Braces or veneers: which one works for you?

We all want pearly white chompers – a nice set of straight, shapely teeth that shine pleasantly when we smile. But for many people, getting them can require more than a toothbrush, regular flossing and mouthwash. What’s the difference between veneers, clear aligners and the three main types of braces? And which, if any, of these products might be right for you? In this article we look at five products that might be able to help your mouth go the extra mile.

What are dental veneers?

The “quick fix” of the dental world, veneers are thin, white wafers of ceramic or porcelain attached to the outer side of your teeth. Perfect for chipped, discoloured or ground-down teeth, they can camouflage all manner of minor orthodontic problems without necessarily solving them. While they may help you get the appearance of straight teeth, veneers are a form of cosmetic dentistry applied in your dentist’s office and not an orthodontic treatment.

What are the pros and cons of veneers?

The chief advantage of veneers is that they can immediately transform your smile. They’re also great to cover up slightly crooked teeth, or fill in unsightly gaps, as they can be individually coloured and shaped in a way that matches up with the rest of your teeth.

Advantage number two is that the porcelain version is, on the whole, quite resistant to staining. Daily brushing is still essential, of course – but (not being porous like enamel), veneers are less likely than veneer-free teeth to be discoloured by coffee or wine.

The third main appeal of veneers is that putting them in is generally quick. Most veneers can be made and fitted within a couple of weeks.

The main downside of veneers, on the other hand, is that they don’t address underlying alignment issues that can come along with crooked teeth, which may lead to uneven wear over time. They’re also a permanent change. Because attaching them to your teeth involves irreversibly removing some enamel, although you can “take them off” later, you can’t grow the enamel back!.

On top of being a permanent change, veneers are also quite pricey. Any given veneer or porcelain “wafer” tends to cost over $1,000, which adds up if you’re tackling multiple teeth. What’s worse, is that you’ll probably need to replace them at some stage too.

The final “con” is that, since getting a veneer involves losing enamel, your teeth may suddenly become a lot more sensitive to hot and cold foods. This can be quite an unpleasant sensation, but it typically subsides over time.

What are braces?

A dental standard for over a century, braces work to straighten crooked teeth or correct misaligned bites, by placing constant pressure on each tooth to move in a certain direction.

While veneers can solve some cosmetic problems, like brown, chipped or broken teeth, braces are designed for more serious “engineering” issues – like overbites, underbites, overcrowding, gaps, general crookedness  and can help fix an “incorrectly shaped” jaw with other fixed appliances or techniques.  

What’s the difference between metal, ceramic, and lingual braces?

By far the most common type of braces, metal braces tend to involve stainless steel brackets attached to the front teeth, plus some sort of wire or elastic band. They can’t be taken out by hand, and typically need to stay in your mouth for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

Also known as “clear braces”, ceramic braces work in the same way as metal ones, but – being made from a more tooth-coloured material – tend to be bit more discreet.

So-called because they’re near the tongue, lingual braces are attached to the inside of the teeth, to be hidden from view. They can be a bit harder to get used to, harder to clean and can affect speech due to your tongue’s placement.

What are clear aligners?

Closely resembling a very thin plastic mouthguard, clear aligners are a series of transparent trays that work gradually to straighten your teeth. But, there are some issues that cannot be fixed easily with only clear aligners. Able to be taken when you eat, they’re designed to slowly, gently and almost invisibly nudge your teeth into better positions.

Aligners are great for a “touch up” or a very minor fix. Patients need to change to the next aligner as prescribed every one to two weeks. The most important things are how well your aligner treatment is planned out by your orthodontist and that you wear the aligners at least 22 hours a day.

Although more complex cases can be treated by aligners too, the outcome may not be as predictable as using braces. Your specialist orthodontist will be able to determine the best and most predictable treatment option for your individual case.

What is the difference in the cost of veneers, braces and clear aligners?

There is not a fixed service fee for orthodontic treatment in Australia.

This means that prices will vary depending on several factors including the duration of your treatment, the severity of your malocclusion, your treatment type, and your chosen orthodontist’s operating fees.

Average prices in Australia can vary by state, however, standard braces treatment may cost anywhere from $6000 – $9000 for a full 18–24-month treatment period.

Whether you’re looking to get metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces, or have your heart set on a series of clear aligners, there will be variations in cost depending on which option you go for.

This is due to the cost of the materials and the amount of customisation required.

For example, while metal braces and lingual braces might use similar materials and methodology to straighten your teeth, lingual braces generally need to be custom-made to ensure they fit snugly along the inside of your teeth to limit the impact on your speech.

Standard metal braces, on the other hand, use pre-formed brackets and archwires that come in a variety of sizes which the orthodontist then selects and custom fits for each individual patient.

Can you put braces on veneers?

Yes. While braces may not adhere as well to porcelain as they might to regular enamel, it is entirely possible to fix them onto teeth with veneers. However, it would be recommended that you first undergo orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth and align your jaws before considering veneers to maintain the integrity of your teeth and gums.

How should you decide whether to get veneers, braces or clear aligners?

The answer to this question will need to come from your orthodontist – but it essentially depends on the nature of the problem that you are trying to solve.

If your teeth “work” fine but could look better, then veneers might be the right move for you. If your teeth are essentially straight, but could perhaps be straighter still, a clear aligner option may be worth exploring. If your teeth issues are more serious, then more predictable measures may be called for, such as braces.

Before commencing any form of orthodontic or cosmetic dental procedure it is important that you consult a specialist to understand the options that are available to you, as well as any additional risks or considerations.

Use our Finder Tool to search for a specialist orthodontist near you.

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