Lingual braces (iBraces) - What are they? / Who makes a good candidate for them?
Lingual braces are one treatment alternative available to those patients who are in need of orthodontic treatment but, primarily for cosmetic reasons, are reluctant to have it. iBraces is one brand name associated with this technique.
In a nutshell, a lingual braces looks like a set of traditional dental braces that have been mounted on the inside (lingual side) of the patient's teeth. This positioning makes them essentially non-visible to others and means that the patient can undergo complete orthodontic treatment without suffering the cosmetic detraction and stigma typically associated with having braces.
Let our pages describe for you who makes a good candidate for this treatment and how the newest generation of lingual braces (iBraces) are made and placed. Our pages also discuss some of the difficulties associated with wearing and getting used to lingual braces, why they cost more than traditional braces and dental insurance coverage considerations.
What are lingual dental braces (iBraces)?
The term "lingual braces" refers to a method of orthodontic treatment where the brackets and wires that produce the patient's tooth realignment are attached to the backside (palate or tongue side) of their teeth, as opposed to the front or cheek side as is the case with traditional dental braces. iBraces is the brand name of a line of orthodontic products and services that a dentist can use to provide lingual braces treatment for their patients.
While the positioning of the patient's orthodontic hardware is just the opposite as that found with traditional dental braces, both techniques and the materials they employ are otherwise very similar. It can be argued, however, that the efficiency of the lingual braces apparatus is less than that of traditional braces.
The chief advantage of lingual braces lies in the fact that they are non-visible. By "non-visible," as opposed to the term "invisible," we mean that if someone carefully looks they may catch a glimpse of your lingual braces but otherwise they are not easily detected.
What type of patient makes a good candidate for lingual braces orthodontic treatment?
Not everyone is a suitable candidate for lingual braces treatment. In general, appropriate candidates will be adults and older teenagers (teenagers that have few, if any, baby teeth remaining). The patient's teeth need to be relatively normal sized, as opposed to being very small.
Good candidates will have a bite relationship that is accommodating to the presence of lingual braces. If the patient has teeth that overlap excessively (deep vertical overbite) or have an alignment that might produce heavy forces on their orthodontic brackets when they chew or otherwise close their teeth together, lingual braces probably aren't the best choice. Only an evaluation by an orthodontist can lead to a determination that lingual braces technique is a suitable treatment approach for you.
Who can provide lingual braces treatment?
Not all orthodontists have an interest in providing lingual braces treatment, so locating a provider might take a little effort. This technique was first developed in the 1970's and since then its popularity with orthodontists has gone through cycles of both growth and decline. Here are some of the reasons why.
Treating lingual braces patients is slightly more involved for the orthodontist.
As a technique, at least historically, lingual braces has presented some difficulties for the treating orthodontist in terms of technical challenges and time requirements that they otherwise would not have to deal with. The patient's orthodontic brackets must be attached to the backside of their teeth where visibility and access is somewhat more difficult. The arch wire that collectively engages the brackets doesn't have a smooth continuous curve like that used with traditional braces but instead requires more unique bends. Most recently, however, changes in this technique, such as those associated with the iBraces system, have streamlined the treatment process for the treating dentist and therefore have helped to repopularize it.
Other invisible braces techniques compete with the demand for lingual braces.
Over the years other cosmetically pleasing orthodontic techniques and systems have become available and they compete with the demand for lingual braces. As examples, traditional dental braces technique can now incorporate the use of tooth-colored ceramic brackets, thus making them somewhat less visible. Clear braces ( Invisalign ) is now available and is a viable treatment alternative for many patients.
Some additional education is required for dentists who want to provide lingual braces treatment.
At this point in time lingual braces are experiencing resurgence in popularity. Certainly one reason for this is that sophisticated computer aided design (cad/cam) and robotic wire-bending technology have been adapted to this technique. Dental laboratories now make customized brackets and wires for each individual patient's case. And this has made providing lingual braces treatment more predictable, as well as less tedious and labor intense, for the treating orthodontist. The companies that provide sophisticated lingual braces systems (such as iBraces) typically require that all orthodontists who want to participate in their program must take specialized training. Don't be too impressed by this requirement however. In most cases the time requirement for completing this education is less than a half day (lingual braces is a variation on the theme of traditional braces, not a reinvention of the wheel). However, for those dentists who are interested, certainly more advanced courses are available.