Ceramic braces, sometimes called "white" or "clear braces" are a form of conventional orthodontic appliance using brackets which are fixed to the teeth and wires which are tied into the brackets.
Their main difference from metal braces is simply the type of bracket that is used. With ceramic braces, they are clear or tooth-coloured (white), not metal.
A metal wire still has to be used, which runs through the middle of the brackets.Download a voucher for a free orthodontic consultation worth up to £70
This metal wire can have a tooth coloured coating which makes the wire less obvious. The coating on the wire can gradually wear or be brushed away between adjustment appointments. If this occurs too much, a new coated wire can be placed at the adjustment appointment.
The wire is held in place in each tooth's bracket via an elastic band or little coated metal tie.
In the case of ceramic braces, a silver bracket is often used on the back molar teeth.
The main advantage of choosing ceramic braces is that it creates a more pleasing, less conspicuous look for the patient, especially from a distance.
Using this type of bracket can have some disadvantages compared with metal braces, see below.
Clear braces are just another type of ceramic bracket. In this case, the type of bracket that's used has a high level of translucency (it's very clear - we tend to use the Sapphire Pure bracket at our practice) as opposed to a more whitish, tooth-colored shade.
The term "clear braces" is sometimes used to refer to Invisalign® treatment. If you'd like information about that treatment option, please refer to our Invisalign page.
Choosing the kind of bracket that's used for your case should simply depend on which type blends in with the colour of your teeth the best.
While treatment with ceramic braces is very similar to that with conventional ones, there are some differences that are worth mentioning.
Treatment times can be slightly longer.
The orthodontic methods used with ceramic braces are essentially the same as when metal ones are used. But by nature, ceramic brackets are more fragile than metal braces. Also, there can be more friction in the bracket slot compared to metal braces.
Some bracket designs aim to achieve the best of both with a ceramic bracket with a metal slot for the wire such as the 3M clarity bracket.
Ceramics brackets can feel rougher against the lips and cheeks than metal brackets do. Generally, most people adapt to this and irritation is usually during the initial few weeks of wearing the brace.
Because ceramic is a more fragile material, ceramic brackets tend to be slightly bigger than metal brackets so that they can be strong enough to cope with the forces used in orthodontic treatment.
As mentioned above, ceramic braces still require the use of a metal archwire (a wire that runs across the brackets).
A way of making the wire less obtrusive is to use a frosted or coated wire.
Occasionally non-coated wires are used in the latter stages of treatment.
Usually, clear elastic bands or small coated metal ties are used to hold the wire in place in the bracket. The clear elastic ties, also known as modules, look clear and inconspicuous when first placed but can discolour between adjustment appointments with exposure to foods and drinks. Most foods or drinks which have a strong colour can discolour the elastic. This includes coffee, tea, cola, mustard, ketchup, curry, blueberries, and tobacco products.
The main way to sort out this problem is to minimise your consumption of whatever foods you find tend to cause this problem. Of course, when your elastic bands are changed – usually 6 weekly, you get a fresh, clean look.
Most ceramic orthodontic brackets are made out of either polycrystalline (more of a whitish tooth colour) or monocrystalline alumina (clear bracket such as sapphire pure).
These alumina compounds are used because they have a superior physical strength and good optical and aesthetic properties. Since these ceramics are non-porous, they are also resistant to staining and absorbing odours.