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Lingual braces

Lingual braces have brackets hidden behind the teeth, which makes them hardly noticeable. The term lingual means the tongue and the surrounding areas. Lingual braces are placed on the back of the teeth, where the tongue rests, making them hidden from plain view and only visible when you open your mouth wide.

Lingual braces are ideal for those who want to straighten their teeth without an obvious treatment. This means teens worried about bullying and adults who intend to maintain their professional look can straighten their teeth.

Lingual braces are also popular for people who have a big day, like a wedding coming up. You can achieve a straighter smile without worrying about having metal in your mouth in your memorable photos.

Hidden braces can treat a wide range of malocclusion and misalignment problems. Some people also called lingual braces incognito braces. While this is a brand name, it has become a widely known term for lingual braces, like Invisalign is for invisible braces.

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How do lingual braces work?

Like traditional braces, lingual braces use the bracket and wire system to align the teeth gradually. However, they are fitted behind the teeth. You will visit the dentist every 6 – 8 weeks to tighten and adjust the lingual braces.

Some lingual braces use standard brackets, but most now use custom-made brackets to fit each tooth. The custom-made brackets can speed up your treatment time and give your orthodontist more control over your results. They are more comfortable to wear and usually slimmer than the standard brackets.

However, the braces are made-to-order, custom-made to fit behind your teeth, so they cost more than the standard brackets.

Are lingual braces suitable for children?

Children can wear lingual braces if their teeth are large enough to fit the brackets. However, other options are available for children to straighten their teeth inconspicuously.

For example, children between 6 – 10 can use the specially made Invisalign First, while teens can use Invisalign clear aligners for teens which cost less than custom-made lingual braces,

Pros and cons of lingual braces

The benefits of lingual braces include

  • Can correct a wide range of cases
  • Almost invisible
  • Faster treatment time with the custom lingual braces

Lingual braces also have some significant downsides. They include

  • Longer appointments because it requires precise adjustments and custom archwires
  • Discomfort due to the closeness to the tongue. Although patients adjust to it, they have tongue ulcerations at first
  • Difficult to clean due to the position in the mouth
  • Cleaning around the brackets is more difficult because you can't see them
  • Temporary lisping because the brackets interfere with the tongue's position when talking
  • More expensive than most orthodontic treatment
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Lingual braces vs traditional metal braces

Generally, lingual braces are more expensive than traditional metal braces. This is particularly true for people who use the custom-made option. Besides the manufacturing costs, lingual braces require a longer adjustment time during each check-up, so you will pay more for the dentist's time during the treatment.

Traditional metal braces are available in the public healthcare service to qualified patients below 18 and adults with severe orthodontic issues. However, lingual braces, including other aesthetic options, aren't available in the public healthcare service.

Orthodontic experts note that any damage to the teeth from lingual appliances to the teeth is less visible than traditional braces. Due to poor oral hygiene, fixed braces can leave white spots or plaque residue on the teeth. The damage won't be visible if any of these affect you while wearing braces on the back of your teeth.

Lingual braces vs Invisalign

Lingual braces and Invisalign are options for people who want to straighten their teeth inconspicuously. They are invisible braces options.

Invisible braces are a different option for straightening teeth without brackets and wires. They use a series of removable clear plastic aligners to move the teeth into a better position gently.

Aligner braces aren't technically invisible but hard to notice until you are close to the person. The braces on the back teeth are hidden and only visible when you open your mouth wide. You can also use clear braces. While they are noticeable close-up, they are more subtle than metal braces.

Invisalign clear aligners offer several benefits that make than an excellent alternative to lingual braces.

  • They aren't as noticeable as traditional metal braces
  • No eating or drinking restrictions, provided you clean your teeth before replacing the aligners
  • The clear aligners are removable, so cleaning the braces and teeth is easier
  • Invisalign is generally less expensive than lingual braces
  • Invisalign doctors used advanced technology to plan and monitor the treatment for better result
  • No metal parts that can hurt the tongue or give mouth sores

The severity of the tooth misalignment may affect the braces treatment you can undergo. Invisalign treatment is suitable for 90% of orthodontic cases, but fixed braces may be the ideal option if you have severe malocclusion. The dentist or orthodontist can recommend suitable treatment options during your initial consultation.

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Comparison of braces

The table below provides information on lingual, invisible and traditional braces.

Type of brace Lingual Invisible Traditional
Average cost £1500 - £10000 £1500 - £5500 £1500 - £3000
Appearance Hidden behind the teeth, almost unnoticeable Difficult to notice, removable Obvious
Suitability All cases 90% of cases All cases
Appointment frequency 6 – 8 weeks 4 – 6 weeks 6 – 8 weeks
Average treatment time 12 – 18 months 12 – 18 months 12 – 18 months
Appointment duration 30 minutes 15 minutes 15 minutes
Cleaning Need special effort for proper cleaning Removable to clean the teeth Need special effort for proper cleaning
Orthodontists offering it in the UK Above 35% Above 75% 98%

Lingual braces cost more than other orthodontic solutions and need longer appointments. If you need braces that are difficult to spot but aren't as expensive as lingual braces, the Invisalign system may be the best treatment.

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Types of lingual braces

If you've decided to use lingual braces, you have several styles and brands to make a choice.

  • Incognito braces

Incognito braces are made in Germany with advanced computer design technology. Each bracket is custom-made for each tooth and made as flat as possible. This means less chance of the braces causing inflammation in your mouth and interfering with your speech. Incognito braces are made from a gold alloy, which reduces the risk of an allergy.

The cost of a full set of Incognito braces starts at £4000. Other brands are less expensive, having their advantages and disadvantages.

The parent company, 3M, also makes Incognito Lite braces, a more cost-effective option for people who want to straighten their 6 – 8 front teeth. Their cost is about half of the full set.

  • Self-ligating lingual systems

People wearing lingual braces can opt for the self-ligating technology, which has an archwire that automatically self-adjusts. This gives a more comfortable experience than the traditional method that requires tightening every few weeks.

Ormco (the company that also produces Damon braces) makes the STb Light Lingual System a common self-ligating option.

How much are lingual braces in London?

In mild cases with a standard lingual braces brand, treatment can cost £2000 - £3000. Lingual braces can cost up to £10000 or more for complex treatment with custom-made lingual braces.

Some orthodontists aren't trained to perform treatment with lingual braces. The treatment needs a specialist, meaning you will pay extra for the expertise. If you want custom-made braces, you will pay for the effort and time to make the brackets fit your teeth.

The cost of lingual braces varies between the area and dental practices. You may consider checking beyond your local dental surgery during your research. Driving a few miles may save you more money during your treatment.

You also need to consider your regular check-ups during the lingual braces treatment, so factor in the time and cost for each clinic trip. When getting quotes, check the level of aftercare included. It may include retainers and follow-up visits, which are necessary to keep your teeth in their new position.

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Fitting lingual braces

The first step is creating your teeth impression, usually with dental putty. For custom-made braces, the orthodontist will send your impressions to the laboratory to make the braces. This often takes about six weeks before your fitting.

The orthodontist will put dental cement on your teeth to fit each bracket. Since the fitting is behind your teeth, the process is tricky and may require two visits.

You will have your regular check-up every 6 – 8 weeks. During your check-ups, your dentist will check your treatment's progress against your expected results.

The dentist will make adjustments to the wires connecting your braces. The continuous pressure on your teeth will help move your teeth in the right direction. Since lingual braces give you a clear view of your teeth, you will easily notice changes, usually within a few weeks.

Some people experience discomfort when fitting the braces, and lisping is common. You can use orthodontic wax to cover parts of the braces irritating your tongue, and taking paracetamol will relieve any aches after your first fitting and adjustments.

Most lingual braces treatment takes 12 – 18 months. Less compressed cases can take as little as six months, while complex cases can take a few years.

How can I find lingual braces near me?

Fitting lingual braces isn't a straightforward procedure but requires special equipment and training. This means not all orthodontists can offer lingual braces.

You can find lingual braces near you by checking nearby dental practices or seeing if your dentist can offer a referral.

You may find locating an orthodontist or dentist offering Invisalign treatment easier than those offering lingual braces. A survey in 2018 found over 35% of orthodontists offer lingual braces, while more than 75% offer clear and 98% offer traditional metal braces.

At McKennell Dental Practice, we have an orthodontist offering lingual braces, including other orthodontic solutions. Visit our clinic today or call 020 7834 8802 to book an appointment to consult our orthodontist about lingual braces treatment.

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Frequently asked questions

Yes, they can. Lingual braces can correct all types of malocclusion. This treatment corrects the same range of cases as traditional metal braces. Your orthodontist will inform you if lingual braces can correct your orthodontic issue.

After the first bracket fitting, you may experience slight lisping. As you get used to the braces, your speech will become normal. Since the brackets touch the tongue, there is a higher chance of the lingual braces affecting speech than traditional braces.

The technical term for braces attached to the back of the teeth is lingual braces. For this style of braces, the orthodontist cements the metal brackets to the back of the teeth, making them almost invisible.

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