You may have heard of self-ligating braces – a different orthodontic bracket that provides orthodontic treatment in much the same way as traditional metal braces. Despite popular belief, self-ligating braces have not currently been scientifically proven to make treatment faster, but just how do self-ligating braces work, what’s the difference between the two types, and crucially – should you consider getting them?
Here’s what you need to know about self-ligating braces.
There two types of self-ligating brackets.
- Active brackets use a sliding spring clip mechanism to “actively” press against the archwire, applying an active force.
- Passive brackets use a simple sliding mechanism which does not press on the archwire.
Traditional braces require adjustments every four to ten weeks in order for them to continue applying the correct pressure to your teeth. In these appointments, your orthodontist will also replace the elastic or wire ligatures affixing your brackets to your archwires and the wires themselves may need to be replaced, adjusted, or tightened. Changing the o-rings or elastic chain also allows patients to choose “new colours” for the braces, which many patients enjoy!
Self-ligating braces still need to be monitored to ensure that the clip or door in the bracket is intact and still functioning well. Patients with self-ligating brackets still require the placement of small archwire bends to straighten the teeth and/or placement of elastic ligatures to close residual space or keep unwanted spaces from opening during their orthodontic treatment. All of these procedures are still technically “tightening” the braces.
Self-litigating braces have a number of reported benefits, namely :
- Hygiene. One of the key benefits of a self-ligating braces is that they don’t tend to require any ligatures to secure the archwire in place. Generally made from elastic, ligatures may trap more food particles in and around the orthodontic brackets. Ligature-free braces, may in theory, catch less particles, however, they still need to be cleaned thoroughly just like any other braces to avoid problems.
- Aesthetics. Depending upon their size and design, self-ligating may be slightly less visible, a significant selling point for the self-conscious teenager (not to mention, many self-conscious adults).
- Convenience. Self-litigating braces may sometimes require fewer appointments than traditional braces, potentially offering the promise of timesaving convenience for busy patients. However, this is completely dependent upon the patient’s individual treatment requirements.
Self-ligating braces are a promising new technology. But they have two key disadvantages. These include:
- Bracket issues. The sliding mechanism in self-ligating braces must be to opened and closed many times during a patient’s treatment. Any moving part can give problems and may need replacement (compared to traditional brackets). It also depends on how well you treat your braces by avoiding hard and sticky foods!
- Tooth and gum problems. As with traditional braces, self-ligating braces make it harder to keep your teeth squeaky clean – though the lack of elastic bands does make access to your teeth and gums a little easier. Still, compromised brushing and flossing means trapped food particles can build up, causing tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. Therefore all braces, self-ligating or not, require meticulous oral hygiene to avoid dental and gum problems.
While prices always vary, self-ligating braces may cost slightly more than conventional ones – often by around $1000.
Ultimately, scientific evidence shows that the type of bracket attached to your tooth (i.e. self-ligating or traditional bracket) makes little difference to your overall treatment outcomes. What makes a much greater difference is the knowledge and clinical experience of your specialist orthodontist!
Self-ligating braces as a treatment method are still being investigated for their efficacy, but have not currently been proven to make treatments faster, better or more comfortable for all patients. Registered specialist orthodontists in Australia are committed to continuous research through well-controlled studies and continue to make treatment decisions based on best practice advice and patient outcomes. We recommend always consulting an orthodontist prior to commencing any form of orthodontic treatment and getting a second opinion if you’re unsure about the recommendation made to you. You can find an orthodontist in your area using our handy Finder tool.