When deciding how to straighten teeth, dental patients often weigh the pros and cons of traditional braces and plastic aligners. Braces tend to work better on extremely crooked teeth, but aligners like Invisalign are less noticeable.
There is a third option that offers the best of both worlds. Lingual braces are hidden from view, and have the same tooth-moving power as regular braces. But lingual braces cost more than other methods with a price at the top end of the spectrum. Patients will need to decide if this higher price is worth it.
What are Lingual Braces?
Just like traditional braces, lingual braces work with brackets affixed to the teeth and connected by wires. The difference is that the brackets are placed on the lingual side, or back, of the teeth facing the tongue.
This hides the brackets and wires from view unless the patient opens wide. With normal talking and smiling, they are even less noticeable than Invisalign. Their placement can also make a difference in comfort and care. These, along with cost, might rule them out for some patients. As with any dental treatment, it is best to consider all of the facts in order to make a fair comparison before making a decision.
What Lingual Braces Cost Compared to Other Straightening Methods
Normal metal or clear braces will usually cost between $3,500 and $8,000. Invisalign, which uses a series of plastic aligner trays, is about the same, but there are limitations to the problems it can fix. Lingual braces cost anywhere from about $6,000 all the way up to $13,000.
The higher cost of lingual braces is partly due to the added skill it takes to apply them. This expertise also means that they are not offered at every orthodontic practice.
Several other factors also contribute to the cost of any teeth straightening treatment, making it difficult to name a specific price. Everyone’s situation is unique, so the amount of time it takes to correct crooked teeth is unpredictable. Part of the cost depends on how long treatment takes, in other words, the worse the problem, the greater the final bill. Insurance, if it covers orthodontic services, will help reduce the cost.
Dental costs in general vary from region to region, and so does the cost of Invisalign or braces. Even within one city, professionals might charge more based on an upscale address, posh offices, or state-of-the-art services. A more experienced dentist or orthodontist might also be pricier.
How Lingual Braces Stack Up to Traditional Braces and Invisalign
Although the cost of lingual braces is important, there is more to deciding whether or not they are the best option. Everyone has different priorities, so we have compiled a list of the 7 factors patients may want to consider:
- Effectiveness. Lingual braces are nearly equal to traditional braces when it comes to the types of problems they can fix. Because of their location behind the teeth, they may be problematic for severe overbites, but they work well for crookedness, crowding, and gaps. Invisalign sometimes is not powerful enough for very bad alignment problems. It tends to work best for mild to moderate issues.
- Time. On average, treatment with lingual braces takes as long as other braces—approximately 18 to 36 months, depending on how far the teeth need to move. Invisalign takes considerably less time at 6 to 18 months. But as we stated above, the problems it fixes are often less severe.
- Visibility. Regular braces, even clear ones, are the most noticeable, which is why people look for less visible options. Invisalign is clear, but when someone gets close enough, they will notice that the teeth are covered with the trays. Lingual braces are well hidden except at certain angles when the mouth is open, for example yawning or laughing for some individuals.
- Comfort. People like the smooth feel of Invisalign, while braces are known to have sharp wires that can poke and scratch the inside of the mouth. Regular braces can cause discomfort for the lips and inside cheek. Lingual braces on the other hand, can cause friction and pain on the tongue. Aside from these abrasions, braces of any kind can make the teeth themselves ache as they are pushed and pulled into position. Invisalign can cause this kind of discomfort too, most often when a new set of trays is put in every two weeks.
- Talking. Any foreign object—braces or aligner trays—can take some getting used to. Patients might lisp or have trouble saying certain words as they adjust. Most people do adapt after a short time.
- Eating. Lingual braces might make it difficult to chew. So will regular braces. There are also certain foods that should not be eaten while braces are on. Chewy caramels and hard or crunchy food can damage the wires and brackets. Invisalign is meant to be removed for snacks and meals, so patients can eat whatever they would like.
Oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing is not an option with Invisalign since the trays can be taken out. Keeping teeth clean with braces is more challenging. One advantage of lingual braces, however, is that any residual staining left behind when the braces are removed will be hidden and not on the front of the teeth. This can save patients money on teeth whitening later.
Is the Cost of Lingual Braces Worth It?
Despite what lingual braces cost, they might be a patients’ best option. They are able to tackle the toughest cases as well as regular braces. The fact they can do it while hiding from view is often worth the extra cost, especially for teenagers and adults who are concerned about what they will look like with braces.
While Invisalign is a popular option, it takes the commitment of wearing the trays for 20 to 22 hours each day. Lingual braces are stuck on the teeth so the temptation to leave them off is not a problem.
Lingual braces will not work for everyone. As mentioned above, severe overbites might be better treated with regular braces. Children or people with small teeth might have issues too. The back surface of teeth is smaller than the front. Orthodontists will have trouble fitting brackets onto small teeth, especially if they are very crooked.
Many dentists can fit patients with Invisalign, but they must see an orthodontist for braces. Since not all orthodontists offer lingual braces, use our online search tool to find one near you who does. They will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of each option, along with the cost and payment options.