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Why Clear Braces May Not Be the Clear Choice

Most people want straight teeth. For many the idea of metal braces, however, is a non-starter. We are all concerned about how we look, and that is still true even when we are in the process of improving our appearance. While there is always the option of using clear aligners to straighten teeth without a mouth full of metal, for some, traditional braces are clearly the better option. So, for those concerned with appearance but for whom traditional braces is the best option, there is a solution: clear traditional braces. But is it that simple? Are clear braces just as good as metal braces? Let’s dive in.

  1. Clear braces are usually made from some kind of ceramic or super-glass-type material. These braces are made this way to make them as strong as possible while not having a metal showing. They usually appear very esthetic and blend in nicely with your teeth. The problem with this this material, though, is that the ceramic material is not as strong as metal. So when we bite on foods or other things, over time, the ceramic may wear down and crack. These fractures or breakages mean that brackets need to be replaced. This can mean a longer emergency appointment in your orthodontic office and potentially cause an extension in your treatment time. If this happens multiple times, you can expect that your treatment plan will take longer than initially expected.                                                                                          
  2. Clear braces are clear the day you get them, but it is very difficult to keep them “clear”. Once the clear brackets are glued to your teeth and the wire is attached to the brackets, you are on your way home. Here’s where you need to be careful. As a ceramic material, compared to metal, clear braces have microscopic pores in them. This means that they are able to pick up colors from the foods we eat. Any food from ketchup and mustard, to purple cabbage, to wine or coffee or black tea, as well as other super foods like turmeric can impart a small amount of color to the clear brackets. Over time, these clear brackets become less and less clear and for many start to turn a shade of yellow or brown. Once the braces have changed color, it is very difficult to get them back to their original color. There are ways to prevent this: vigilant brushing after every meal with whitening toothpaste. There are many who go their entire orthodontic treatment in clear braces without any issue, but it takes a great deal of extra attention to brushing.                                                                                                                    
  3. Clear ceramic brackets are made by a process called sintering. This involves heating the ceramic into an injection mold and then baking them until they are hardened. This process creates a rough surface of the bracket (at the microscopic level). When your orthodontist places your wires into your crooked teeth, the wire slides through the bracket as teeth are straightening allowing the teeth to move without interruption. With clear brackets and their rough surfaces, your wire may not slide as smoothly which can slow down the process of straightening teeth. There are ways to overcome the problem and get to the finish line, but the solutions must be created once the problem has shown up. And of course, once the problem has shown up, a delay in your treatment time has already been created.

Clear braces are a wonderful option for many patients. And many patients love their choice to straighten their teeth with clear brackets. Clear brackets, however, are not perfect and will have their own management issues. The decision is up to you, but these bits of information should make you more aware of the risks of starting orthodontic treatment with traditional clear braces.

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