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Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces, but they use clear or tooth-colored brackets rather than gray or metallic silver brackets and wires.

Many people opt for ceramic braces because they’re less noticeable on your teeth than metal braces. This can be a huge advantage if you’re considering braces and don’t want to feel self-conscious about wearing them.

But ceramic braces also come with some downsides.

Read on to learn how ceramic braces stack up against metal braces in terms of effectiveness, cost, and what they’re like to wear on a day-to-day basis.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of ceramic braces, especially compared to traditional metal braces.

Pros

  • They’re less visible than metal braces. The ceramic material used in these braces can be either clear or tooth-colored.
  • They move teeth faster than clear aligners (Invisalign). Ceramic braces take about 18 to 36 months to straighten your teeth. Popular clear-alignment methods, such as Invisalign, can take a year or longer to work, even if your teeth don’t require much correction. Also, clear-alignment methods don’t work for severe cases of misalignment or malocclusion (a crooked bite).
  • You can choose your colors. Metal braces only come in one color: gray (or shiny metallic silver, if it’s available). Ceramic braces are available in nearly any color imaginable.
  • They don’t interfere with imaging tests. Metal braces can disrupt signals in imaging tests. Ceramic braces produce much less signal interference.

Cons

  • They’re more expensive than metal braces. Ceramic braces can cost at least $1,000 to $2,000 more than metal braces.
  • They may cause gum sensitivity. Ceramic brackets are larger than metal brackets. This can make it harder to clean around your brackets, leading to swollen gums or receding gums if your toothbrush doesn’t reach the enamel and gumline.
  • They’re slightly less durable than metal. Ceramic braces are more than twice as likely to break off or fracture. The process of removing the glue (debonding) has also been known to cause damage to your tooth surface (enamel).
  • They move teeth slower than metal. Because they’re more fragile, having to repair broken brackets or make incremental adjustments at each appointment can delay the straightening process.
  • They may stain. The elastic ties holding the wire to the brackets can stain easily and remain stained until they’re replaced.

Ceramic braces are recommended if all of your adult teeth have come in and you’ve mostly stopped growing. This ensures a quick correction and a lower chance of brackets breaking due to the strain of tooth movement.

Ceramic braces are a good choice if you want your braces to be subtle. Because they’re usually tooth-colored or white, they’re less noticeable. This makes them ideal for straightening your teeth if you work a full-time job or attend college and don’t want to draw attention to them.

On average, from the time you get them on to the time they’re removed, ceramic braces cost about $4,000 to $8,000. This compares to about $3,000 to $6,000 for metal braces or $3,000 to $8,000 for clear, removable aligners like Invisalign.

Like other braces, ceramic braces aren’t typically covered by healthcare or dental insurance plans. You’ll likely have to purchase a separate orthodontic plan. These plans vary widely by state for children and adults.

As an adult, even if your dental plan covers orthodontic care, braces may not be covered if you’re getting them for cosmetic reasons and not for the correction of a severe malocclusion or other dental condition that inhibits normal oral functioning.

Ceramic braces take about a year and a half to three years to straighten teeth, in comparison to less than a year up to three years for metal braces.

Ceramic braces aren’t as durable, so as your teeth move, brackets need to be replaced more often to keep them from breaking under pressure. This leads to slower adjustment time.

Because ceramic brackets break more easily, the straightening process might take longer because of delays in straightening between visits to the orthodontist to fix broken brackets.

Ceramic braces are much less durable than metal braces simply because metal is sturdier than ceramic. A 2016 study found that ceramic braces are more than twice as likely to break than metal braces, even from normal contact from biting down.

If you play contact sports or are involved in an extracurricular activity that requires a lot of mouth movements — think singing, debate, or public speaking — you may want to consider more durable metal braces that won’t chip or crack easily.

Ceramic brackets don’t stain easily, but the elastic ties used to hold them to the wire can. Here are some tips to avoid staining your ceramic bracket ties:

  • Brush and floss after every meal. This helps remove food residue that might cause staining.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that leave stains or discoloration. Tomatoes, wine, coffee, tea, soda, or condiments like ketchup and mustard are known offenders for staining bracket ties and teeth.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can leave yellowish stains on your teeth and all components of your braces.
  • Don’t use whitening toothpaste. Whitening agents can cause your exposed tooth surface to become whiter than the tooth underneath.
  • See your orthodontist regularly. Your orthodontist can replace stained ceramic brackets or ties as needed.

The color of each component of your ceramic braces can be changed throughout the course of your treatment. The components include:

  • Brackets. Brackets stick to your teeth and are usually available in white or various skin shades.
  • Archwires. These wires curve around your teeth, connecting all the brackets and applying pressure to your teeth to straighten them. They’re often available in silver, white, or frosted to blend in with light-colored brackets.
  • Elastic bands. Elastic bands attach to hooks on the brackets. They keep the archwire in place and help to adjust the position of the teeth and jaw. You can get these bands in almost any color imaginable. You can choose colors that blend in with your skin shade, or get creative and select a rainbow pattern all across your smile.

Ceramic braces can be a great choice if you want to keep your braces low-key.

But they’re a little less durable and may take much longer to correct your bite. They can also be more expensive and stain more easily.

Talk to your dentist or orthodontist before you opt for either metal or ceramic braces — one might be more effective for your teeth, even if it’s not your first choice.