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 are small metal brackets attached to each tooth with a special dental bonding adhesive. A dental wire (called an archwire) is attached to each bracket, connecting all the brackets together. Rubber bands are then used to attach the archwire to the brackets.
When the archwire tension is adjusted, the WIRE puts pressure on the metal brackets attached to your teeth, which causes them to move.
No Elastic Bands Needed
With self-ligating braces, we don’t use rubber bands. Because there is nothing keeping the archwire attached to the braces (metal brackets), we use a different type of bracket on the tooth. It’s a bit smaller than the conventional type and has a small clip on the front that the doctor can open and close to insert or remove the archwire.
The clips are opened so that the archwire can be inserted directly into the bracket and then closed so that the wire stays attached. Thus, no rubber bands are required to keep the wire attached to the bracket.
This type of bracket protrudes a bit more and may cause a little more irritation to the lips or cheeks at first. However, with a bit of dental wax and time, this quickly goes away.
Teeth Move Faster and More Easily
One advantage of self-ligating braces is that because there’s less “friction” compared to conventional braces, the teeth can move faster and with less resistance.
With traditional metal braces, rubber bands keep the archwire attached to the individual brackets, causing friction (resistance). Because these rubber bands are wrapped around the brackets, they act as a “stop,” making it a slower process for the archwire to move the brackets attached to the teeth.
Picture a door being held open with a rubber doorstop. 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 doorstop 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 archwire. It moves the brackets (and thus, the teeth) with zero resistance, so the teeth can move into their correct position faster and with less pressure.
Advantages of Self-Ligating Braces
Besides the faster movement of the teeth, self-ligating braces have many other advantages:
- Fewer adjustments are needed to the archwire, which means fewer trips to the orthodontist.
- Because there is less friction, less pressure is needed to move the teeth, so the patient experiences less discomfort.
- No ligatures (rubber bands) make braces less bulky, which may be more comfortable.
- Self-ligating brackets have a smoother surface than conventional ones, which makes them less irritating to the mouth.
- No ligatures in place make brushing and flossing easier and more effective.
- Smaller brackets and no rubber bands make the braces less visible because more of the tooth surface shows.
- The overall treatment period is potentially shorter.
The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics cited a study that stated, “Self-ligating bracket systems displayed a significantly lower level of frictional resistance, dramatically less chair-time for archwire 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?
Self-ligating braces can be used to treat the same conditions as traditional braces, including:
- Crooked or crowded teeth
- 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.