Braces – What are the options?

Forget ‘metal mouth’ – things have moved on...

Remember those scary-looking ‘train track’ fixed braces that children used to wear? Who can forget those poor souls who were nicknamed 'Metal Mickey' (ask your Mum) and ‘Metal Mouth’ at school? Or those annoying bits of food that used to collect between the wires? They weren’t much fun, the braces of yesteryear.

Happily, the orthodontic hardware of today is smaller, lighter and much tougher. Forget Jaws from the Bond films - braces have got a lot more appealing, for adults as well as children. Even the Hollywood set has jumped on the bandwagon, including the likes of Cameron Diaz and Gwen Stefani.  And it’s a trend that’s taking off over here, too. According to the British Orthodontic Society, adults account for around a half of the patients in some British orthodontist practices, and many of them are opting for fixed braces.

Fixed brace options
Generally, there are three main types of fixed brace available today:

  1. Brackets

Made either of stainless steel, or clear or tooth-coloured ceramic or plastic, brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth. You can even get brightly coloured elastics to hold the wire in position if you want to spice up your look. There’s no need to look like Ugly Betty, unless you really want to.

  1. ‘Invisible’ lingual brackets

These attach to the back of the teeth, cleverly hiding them from view. It’s still a fixed brace, though, and so it allows for full control of tooth movement. They’re especially popular with actors.

  1. Self-ligating braces

Self-ligating braces can hold the wire in place without elastic, so right from the start it lets the teeth move freely and comfortably. Helpfully, the brackets are smaller and easier to clean.

If you want to steer well clear of wires and brackets, aligners (brand name Invisalign) are a very popular alternative for minor corrections, such as the alignment of mildly irregular teeth. Clear plastic splints move teeth into the desired position in as little as three months. And unlike conventional braces, they’re removable.

Cooler cleaning
Cleaning braces has got a whole lot more fun, too. As well as your traditional mouthwash and orthodontic toothbrushes, these days you can buy all sorts of hi-tech oral hygiene products to keep your brace sparkling clean, like 3-headed ‘superbrushes’, water irrigators and flossers.