic brackets :

  • Ceramic is abrasive to tooth enamel and also brittle. Because of these reasons ceramic brackets usually are only used on the upper teeth if the bite is “deep” on the front teeth. In such instances a special bracket is used for teeth in lower jaw which is half composite and half metal which prevents any abrasion of the upper teeth. However if the bite is “open” and there is no interference between upper and lower teeth, ceramic brackets may also be used for lower teeth.
  • Ceramic brackets are also a more expensive option than metal brackets.
  • In cases of severe orthodontic problems metal braces are preferable because of their higher strength than ceramic braces.
  • Treatment can last a few months longer with ceramic braces.