Lingual Braces: The Upside and Downside of Braces on the Back Side
The desire for a healthy, beautiful smile currently motivates about 4 million people in Canada and the United States to straighten their teeth with orthodontic braces.
For many, however, there’s a significant obstacle to seeking treatment: They don’t like the look of conventional metal braces.
For image-conscious teenagers, working professionals, and others who don’t want to draw extra attention to their dental work in progress, lots of nearly invisible options are available. And their popularity is growing.
The invisible orthodontics global market was valued at $2.15 billion in 2017 and projected to gain $7.26 billion by 2026.
Lingual braces have the same components as conventional braces, but they’re fixed to the back of your teeth, on the tongue — or lingual — side of the teeth. Because they’re behind your teeth, they’re nearly invisible.
Keep reading to learn more about lingual braces, their pros and cons, and whether you’re a good candidate for this type of orthodontia.
Are you a good candidate for lingual braces?
The only way to know for sure whether lingual braces are right for you is to consult with your orthodontist. Overall, lingual braces can correct the same kinds of alignment issues as conventional (buccal) braces.
A 2016 review of the research showed that lingual braces achieved the treatment goals patients and doctors had planned.
But lingual braces aren’t right for everyone. Patients with very deep overbites, for example, might run into some trouble with brackets popping off more frequently.
At your first appointment, your orthodontist will examine your teeth and discuss which treatment options are most likely to work well for you. If you’re interested in lingual braces, talk to your orthodontist early in the process, because not all orthodontists are trained to apply them.
Cost of lingual braces compared to other options
The cost of your braces will vary depending on:
- the length of your treatment
- where you live
- your insurance coverage (if you have insurance)
- which appliance type you choose.
Your orthodontist will discuss costs and payment plans with you, but if you want a preliminary idea of the average costs in your area, check out this database from an online paid dentist and orthodontist directory.
Costs may be higher with lingual braces, in part because the process of applying them is delicate and a little more time-consuming than conventional braces.
Lingual braces can also be customized for the individual patient, which can bump up the cost.
The wires on conventional braces are bent in a uniform horseshoe shape, but some brands of lingual braces can be robotically bent to fit the contours of a particular patient’s mouth. That custom fit could shorten your treatment time, but it comes at a price.
Generally speaking, the American Association of Orthodontists reports that braces cost between $5,000 and $7,000.
The below prices for specific types of braces come from CostHelper.com, where users have shared the costs they’ve incurred.
|Braces type||Average cost|
|conventional metal braces||$3,000–$7,350|
Will lingual braces give me a lisp?
The short answer is yes. When you speak, your tongue touches the backs of your teeth to make certain sounds. Since the brackets are on the backsides of your teeth, your speech is going to be affected when you first get lingual braces.
While all types of braces can temporarily interfere with your speech patterns, 2014 research found that your speech could be different for a month or more with lingual braces.
Studies have also shown that the degree of the speech impairment could vary depending on which brand of brackets your orthodontist uses.
Some patients have had success in correcting the lingual lisp using speech therapy techniques. Eventually, though, your tongue will get accustomed to the braces and your speech should return to normal.
Are lingual braces more uncomfortable than other braces?
No matter what kind of braces you choose, you will have some discomfort as your teeth begin to move.
Most people experience this pain as a dull ache, and it can generally be relieved with over the counter medications. You’ll probably want to eat soft foods like yogurt, rice, and soft-boiled eggs until the pain subsides.
Braces can also cause pain when brackets come into contact with the soft tissues inside your mouth. With lingual braces, the tongue is a common site of pain because of the location of the brackets.
For some patients, the discomfort of lingual braces is significant. To improve patients’ comfort, more manufacturers are making lingual brackets smaller and smoother. The brackets can also be customized, which has been shown to decrease discomfort.
For short term relief of tender spots, you could try a topical tooth pain relief gel or a small amount of wax over any sharp edges on your brackets. If a wire is poking or scratching, contact your orthodontist. Wires can be clipped to keep them from hurting you.
What are the pros and cons of lingual braces?
- Lingual braces are virtually invisible.
- They effectively correct most bite problems.
- They can be customized to increase your comfort and maximize their efficiency.
- Lingual braces may be more expensive than other types of braces.
- They can cause considerable discomfort, especially at first.
- They can give you a temporary lisp.
- They may take longer than conventional braces.
Lingual braces can be a good option if you need braces but don’t want them to be obvious. Because they’re attached to the backsides of your teeth, they aren’t as visible as conventional braces.
Depending on costs in your area and your particular dental needs, lingual braces could cost more than ordinary braces, and your treatment time might also be a little longer.
You should expect some pain while your tongue gets used to the brackets, and you should be prepared for a slight lisp for the first few weeks or months of treatment.
The best way to determine whether lingual braces are a good option for you is to meet with an orthodontist. They can analyze your teeth and recommend the best line of treatment for you.