Think braces are all unsightly train tracks and teenage angst? Think again. Because when it comes to the quest for a ‘Hollywood smile’, a number of celebrities are shunning veneers in favour of tailored treatments to straighten their own teeth instead.
What are the reasons behind the big brace comeback though? “There has been a clear trend over the last five to ten years for treatments to be more minimally invasive, not only in dentistry but in medicine as a whole,” says Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at elleven . “This trend has led to a greater incidence of patients seeking and being prescribed orthodontics as it is recognised that it is preferable to use restoration techniques to preserve existing teeth, rather than undergoing more invasive procedures. Veneers are still commonplace in dentistry, however even these tend to look more natural as the porcelains tend to be thinner. Bonding works well to naturally change a smile in a simple and cost effective way. Essentially bonding is painting enamel back onto the teeth where it has been lost and can be a great way of improving chipped and worn teeth in particular.”
A rapidly growing part of the health and beauty industry, the world of adult orthodontics is getting bigger by the day and treatments are surprisingly more common than many people think. “Modern braces are much less noticeable than many adults will remember. In fact, about 20% of patients with braces are over the age of 18,” says Dr Patel. “Many adults decide to get braces in adulthood because they couldn’t afford them as a child, or because their teeth have shifted with age. Getting braces, even as adults, can give you decades of straighter teeth and correct serious structural problems, so many people see them as a worthwhile investment.”
Teeth come in all shapes and sizes and there’s nothing wrong with ones that aren’t completely straight. In fact, it adds character to them and it would be frankly boring (and a bit weird) if everyone sported sets that were completely identical. However, if you want to get them looking a little straighter, the technology behind today’s new bevy of braces makes for an incredibly interesting read.
What brace options are available?
From the understated to the ‘invisible,’ braces have come leaps and bounds from their uncomfortably designed predecessors. Tailored to suit both lifestyle and look, there’s a range of options now available. “To clarify which brace system will be best placed to improve your smile, you will need to attend a consultation with a professional, but there are now more discreet and faster options to choose from than ever before,” says Dr Patel. Here’s his expert breakdown of the different types of braces out there.
1) Lingual braces – from £5,790
“These are different to other braces in that they are fitted to the inside of the teeth,” explains Dr Patel. “This makes lingual braces completely invisible – ideal for those who require orthodontic treatment but do not wish to compromise their appearance.”
2) Invisalign – from £3,950
A celebrity favourite, Invisalign has fast-become the teeth straightening treatment of choice for the A-list. “At elleven we see a number of high profile patients, a large proportion of which opt for Invisalign braces due to their complete discretion – they are practically invisible! They are the brace of choice for David Gandy and Fearne Cotton who have both visited the practice,” says Dr Patel.
“It’s the ultimate cosmetic brace for creating beautiful smiles and one of the most popular orthodontic systems on the market,” he adds. “Using a series of nearly undetectable aligners instead of wires and brackets, these clear braces move your teeth, week by week, millimetre by millimetre, to the desired position. Using 3D computer technology, each of your Invisalign brace aligners are made to sit snugly over your teeth and unlike normal braces, can be removed for eating, brushing and flossing. Invisalign is particularly suitable for adults and most teenagers (called Invisalign Teen).”
3) Clear fixed braces – from £3,950
“This system uses clear brackets and white wires to create near invisible braces (invisibraces) – an aesthetic fixed appliance,” explains Dr Patel.
4) SureSmile Faster Treatment – from £750 at elleven, plus cost of fixed braces
“Want to speed up treatment time? SureSmile is exclusive to elleven and is a revolutionary, innovative technology that when coupled with any fixed brace has been shown to reduce treatment time by 40% (6-9 months) compared to conventional orthodontics.”
1) Damon braces – from £2,950
“These are fast, fixed, orthodontic braces using a system of low friction mechanics,” says Dr Patel. “These not only result in quicker treatment times, but the lighter forces with Damon braces provide a more comfortable treatment. Opting for Damon system braces also means patients will experience fewer visits to the practice.”
How long do you have to wear them for?
“It completely depends on the individual case and the brace system used, however the majority of people will begin to see results after 6-9 months of treatment, even if their treatment is not yet fully complete by that point,” says Dr Patel.
Are braces available on the NHS?
Unfortunately, not necessarily. “The NHS will provide metal braces for functional use, however you need to fall into a moderate/severe category severity wise to be eligible for NHS treatment as otherwise it is seen as a cosmetic procedure. Ceramic/Invisalign braces are not covered on the NHS, so if you are looking for these particular brace systems then you will need to seek private treatment.”
Do they require quite a bit of maintenance?
Yes, but not as much as you may think. “To get the best from your braces and to maximise the results, it is essential that you practice good diet and oral hygiene with regular trips to the hygienist - essential to give your teeth a more thorough clean,” advises Dr Patel. “Cleaning your teeth with a brace is more demanding and time-consuming then without a brace so be prepared for this and set aside adequate time each day.”
Are they painful and are there any risks?
“When your braces are first fitted, you may find your teeth are slightly sensitive and eating hard foods may be difficult, however after a month or so you will hardly notice your braces at all,” says Dr Patel. “Risks of orthodontic treatment are relatively low if you follow the rules!” he adds. “Each case is different however, and your orthodontist will explain your individual risks to you prior to starting treatment.”
Are there any factors that would make people ineligible for them?
“In some cases poor oral hygiene and active decay make patients ineligible for orthodontic treatment,” says Dr Patel. “When patients have unrealistic expectations about the results is another incidence where treatment may not go ahead, as we would never want a patient to be disappointed with any results if they were not in-line with their expectations.”
What should you look for in an orthodontist?
Word of mouth (pardon the pun) speaks volumes. “It may sound obvious, however when looking for an orthodontist, the most important thing you can do is research, research, research!” advises Dr Patel. “It is important that you get on personality-wise as you will be seeing each other regularly and equally important to this is making sure that the orthodontist takes time to explain your case and different treatment options available, including before and after photos so that you can see the actual results achieved. We have five orthodontists at elleven and our dedicated patient coordinator takes the time and effort to pair each patient with the right expert for their personality.”
Are the results permanent?
Yes - provided one condition is adhered to. “The results delivered from orthodontics are permanent however, the caveat to this is only when retainers are put in place (either fixed retainers or removable ones which you wear nightly),” says Dr Patel. “I would highly recommend some form of retainer otherwise all of the effort and financial investment is likely to be wasted!”