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Introduction to Lingual Braces: What You Need to Know

By 21st February 2024April 30th, 2024One Comment

Lingual braces, a discreet alternative to traditional braces, have garnered attention for their ability to treat orthodontic issues without compromising aesthetic appeal. 

But what exactly are lingual braces? They are custom-made, fixed braces attached to the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth. This placement means they are hidden from view, offering a cosmetic advantage particularly appealing to those in professional careers or anyone keen on maintaining a natural look throughout their orthodontic journey.

Pros and Cons of Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are positioned on the backside of the teeth and offer an invisible solution for those self-conscious about wearing braces, making them particularly attractive to adults and teenagers in professional or social settings. 

The custom-made nature of lingual braces ensures a precise fit for each tooth, enhancing comfort and optimising the treatment’s effectiveness. This personalisation allows precise control over tooth movement, addressing complex dental issues with the same efficacy as their front-facing counterparts. 

Moreover, the risk of discolouration or white spots on the front of the teeth, a common concern with traditional braces, is significantly reduced, preserving the natural appearance of the smile during treatment.

Despite these advantages, lingual braces come with certain drawbacks. The initial adjustment period can be challenging for some, as the braces may cause discomfort and a temporary speech impediment until the wearer acclimates to their presence. Some patients might experience irritation or pain due to the proximity of the braces to the tongue, although this usually diminishes over time as one gets used to the braces.

Oral hygiene becomes more complex due to the placement of the braces, necessitating more effort and potentially special tools to maintain cleanliness and prevent dental issues. 

Additionally, the cost of lingual braces is typically higher than traditional braces, attributed to the customisation and specialised application required. 

The complexity of adjusting and maintaining these braces also means longer appointments with the orthodontist, which could be a consideration for those with tight schedules.

Another factor to consider is suitability; lingual braces might not be recommended for all orthodontic cases, particularly those with severe misalignments or specific dental and oral health challenges. 

Suitability and Consultation

Determining the suitability for lingual braces involves a thorough consultation with an experienced orthodontist, who will assess various factors, including the complexity of the dental issues, the size and shape of the teeth, and the overall oral health of the patient. Not all patients are ideal candidates for lingual braces; for instance, those with tiny teeth or certain types of bite problems may find other orthodontic treatments more practical or comfortable. 

During the consultation, the orthodontist will also discuss the patient’s preferences and treatment goals to ensure that lingual braces are a viable and desirable option. This personalised assessment is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan that addresses the patient’s specific needs while setting realistic expectations about the treatment’s outcomes, duration, and cost with lingual braces.

The Treatment Process

The treatment process for lingual braces begins with a consultation and examination by an orthodontist to ensure the patient is a suitable candidate. Following this, impressions or digital scans of the teeth will be taken to customise the brackets and wires for the individual’s dental anatomy. This customisation process is critical for ensuring that the braces fit perfectly on the teeth’ lingual (tongue-side) surfaces. 

Once the custom appliances are ready, the orthodontist carefully bonds them to the back of the teeth, a procedure that requires skill and precision due to the braces’ unique placement. 

Throughout the treatment, regular follow-up appointments are necessary for adjustments to the braces, allowing the orthodontist to monitor progress and make any changes required to the wires to guide the teeth into their correct positions. 

The duration of treatment with lingual braces varies depending on the complexity of the dental issues being addressed but generally aligns with that of traditional braces, ranging from 18 to 36 months. During this time, patients may need to adapt to the presence of the braces in terms of speech and oral hygiene, with the end goal being a straighter, more aligned smile achieved through a virtually invisible orthodontic solution.

Living with Lingual Braces

Living with lingual braces requires an adjustment period, as their placement on the back of the teeth can initially affect speech and cause some discomfort or irritation to the tongue. However, most patients adapt to these changes within a few weeks. 

Oral hygiene becomes more critical and challenging, as the location of the braces makes cleaning around the brackets and wires more difficult. Patients must be diligent in their oral care routine, using specialised tools such as interdental brushes and water flossers to maintain cleanliness and prevent plaque buildup. 

Dietary adjustments are also necessary to avoid damaging the braces. Patients should consume hard, sticky, and chewy foods with utmost caution. 

Regular appointments with the orthodontist are essential for adjustments and to monitor progress. 

Despite these challenges, many find the aesthetic and long-term benefits of lingual braces—achieving a straight, beautiful smile without the visible appearance of braces—worth the initial inconvenience. With proper care and adaptation, living with lingual braces becomes a manageable part of daily life, leading to a rewarding outcome.

Care Tips

  • Brush Regularly and Thoroughly: Use a soft-bristled or an electric toothbrush to clean around each bracket and wire at least twice daily. Patients can also brush after every meal to remove food particles and plaque. Angle the brush towards the gum line and the braces to clean all surfaces effectively.
  • Floss Daily: Flossing with lingual braces can be challenging but is crucial for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. Use a floss threader or orthodontic floss to navigate the floss behind the wires and between the teeth. Water flossers are also an excellent alternative, offering an easier way to clean between the teeth and around the braces.
  • Use Interdental Brushes: These small brushes are perfect for cleaning around the brackets and wires where regular toothbrushes might not reach. They can help remove plaque and food debris lodged in tight spaces.
  • Rinse with Fluoride Mouthwash: Using fluoride mouthwash once daily can help reduce the risk of tooth decay and strengthen enamel.
  • Avoid Certain Foods: Hard, sticky, and chewy foods can damage lingual braces. Avoid items like popcorn, nuts, candies, and gum. Also, minimise sugary and starchy foods that can lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay.
  • Protect Your Braces: If you play sports, consider using a mouthguard to protect your braces and mouth from injury.
  • Schedule Regular Orthodontic Appointments: Regular visits to your orthodontist are essential for adjusting and monitoring your progress. These appointments are also an opportunity to address any concerns or issues.
  • Practise Good Oral Hygiene Habits: Maintaining excellent oral hygiene is even more critical with lingual braces due to their placement. Be diligent about cleaning every part of your mouth, including your gums, to prevent inflammation and infection.

Aftercare and Retention

Following the removal of lingual braces, the aftercare and retention phase begins, which plays a pivotal role in ensuring the longevity and stability of the results of the orthodontic treatment. 

This stage is crucial because, after orthodontic treatment, teeth naturally tend to shift back to their original positions, a phenomenon known as relapse. To counteract this, orthodontists employ retainers, devices designed to maintain the teeth in their corrected positions. 

Retainers come in two primary forms: fixed retainers, which consist of a thin wire bonded behind the teeth, and removable retainers, which can be either Hawley retainers (with metal wires and acrylic) or clear plastic retainers similar to Invisalign trays. The choice between fixed and removable retainers depends on the specific needs and lifestyle of the patient, as well as the orthodontist’s recommendation.

The importance of adhering to the prescribed retainer schedule cannot be overstated. Initially, removable retainers may need to be worn almost continuously, except for eating and brushing, transitioning to only during nighttime as advised by the orthodontist. On the other hand, fixed retainers offer a “set it and forget it” solution but require diligent oral hygiene to prevent plaque buildup around the wire.

Oral hygiene remains paramount during the retention phase. Patients must continue to brush and floss meticulously, paying extra attention to cleaning around and beneath retainers. Good oral hygiene is especially vital for those with fixed retainers, as neglect can lead to dental issues such as cavities and gum disease. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings, along with periodic visits to the orthodontist, are essential to monitor the teeth and gums’ health and ensure retainers are functioning as intended.

Moreover, patients with removable retainers should handle and store them properly to avoid damage or loss. It’s advisable to keep them in a designated case when not in use and to avoid exposing them to heat, which could warp the material. Over time, retainers may wear out or require adjustment; hence, any changes in fit or comfort should prompt a visit to the orthodontist for assessment and potential replacement.

Choosing the Right Orthodontist

Choosing the right orthodontist for lingual braces is a critical decision that requires careful consideration. Look for an orthodontist with specialised training and extensive experience in lingual orthodontics, as this treatment requires specific skills that differ from those needed for traditional braces. It’s beneficial to seek recommendations from friends, family, or dental professionals and to research online reviews and testimonials from previous patients. 

During initial consultations, assess the orthodontist’s willingness to answer your questions and ability to provide a detailed treatment plan.

Additionally, consider the orthodontist’s office location and hours, the comfort and technology of their office, and the friendliness of their staff. 

Finally, ensure that the orthodontist is transparent about the costs, financing options, and what is included in the treatment package. Selecting an orthodontist who makes you feel comfortable and confident about your treatment choice is paramount to a successful and satisfactory lingual braces experience.

So, is Lingual Braces the One for You?

Lingual braces stand out as a revolutionary orthodontic solution that combines the effectiveness of traditional braces with the discretion modern patients often seek. Despite the initial adjustment period and the meticulous oral hygiene required, the aesthetic and psychological benefits of lingual braces make them a worthwhile investment for those prioritising discretion.

The customisation of lingual braces to fit each tooth precisely enhances comfort and ensures efficient and effective treatment outcomes. While the cost and potential challenges associated with lingual braces, such as discomfort and a more complex cleaning routine, may deter some, for many, these factors do not overshadow the prospect of achieving a beautifully aligned smile without compromising one’s appearance during treatment.

Ultimately, the decision to opt for lingual braces should be made after a thorough consultation with an experienced orthodontist, who can provide detailed insights into the suitability, process, and expectations of the treatment. As orthodontic technologies continue to advance, lingual braces represent a significant step in making orthodontic treatment more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, ensuring that patients no longer have to choose between effective treatment and aesthetic concerns.

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