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Ceramic Braces vs Metal Braces: Cost, Pros & Cons, Pictures, FAQs

Written by: Dr. Laura Edwards, Orthodontist

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Oleg Drut, Orthodontist and Diamond Braces CCO

Date: October 8, 2020

What are Ceramic Braces?

Patient smiling with clear braces

Ceramic braces, also called clear braces, use clear or tooth-colored brackets made of polycrystalline alumina that blend in with the teeth, making them subtler and less noticeable than metal braces. The connecting wire can also be tooth-colored to further decrease the visibility of ceramic braces.

Ceramic braces are often preferred over metal braces by older teens and working professional adults who want to straighten their teeth without the appearance of metal braces.

They tend to stain more easily, due to the lighter color of the brackets, so avoiding dark beverages like coffee and red wine is important. In addition, they generally cost more than traditional metal braces, usually between $4,000 and $7,000.

How Much Do Ceramic Braces Cost?

When all costs are calculated, including pre-treatment x-rays, office visits, and retainers, ceramic braces generally cost between $4,000 and $7,000.

This is a higher cost than traditional metal braces, which run between $1,700 to $6,000. They are generally less than the cost of Invisalign clear aligners, another discreet orthodontic treatment.

Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get your ceramic braces covered, at least partially. Due to higher costs than metal braces, the out-of-pocket expenses will likely also be higher when compared to traditional metal braces.

Finally, seek an orthodontic provider that offer flexible monthly payment plans, which make paying for ceramic or clear braces much more manageable by breaking payments into low monthly portions.

In sum: ceramic braces tend to cost a bit more than traditional metal braces, but less than Invisalign clear aligners. If you’re looking to straighten your teeth discreetly and with minimal disruption to your smile, ceramic braces may be worth the higher price point.

Ceramic Braces vs Traditional Metal Braces

Clear Braces on a Plastic Model Metal Braces on a Plastic Model

Ceramic braces and metal braces use a similar design to achieve straight teeth and a healthy smile, but the major difference is the material the brackets are made from.

Metal braces use brackets made of medical-grade stainless steel, while ceramic braces use a polycrystalline alumina that can either be clear or the same color as your tooth. The stainless steel is extremely noticeable against the white of your teeth, so ceramic brackets are appealing for their discreet appearance. They are also called clear braces, since the brackets can be transparent.

The flexible metal archwire that connects the brackets can also be made of a lighter color for ceramic braces, including white, silver, or a frosted tone that matches the brackets. The combination of tooth-colored brackets and archwire means that your ceramic braces may be nearly invisible to others, which makes this option popular for working adults or college students who want straight teeth without the “metal mouth” look.

There are genuine cosmetic benefits to ceramic braces, but there are also drawbacks when compared to metal braces. Ceramic braces are less durable than metal braces, as the bracket material isn’t as strong as stainless steel. Studies have found clear/ceramic braces are more than twice as likely to break off or fracture as metal brackets. This makes care and compliance extremely important: you can’t eat any crunchy foods or hard candies with ceramic braces, for risk of breaking.

Ceramic brackets are also more likely to stain, due to their lighter color. Ceramic or clear braces users should limit their intake of dark foods and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, ketchup, curries, etc. All of these can stain or discolor the clear or tooth-colored brackets. As a solution, you can drink through a straw or brush your teeth immediately afterwards to reduce the risk of staining.

If ceramic braces are placed on lower front teeth, the bracket can cause wear and tear of the enamel on the back side of the upper row of teeth when biting or chewing food, due to the abrasive nature of the material from which they are constructed. For certain patients, especially those with excessive overbite, it may be more effective to get metal braces on the bottom teeth.

Finally, another big difference is cost: ceramic or clear braces almost always cost more than metal braces, due to the more delicate, expensive material the brackets are made from. Ceramic braces cost between $3,000 and $7,000, whereas metal brackets cost between $1,700 to $6,000. This price includes the appliance, the cost of in-office visits to the orthodontist, and follow-up care like retainers.

To summarize: the biggest advantage of ceramic/clear braces is the discreet, subtle appearance, since they blend in so seamlessly with your smile. While there are certain disadvantages that may make metal braces more attractive, for many people, this cosmetic feature is the most important, so ceramic braces are the clear choice!

Pros & Cons

Ceramic Braces: Pros

      • Discreet clear or tooth-colored brackets are nearly invisible to others

      • Same effective, reliable technology as metal braces

      • Increased confidence from improved smile without the “metal mouth” look

      • Lower cost than Invisalign clear aligners for a similarly discreet look

      • May be more comfortable than metal braces, smoother feel of brackets

Ceramic Braces: Cons

      • More delicate and more likely to break than metal brackets

      • Higher cost than metal braces

      • More likely to stain due to lighter colored brackets

      • May cause damage to the top teeth when worn on the bottom teeth

What Conditions Do Ceramic Braces Treat?

Ceramic braces use the same technology as metal braces: the clear or tooth-colored brackets are affixed to the teeth, connected by a flexible archwire. Your orthodontist will carefully re-align the teeth into their proper positions by tightening and adjusting the wire.

There are many different kinds of orthodontic conditions that can be corrected with ceramic braces: these are called malocclusions. Each one requires careful planning and expertise to treat, so be sure to seek out an expert orthodontist with a demonstrated record of success achieving healthy smiles.

Common malocclusions treatable with ceramic braces include: excessive overjet, overbite, gaps between teeth, crossbite, or crowded teeth. Remember that treatment may take longer with ceramic or clear braces, due to the delicate material used in the brackets, but you can expect reliable results with ceramic braces, under the supervision of an experienced orthodontist.

Who should get ceramic braces?

Example of clear brackets before being bonded at the orthodontist's office Girl smiling with clear braces

If you are interested in straightening your teeth but don’t want the look of metal braces, ceramic braces are a great option. They are preferable to metal braces for many older teens and adults, who want a discreet orthodontic option. For working professionals or college students, ceramic or clear braces provide all the effectiveness of metal braces, without the “metal mouth” appearance that we often attribute to younger teens.

Because ceramic braces stain more easily, they are best for those responsible enough to avoid certain foods and beverages and care for their braces properly. And due to their higher price point, those interested in ceramic braces should consider whether it is worth the cost for the benefit of discreet treatment.

Ceramic or clear braces aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a reliable, effective orthodontic care that discreetly blends with your smile, they are likely an excellent choice for you!

Before and After 

Treatment with Ceramic Braces: During Treatment After treatment with clear braces