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A guide to Lingual Braces

People say that once someone has looked into your eyes, the next feature they focus on is your teeth. So your pearly whites are pretty important when it comes to making a first impression.

Celebrities (and more importantly, their PR people) all realised this a long time ago. It’s unlikely you’ll switch on the television these days without seeing a perfect set of teeth smiling back at you. A little cosmetic dentistry is simply de rigueur for a diva, darling.

But what about the likes of you and me? How do we get the Hollywood smile? And more importantly, can we afford it?

Lingual Braces: your questions answered

If you’re not happy with your smile, Lingual Braces could be the answer to your prayers. But first, you’ll need some important questions answered too. No good planning to dazzle people with your smile if you’re already blinded by too much information, is there?

Let’s start at the beginning then. Braces?

Braces are used to help encourage teeth to grow straight. They apply continuous, gentle pressure to the teeth that makes them move gradually back into their proper position. So braces can help with gaps, crowding, rotated teeth and ‘bad bites’. The end result is that your teeth will look much better and grow more naturally.

Sounds like a slow, awkward process?         

To be honest, it can be. Most people wear braces for 12-24 months.  Braces are usually formed of metal brackets and arch wires that hold the brackets in place.  So yes, you’ll know they’re there, alright.

Ok. Lingual Braces?

Lingual Braces function in exactly the same way as other, more traditional fixed braces. But there is one important, aesthetic difference. You won’t have a shiny, metal smile. The problem used to be that braces could only be fitted a certain way: right smack-bang on the front of your teeth (not to put too fine a point on it). The difference with Lingual Braces is that they can be fitted to the back of your teeth, rather than the front. So while they work just as effectively (and do just the same job), most of the heavy-duty metal work is concealed

So I won’t look like Ugly Betty?

No.

Is it fair to say, then, that the benefits of Lingual Braces are mainly cosmetic?

It is. Traditional braces do exactly the same job. But, that isn’t to say that Lingual Braces are an exercise in vanity. Especially for adults, the invisibility of Lingual Braces can be important in work and social situations. If you are interacting with people on a day-to-day basis, Lingual Braces help to ensure that you maintain your confidence and act naturally. Whether that’s an important presentation, a job interview, a date or a conversation with someone you’ve just met, it makes a real difference. 

How old is too old for lingual braces?

You’re never too old to look good! Most people imagine that if you haven’t corrected your teeth during childhood, you’ve missed your chance. But that just isn’t true. Braces can make a difference to people of all ages. That’s also one of the reasons why products like Lingual Braces are such a success. While more and more adults want the perfect smile, they also want to carry on with their normal lifestyle too. Invisible braces help you to do that.

Are Lingual Braces very difficult to fit?

You would imagine that fitting braces to the back of your teeth would be a tough, uncomfortable job. However, advances in dental technology mean that fitting Lingual Braces is a very straightforward procedure. It usually only requires two trips to the dentist. The only problem is that there are a relatively small number of dental surgeries that are equipped to do the procedure.

What does the process involve?

On your first visit, the dentist takes impressions of your teeth using a plastic mould. This mould is then sent to a laboratory where customised brackets for each tooth are made. To keep the brackets in shape, they are set in wax and kept in a plastic applicator. A little bit like letting a jelly set.

The second visit involves applying cement to the back of the teeth. By now, imagine the jelly has set firmly and once the brackets are cemented in place, the plastic applicator can be broken away. Finally, the orthodontist installs the arch wire, which provides the gentle tension that keeps on pulling the teeth into place.

Anything you aren’t telling me?

Well, every patient is different and some procedures and corrections can be far more complex than others. In some cases, although this is usually rare, patients need some teeth extracted so that other teeth can grow naturally.

Similarly, it may be necessary for you at some stage during the treatment, to wear headgear and/or elastics, just to apply some extra pressure to get your teeth moving in the right direction. Headgear is usually worn in the evenings and at night while elastics are worn inside the mouth, usually all the time. Your dentist will give you more detail on any additional treatments proposed.

Once the active phase of your treatment has been finished, it is also necessary to wear a retaining brace. This may be removable or it may be fixed behind your front teeth. The length of time this has to be worn can vary. As usual, you will find out more by asking your dentist or your orthodontist.

What’s the first step?

It’s important to talk to your dentist. As we mentioned above, there are a relatively small number of dental practices that are equipped to provide Lingual Braces. However, virtually any dentist can fit traditional braces and pretty much every patient can wear them. Therefore, as well as thinking about the aesthetic benefits, you may also want to consider issues such as accessibility of treatment, timescales and cost.

It is also worth considering how wearing fixed braces will affect your lifestyle. Think about the kinds of things you enjoy doing and whether they would be affected. This could help you decide on the kind of treatment or procedure you need.

Ok. So how will Lingual Braces affect my lifestyle?

Because Lingual Braces are fitted to the inside surface of your teeth, they can take a little bit longer to adjust to – as you can probably imagine. With traditional braces, where the metal is attached to the front of the teeth, there is less chance of food getting trapped in awkward places or of catching your tongue on the brace itself. Lingual Braces, with the metal on the back of your teeth, will probably just take a couple of extra days before you are comfortable.

As in other areas of dentistry, new products and approaches are being developed all the time. Modern, low-profile Lingual Brackets are another step forward in reducing the effect to eating and speech and making braces much more comfortable to wear.

Will I be able to eat properly?

You should be able to eat normally but you will have to apply some common sense. No sticky toffees or chewing gum, obviously. No hard foods like crunchy apples or crusty bread. And definitely no fizzy drinks. Too much fruit juice can harm your braces as well.

While we’re on the subject, best to stop biting your nails and chewing those pen tops too.

What about sports?

If you are involved in contact sports it does not mean that you cannot have brace treatment. However, it is recommended you wear a mouth guard. Wearing a mouth guard should also be considered for riding a bicycle, roller-skating, or skateboarding. Any questions, ask your dentist and they will usually be happy to advise on do’s and don’ts.

What if I play a musical instrument?

If you play a wind instrument, particularly the flute or a brass instrument, then a fixed brace may make it more difficult. However, as your mouth grows accustomed to your Lingual Braces, then it will become easier.

So I might not be able to learn the saxophone?

Probably not, no.

It sounds like a daft question, but is it easy to talk wearing Lingual Braces?

Sometimes, Lingual Braces can affect your speech too. Some people develop a slight lisp or struggle forming particular words, but they soon adapt. Once again, it isn’t normally a big issue; it simply means giving your mouth time to adjust.

In fact, because a good smile is so important for a television career, celebrities such as newsreaders and presenters have worn Lingual Braces on air. That shows how invisible they are – and also individuals can quickly adapt to their new braces.

What can I expect once my Lingual Braces are fitted?

As we mentioned, you can expect to take some time to get used to them, usually 1-4 weeks. But there is no rush - most people generally wear their braces for between 1 and 3 years until they see positive, visible results. In that first four weeks, you might experience some mild discomfort. Plus, some actions that you normally take for granted, such as chewing and swallowing, may require some more thought.

It is hard to imagine wearing braces for so long. How do I look after them?

Your dentist will probably recommend regular visits to the Hygienist. Because Lingual Braces are attached to the back of your teeth, food can more easily become trapped there.

You will soon learn which foods are easier to eat and which are more difficult. You will probably find it is worthwhile brushing your teeth after every meal and investing in an electronic toothbrush might be an idea. A daily fluoride mouth rinse should also be used last thing at night to further protect the teeth.

Of course, your brace isn’t indestructible. Especially if you are involved in sports, it can be broken and you may need a new one fitted. These things happen. What is most important is that you talk to your dentist as soon as possible and get a new one fitted. This will ensure that you do not disrupt your treatment or damage your teeth.

Last but not least, what about cost?

It’s no good repairing your teeth without knowing what the damage might be to your pocket. Compared to traditional braces, Lingual Braces are more expensive for a number of reasons. Firstly, the procedure requires specialised training in the development of customised brackets – so it calls for extra investment on the part of the orthodontist.

Secondly, Lingual Braces also make use of customized lingual brackets designed using the very latest CAD/CAM laboratory technology. As you’d expect, this also adds to the cost.

Finally, every patient is different so it is difficult to put an exact cost on treatment. A quick Google on the internet will probably give you a ballpark figure of between £3000 and £5000. But, as there are so many variables, the best approach is to speak to your dentist about your particular circumstances and requirements, and obtain a personal quotation.

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