Self-Ligating Braces vs Normal Braces

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 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.

Do self-ligating braces need to be tightened?

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 colors” for the braces, which many patients enjoy!

Disadvantages of self-ligating braces

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 causes the brackets to continually open and close.This may cause them to fail (and need replacing) more often than traditional brackets, which can blow out treatment time.
  • 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.

Difference between Self-Ligating and Traditional Braces

Self-ligating braces don’t use elastic bands – so these don’t need replacing! However, your orthodontist may still need to adjust or tighten your archwire periodically to ensure it’s applying the correct pressure to your teeth, and that they’re moving in the right direction. You should still expect to come in for adjustments every four to ten weeks or so.

The main disadvantage of self-ligating brackets is that patients are often unable to choose new colors. Although most orthodontists who prefer to routinely use self-ligating brackets will still stock colors for you to choose! Please just ask your specialist orthodontist or their staff at your consultation and at your adjustment appointments.

In summary, an orthodontic bracket acts as a “door handle on each tooth” upon which pressure can be applied to efficiently and effectively move the teeth. The 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 specialist knowledge and clinical experience of your orthodontic practitioner!

Disclaimer: Self-ligating braces as a treatment method are still being investigated for their efficacy, but have not currently been proven to make treatments faster or better for all patients. Registered specialist orthodontists in Australia are committed to continuous research through qualitative and quantitative 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.

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