Are Self-Ligating Braces Better Than Traditional Braces?

front view of dental braces on teeth of upper jaw before Orthodontic Treatment

Fact: Self-ligating braces are gaining in popularity.

This type of orthodontic appliance is nothing new; in fact, self-ligating braces have been around since the 1930s but became somewhat popular in the ‘80s.

Since then, they have taken off within the past few years. Their newly-found popularity around patients hoping to work on their smile is due to several reasons:

  • Less “chair-time” and fewer visits to the orthodontist
  • They can cause less friction and discomfort while moving your teeth
  • They help reduce risks to your teeth by applying moderate force over them
  • There’s no need for additional ligatures such as color bands, elastics, or metal ties
  • It’s easier to keep them clean

What are Self-ligating Braces?

Self-ligating braces are very similar to traditional metal braces, with one notable exception: the ligature. No elastic or rubber bands or metal ties are present because they are not essential for the appliance’s effectiveness.

Different types of traditional ligatures offer unique advantages. Teflon-covered, steel ligatures proved highly reliable because they did not deteriorate within the oral environment, retained their shape and strength, and were easier to keep clean.

Elastomeric ligatures, which is the most common and current style or archwire support currently in use, were easier to handle. Still, they tend to make the oral environment more susceptible to bacterial concentration. These conditions make maintaining good oral hygiene more of a challenge.

Instead, this innovative design uses special clips on the brackets to help the archwire move your teeth into place. The clips allow greater freedom of tooth movement; therefore, they might reduce the discomfort that is sometimes associated with a traditional ligature.

Unlike regular brackets, these ones require minor adjustments to advance through each stage of the treatment, saving time and causing far less discomfort to the patient during routine visits to your orthodontist.

Depending on the case, self-ligating braces are also easier on your teeth and could reduce the amount of pressure and friction for many who wear them.

Self-ligation seeks to address some problems inherent to traditional ligation designs. This alternative comes in two varieties:

Passive Self-Ligating Braces (PSLB)

These braces use a smaller size archwire while maximizing space between each bracket. This combination of design elements helps considerably reduce friction while allowing the appliance a wider range of motion. Your orthodontist will most likely use this application at the beginning of treatment.

PSLBs don’t use the same clips as their Active force counterparts in an effort to be as less intrusive as possible and reduce friction as much as they can. This slight variation in design makes any motion to be more compatible with the natural movements followed by your dental structures.

However, your orthodontist won’t be able to control torque as much as with ASLBs, but rest assured that you will know everything you need before treatment starts. What are ASLBs you’re asking?

Active Self-Ligating Braces (ASLB)

These will use a thicker archwire and deliver more pressure onto teeth, thereby moving them more efficiently to where they ideally should be. You could make an argument that active, self-ligating braces are more efficient, as stated in this study, but we all still need more research, and you should consult directly with your orthodontist.

With self-ligating braces, visits to your orthodontist could be less frequent and will potentially cause less discomfort than with traditional braces. As we mentioned, these brackets’ design allows for a better range of movement while minimizing friction.

Still, the use of the clips characterizing ASLBs does provide more control over the force used to move your teeth, even if they do cause more friction.

A study conducted by The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics states:

“Self-ligating bracket systems displayed a significantly lower level of frictional resistance, dramatically less chair-time for archwire removal and insertion, and promoted improved infection control when compared with polyurethane elastomeric and stainless steel tie wire ligation for ceramic and metal twin brackets.”

Will My Orthodontic Treatment Be Faster?

Keep in mind that everyone’s case will be slightly different. Your treatment’s efficiency is highly dependant on multiple factors, including genetic ones. Some patients’ journey with us much shorter and still provide them with a near-perfect smile. The biology of tooth movement is complex, and it requires careful planning and execution.

Some types of orthodontic appliances are more efficient at different stages of your treatment. Active, self-ligating braces can help move teeth faster during the initial treatment phases but moving them from the root will undoubtedly take patience.

Another difference is that because of this unique design, you could spend less time in the office for adjustments, we could even space out more of your visits, but this will significantly depend on other factors.

A prevalent inconvenience that prolongs treatment length is failing to restrict a patient’s diet. If you ignore warnings about what not to eat and continuously break your braces, your treatment will take considerably longer than that of a patient who avoids damaging their braces.

After all, it is a fact that some patients who are compliant with their orthodontist’s instructions also present fewer bracket failures.

Are These Brackets Any Better?

Research is ongoing. There are many claims about the benefits of using self-ligating braces beyond those we explained below. The self-ligating design increases the force application efficiency throughout the brackets and for the duration of the treatment.

However, more research is needed to determine the real impact of self-ligating braces on diminished discomfort, greater amounts of expansion, and reduced need for extractions.

Don’t get us wrong. There are indeed some published studies documenting cases where researchers state that the change in design resulted in the perks mentioned above; however, these studies are mostly retrospective, meaning there could also exist other factors contributing to the desired results.

Will I Feel Discomfort During Treatment?

Depending on the manufacturing company, the brackets could be smaller than traditional metal braces, making them more attractive to wearers as a discreet option.

A word of advice: although the braces are smaller, they tend to stand further off your teeth and can potentially result in more irritation to your lips and cheeks. Still, self-ligating technologies are available to traditional metal braces, ceramic alternatives, and lingual braces.

A helpful tip to overcome this is to use dental wax to protect the softer tissues on the inside of your mouth. Rinsing your mouth with salt water will also help deal with the irritation. In the end, as time goes on, this will not be a problem for most.

Keeping Good Oral Hygiene

As with traditional braces, the self-ligating appliances are bonded to your teeth with a special adhesive and are not removable for the duration of the orthodontic procedure. Therefore, good oral hygiene is imperative to a successful outcome.

Please remember to abstain from excessive sugar, hard foods, food and drink that can stain teeth, and highly acidic food and beverages. Whenever a patient needs to use orthodontic appliances, they are at an increased risk of developing cavities. Food particles will get stuck in your braces or between the brackets and wires and your teeth.

The good news is that you can more easily clean these appliances because self-ligating brackets don’t have a need for elastic, rubber, or metal ties. However, you will still need to take the time required to brush and floss. With or without braces, brushing and flossing are still a necessary and beneficial part of your daily routine.

Are There Limitations to These Types of Braces?

As with any significant decision, you can consult with experienced professionals to determine whether conventional braces, Invisalign®, lingual or self-ligating braces will work best for your set of circumstances. It will all depend on the severity of your misaligned bite.

Only an experienced orthodontist has the knowledge to make valid recommendations about the treatment you need. Such an important decision needs to consider many elements to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your smile.

Self-ligating braces can be an excellent choice for many orthodontic conditions. We can use them to treat most orthodontic complications. This includes individuals with severe cases of teeth crowding and spacing and other conditions such as overbites or crossbites.

Severe cases of jaw malocclusions or malalignments might not be eligible for this treatment because they may put too much pressure on the clips of your braces, causing them to break.

Always consult with your orthodontist before engaging in any treatment.

Likewise, you should consider the point we mentioned about the increased initial discomfort due to the higher profile of the brackets. Talk to your orthodontist to determine if the lip discomfort is worth it. Additionally, it would be best to consider that these appliances may not always be available in discreet material alternatives.

Still, we would remind all our readers that the most important part of receiving orthodontic treatment is improving your dental health and correcting problems related to orthodontic complications.

Making a Move

We hope you found our blog about self-ligating braces useful and educational! If you are interested in getting self-ligating braces but still have questions or concerns, please reach out to our Johns Creek orthodontist.

We have lots of information on our website, but we are ready to answer your call if you have specific questions. Make sure to review the treatments available at our practice and set up your next appointment for orthodontic treatment.