Traditional Braces versus Self-Ligating Braces
To explain the difference between conventional versus self-ligating braces, let’s first look at the mechanics of traditional metal braces. These consist of small metal brackets that are attached to each tooth with a special dental bonding adhesive. A dental wire (called an arch wire) is attached to each bracket, connecting all of the brackets together. Elastic rubber bands are then used to attach the arch wire to the brackets.
When the arch wire tension is adjusted, the WIRE puts pressure on the metal brackets attached to your teeth which cause them to move.
No Elastic Bands Needed
With self-ligating braces, elastic rubber bands are not used. Because there is nothing keeping the arch wire attached to the braces (metal brackets), a different type of bracket is used on the tooth. It’s a little bit smaller than the conventional type and has a small clip on the front that can be opened and closed by the doctor to insert or remove the arch wire.
The clips are opened so that the arch wire can be inserted directly into the bracket, and then closed so that the wire stays attached. Thus, no elastic bands are required to keep the wire attached to the bracket. This type of bracket does protrude a bit more and may cause a little more irritation to the lips or cheeks at first. However, with a little bit of dental wax and time, this quickly goes away.
Teeth Move Faster and More Easily
One of the advantages to self-ligating braces is that because there’s less “friction” compared to conventional braces, the teeth are able to move faster and with less resistance.
With traditional metal braces, friction (or resistance) is caused by the rubber bands that are used to keep the arch wire attached to the individual braces. Because the rubber bands are wrapped around the brackets, holding the arch wire in place, the rubber bands act as a “stop,” making it a slower process for the arch wire to move the brackets attached to the teeth.
Picture a door being held open with a rubber door stop. If you want to close the door, you can do it by pulling on the door, but that “stop” is going to make it more difficult. You’re going to have to pull harder and longer to get the door to close because the door stop is providing resistance. If you remove the stop, then the door has no friction, and therefore closes with ease.
With self-ligating braces, there is no stop (rubber band) to create friction against the movement of the arch wire. It moves the brackets (and thus, the teeth) with zero resistance so the teeth are able to move into their correct position faster and with less pressure.
Advantages of Self-Ligating Braces
In addition to faster movement of the teeth, there are other advantages of using self-ligating braces:
- Fewer adjustments are needed to the arch wire which means fewer trips to the orthodontist
- Because there is less friction, the amount of pressure needed to move the teeth is lessened so there is less discomfort experienced by the patient
- No ligatures (rubber bands) make braces less bulky which may be more comfortable for the patient
- No ligatures in place make brushing and flossing easier and more effective
- Self-ligating brackets have a smoother surface than conventional ones which makes them less irritating to the mouth
- Smaller brackets/no elastic bands make the braces less visible because more of the tooth surface shows
- Potentially a shorter treatment period all together
The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics cited a study that was done which stated, “Self-ligating bracket systems displayed significantly lower level of frictional resistance, dramatically less chair-time for arch wire removal and insertion, and promoted infection-control, when compared with polyurethane elastomeric and stainless-steel tie wire ligation for ceramic and metal twin brackets.”
What Conditions are Treated with Self-Ligating Braces?
Generally, self-ligating braces can be used to treat the same conditions as traditional braces including:
- Crooked or crowded teeth
- Cross bites
- Gaps between teeth
- Misalignments in the jaw
If you are interested in self-ligating braces, Dr. Grewal can go over your treatment plan in more detail. Love Orthodontics provides a free consultation to anyone interested in getting braces for yourself or your child. We’re happy to explain all of your options and answer any questions that you may have.