What Are Self-Ligating Braces? Overview & Cost

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Table of Contents

  1. How Self-Ligating Braces Work
  2. Pros & Cons
  3. Care Instructions
  4. Cost of Self-Ligating Braces
  5. Other Treatment Options

Self-ligating braces use a special system of pre-tensioned wires and brackets that do not need bands or ligatures to tighten the wire to the teeth. This system uses less pressure to align teeth, and it can take less time to straighten teeth than with traditional braces.

Self-ligating braces are less visible than traditional braces. They are also more expensive, costing about $4,572 on average for the system. Porcelain and ceramic brackets will increase the price.

They aren’t the best choice for everyone. In some instances, traditional braces or another orthodontic treatment may be preferred.

How Do Self-Ligating Braces Work?

Self-ligating braces are similar in many respects to traditional braces with brackets and wires. While the brackets are attached to the teeth, and the system uses wires to tighten and align teeth, a metal door on the bracket holds the arch wire in place rather than a rubber band.

The system is more comfortable than traditional bracket braces, according to people who have worn them, and they are less visible than traditional braces. The brackets and wires on these braces can be tooth-colored. They can be made from ceramic or porcelain, as the wires exert less pressure, reducing the risk of cracking or damage to the bracket material. However, traditional self-ligating braces are made from stainless steel. You may also have a wire band encircling the back of your teeth on this system.

One popular system of self-ligating braces are called Damon braces, which are less visible than traditional braces. They use less force to adjust the alignment of your teeth than traditional braces. Other self-ligating braces systems have similar benefits and disadvantages.

The Pros & Cons of Self-Ligating Braces

A self-ligating braces system uses a pre-tensioned arch wire that is attached to a bracket on the teeth rather than using a rubber band or ligature to tighten a wire to a bracket and adjust as needed.

Some upsides of self-ligating braces include:

  • Smaller or clear brackets, which make them harder to see, thus improving appearance.

  • Faster treatment, usually around seven months to complete.

  • Fewer office visits due to wires needing less adjustment.

  • Less pressure and pain compared to traditional brackets.

  • Less friction that leads to tooth erosion.

  • Less plaque and bacteria buildup since there are fewer materials in your mouth.

There are some downsides to self-ligating brackets, such as:

  • Metal wires might be seen in your mouth even if your brackets are clear or tooth-colored.

  • Your lips, the sides of your mouth, and gums might get irritated as you adjust to the orthodontic devices in your mouth.

  • They are more expensive compared to other orthodontic options.

There are many different approaches to orthodontic treatment, so your dentist may not recommend self-ligating braces. If you are curious about this option, discuss it (among other potential treatments) for aligning your smile.

On average self-ligating braces treatment can range between 12 to 30 months.

Care Instructions

Since self-ligating braces still involve brackets and wires, you will need to take special care of them while you have them on. Care instructions include:

  • Rinse with water or water/mouthwash before brushing your teeth to loosen any food that might be in your braces.

  • Alternatively, use a gentle setting on a water flosser to loosen food.

  • Get a toothbrush designed for braces and brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

  • Carefully brush every tooth around the bracket and at the gumline.

  • Floss between your teeth as thoroughly as possible around the wires, without loosening them.

  • Consider using a water flosser on a higher setting to dislodge remaining food and plaque.

  • Swish with mouthwash after brushing and flossing to improve overall oral health and cleanliness.

The Cost of Self-Ligating Braces

Although self-ligating braces are less visible and more comfortable compared to traditional braces, they are more expensive. The cost can vary depending on which type of bracket you choose. For example, stainless steel brackets will be less expensive than porcelain or ceramic brackets.

It is about $4,572 on average for a self-ligating braces system. If you opt for porcelain or ceramic brackets, the cost will increase. On average, porcelain or ceramic bracket braces can cost between $2,000 and $8,500.

You may save some money overall since self-ligating braces typically require less time than traditional braces to move teeth. This means fewer visits to the dentist to have them tightened, and this can reduce the overall cost. Your best bet is to ask your orthodontist for a cost comparison between traditional braces and self-ligating braces.

Your dental insurance may cover up to half of the cost of self-ligating braces. Many dental insurance companies that cover orthodontic treatment for adults are more likely to cover traditional braces, and they may consider other options cosmetic rather than medically necessary. If you have a health savings plan attached to your dental insurance or an employee savings plan through your employer, you may be able to apply some of this funding to self-ligating braces rather than traditional braces.

Self-ligating braces are also not the most expensive option for orthodontic treatment. Lingual braces, for example, are between $5,000 and $13,000, depending on how long treatment takes. You will also have a harder time finding an orthodontist who recommends and installs lingual braces.

Clear plastic aligners through your orthodontist or dentist are also likely to cost around $5,000, even though they are harder to see than self-ligating braces. At-home, mail-order aligners are significantly less expensive.

Other Orthodontics Treatment Options

Some medical studies have found that self-ligating braces are not inherently more effective than other systems at aligning teeth. You may consider other approaches, either for cost or appearance reasons.

If you want to reduce treatment time, your options depend on the type of dental misalignment you have. You may be better suited to traditional brackets if you have severe crowding or malocclusion.

If you have mild or moderate crowding, spacing, or other misalignment, you may be eligible for at-home plastic teeth aligners. Many companies now offer at-home, mail-order clear aligner treatment, which is overseen remotely by an orthodontist. These treatment systems are usually not covered by dental insurance, but they are often more affordable than other orthodontic systems.

DID YOU KNOW Aligners work for many orthodontic issues and can cost thousands less than braces.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
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