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 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. To avoid breaking your ceramic braces, avoid eating any crunchy foods or hard candies.
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 afterward 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 backside 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 an 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, as they blend in 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 a clear choice!
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 reliable, effective orthodontic care that discreetly blends with your smile, they are likely an excellent choice for you!