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What are the risks of wearing alternative braces?

Woman placing a clear aligner onto her teeth

If you’re one of the millions of adults whose teeth need straightening, it’s exciting to know you’re no longer limited to just metal braces. Technology advancements have made more options available for those who may only have mild bite alignment issues, can’t wear braces for two or three years straight or just can’t afford them. Although alternative braces may be more comfortable and less expensive, it’s important to be sure you make the right choice for your dental needs.

What are the different types of alternative braces?

Although alternative braces seem like an easier option, you should be certain which type is the best option for your situation. Listed below are the most common alternatives to the full metal braces you probably saw growing up.


  • What is it? Invisalign involves wearing a series of clear plastic trays on your teeth for 20-22 hours each day. Every couple of weeks, a new set of trays replaces the old set.
  • Downsides: Since Invisalign is a removable orthodontic device, it’s generally slower and less effective at fixing complex dental issues. Rather, Invisalign is best for minimal orthodontic needs like bite issues or crooked teeth. If you have crowns or veneers, need complex treatment, or require significant teeth movement consider using traditional braces instead.


  • What is it? Porcelain veneers work well for patients with gaps, fractured teeth or teeth with poor color, shape or contours. The dentist removes a thin layer of tooth enamel, then fixes the veneers to your teeth using light-sensitive resin.
  • Downsides: Unlike traditional braces, veneers are a lifetime commitment that require repair or replacement for wear and comfort about every ten years. Veneers provide a cosmetic fix to aesthetic issues like chips and discoloring. But for teeth arrangement and position, traditional braces may be a better option.

3D braces

  • What is it? Yes, you can make your own alternative braces using a 3D printer. No, you shouldn’t do it. At least, not at your home. Some orthodontics have started using software to design and print 3D braces right in their offices. To find out if any physicians are doing this in your area, talk to your orthodontist or get a recommendation from your dentist.
  • Downsides: Printing your 3D braces will surely save you time upfront, but professionals are needed to properly fit and make your braces. If you proceed without professional maintenance or supervision, you may end up with misaligned or damaged teeth, not to mention serious injury.

DIY braces

  • What is it? DIY braces usually involves fastening common materials like superglue, rubber bands, paper clips and beads to teeth and rigging them to force teeth movement. Before you ask: No, this is not a recommended practice.
  • Downsides: Growing in popularity, DIY braces are not an alternative we recommend. There are variety of ways to create them, but in the end, they can cause enamel damage and could even lead to gum infection or your teeth falling out. Metal braces may seem simple, but they are a serious procedure requiring physician supervision to ensure that teeth, gums and bone growth are not damaged in the process.


  • What is it? By using telecommunications such as live video conferences, teledentistry allows remote physicians to consult, examine, diagnose and educate patients throughout the world. It’s particularly cost effective with orthodontics, as physicians can monitor your teeth’s progress remotely, rather than costly month-to-month visits.
  • Downsides: As some states require physicians to be licensed in the state they practice, teledentistry could present challenges if legal issues arise. Also, given the telecommunications element of this alternative, connectivity issues may interfere with the clarity of your orthodontic consultation. Furthermore, the privacy of your conversation or your data may not be guaranteed with this method.

How can my dentist help me?

Your dentist can walk you through the various options for alternative braces to help you determine which is best for your situation and lifestyle. Be sure you stay on track with your follow-up visits as well, since your dentist can spot complications and adjust the materials. Regardless of the type of braces you choose, you may deal with some discomfort or jaw pain, so be sure to tell your dentist if you’re having pain or if things “just don’t feel right.”

Will my insurance cover alternative braces?

Alternative braces generally aren’t covered as part of most insurance plans, so if you decide to go this route, be prepared for some potentially high out-of-pocket costs. Talk with your dentist about financial options before you make any decisions.

Depending on the severity of your issue, traditional braces may be the most effective option. But if your dentist determines that another option may be effective, be sure to follow the plan carefully to ensure that your alternative braces are effective the first time around.

Published July 2019

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