Your Guide to Better Oral Health

Braces Materials: What Are Orthodontic Braces Made of? Are They Safe?

Written by Dr. Jia Gee. Medically reviewed by Dr. Zhuo Yuan.

Have you ever come across someone who wears bars of metal and wire over the teeth and is being teased due to its odd appearance? In this decade, more people than ever are interested in wearing braces to realign their crooked teeth. People are more concerned about fixing their teeth into a functional position and aesthetic appearance. However, some are afraid to embrace the metal look if they ever start the braces journey. 

Fret no more! Because there are more options of braces that are available nowadays. Did you know what material is used for braces? Are these foreign materials safe to be installed in your mouth for a certain amount of time until treatment is completed? Let us dig in more to figure out what the available options are and you will be more secured to kick start your journey towards more beautiful smiles ahead. 

What material is used for braces?

Based on the types of materials, braces typically are made of these three materials which are: metal, ceramic, or plastic. Each material has its own pros and cons. In this context, we will understand about the materials that make up different types of braces, their accountability and more. Find out which suits you the best before embarking on your journey to realign teeth. 

What are orthodontic metal braces made of? Can you be allergic to metal braces?

Metal brace to align and straighten crowded teeth | Preferred Dental

TL;DR: High grade stainless steel

Orthodontic metal braces are the most common type and are well known as conventional braces. The bracket is made of high grade stainless steel which is very strong and it has great corrosion resistance. Depending on different manufacturers, it can also be made by a mixture of metals like titanium alloys with nickel and/or chromium which are effective and popular. 

In general, metal braces are safe to all ages of people because it is FDA approved and should not be detrimental to our health. The properties of its material are not harmful or toxic because it does not irritate your inner cheeks, lip, or tongue. Even though some people might have minor irritation at the beginning of installing braces, this can be resolved by placing a ball of dental wax or you will get used to it after some time. 

Next common question is, do braces corrode since it is metal? Well, the materials used are generally resistant to corrosion. It does not contain iron which is likely to be rusted. However, you should be taking cleanliness and maintenance seriously because bacteria and food debris could possibly aid in corrosion if it is not being removed. 

Besides that, the material used in braces should be hypoallergenic. In other words, it shall not harm you more than necessary. Even though it is found to be rare to have an allergy reaction towards metal braces, fixed orthodontic braces that are made of stainless steel can be a source of risk exposure to nickel. But the allergic reaction is usually mild like rashes or itchy skin at lip or cheek region. Therefore, for people with nickel allergy, he or she should avoid stainless steel metal braces, and opt for ceramic braces or clear aligners that do not contain metal elements. 

What are orthodontic ceramic braces made of? Are they safe? 

Ceramic Braces | Advantages, Costs & More | Orthodontics

TL;DR: Combined components like porcelain or plastic, clay or glass.

Orthodontic ceramic braces are innovative types of braces which use the same mechanism like metal braces except its subtler appearance that are less visible and hence preferred by people with more cosmetic concern. The bracket is clear or tooth-colored because it is made with combined components like porcelain or plastic, clay or glass, that make them more transparent and clear. It is less noticeable as compared to metal braces. 

These materials are BPA-free and non-toxic so they are safe to be used. Apart from that, it is also an excellent alternative for patients who have metal allergy. It is very unlikely to experience an allergy reaction towards ceramic braces because it does not contain metal. Although ceramic braces seem to be a fantastic option to go for, however it is more susceptible to break when being removed. Studies show that it is twice as likely to break when compared to metal braces because it is contained in fragile components. 

What are orthodontic invisible braces made of? Are they safe? Can you be allergic to invisible braces?

TL;DR: Medical grade thermoplastic polyurethane with an integrated elastomer or polypropylene plastic

As the name suggests, orthodontic invisible braces are clear aligners that fit to your teeth without being noticeable. How cool is that? You don’t have to worry about an awkward smile or those metal cubes on your teeth when talking or smiling. You don’t have to worry about food stuck between the brackets that embarrasses you, because this type of braces is removable. Yes, it sounds amazing, somewhat like a mouth guard and you know what is the best part? It is able to correct your problems like minor spacing and crowding of teeth too. 

Invisible braces are made of medical grade thermoplastic polyurethane with an integrated elastomer or polypropylene plastic that are rigid but flexible enough to move teeth into desired position. They are FDA-approved, free of Bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalate plasticizers. Commonly used materials include methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MID) and 1.6-hexanediol (HD). Manufacturers have added proprietary materials to their braces in a quest to make them as non-reactive, hypo-allergenic, and effective as possible. 

It is generally safe and it would not cause ulcer or irritation to inner cheeks because it has neither metal nor ceramic bracket. However, there have been reports of adverse reactions like swelling of area beneath the skin or tissue, itchy welts due to contact allergy with clear aligners. This is possibly due to the exposure of isocyanate groups in clear aligners. Hence, dentists should acknowledge this and advise high-risk patients to do a patch test for aligner materials if needed. This means you should always let your dentist know if you have allergies.

Apart from that, clear aligners are custom made based on the patient’s teeth. It has to be worn for at least 22 hours except eating, brushing and flossing. And it has to be changed into a new set of aligners every couple of weeks to update with new progress of teeth alignment. As you can see, it requires patient motivation and compliance for its effectiveness. Nonetheless, invisible braces have become more popular nowadays because of their superior appearance and removable by patients for cleaning and eating. 

Which braces material is the most effective?

TYPES OF BRACES — The Orthodontist

So how effective are these braces? Metal or ceramic braces are fixed orthodontic appliances that are literally hard-wired to a patient’s teeth and to be reviewed and tightened by the dentist in each appointment. On the other hand, invisible braces are removable orthodontic appliances that highly depend on patient compliance. 

According to research, both braces and clear aligners are effective in treating malocclusion. Invisible braces are advantageous in segmented movement of teeth and shortened treatment duration as compared to conventional orthodontic technique. It is able to realign your teeth into the same plane, control tooth displacement into the bone and tilting of back tooth, move position of upper back teeth about 1.5mm. But it is less effective in controlling tooth displacement away from the bone. In other words, it is indicated for simple misalignment of teeth, not for severe cases. And the bottom line of its effectiveness includes good compliance from patients, and the clear aligners should be properly fitted, prescribed, worn and monitored over the treatment time. 

On the other hand, conventional braces are more efficient in complex malocclusions. For instance, they manage to produce adequate contact when biting, control desirable movement of the root of teeth into harmonizing positions and control tilting of back teeth. After orthodontic treatment is completed, patients treated with conventional braces have relapse less than those treated with clear aligners. However, no matter which type of braces are used, you should wear retainers as instructed to prevent relapse. Many patients who were treated with conventional braces end up having to wear them again after a decade, or they opt to buy invisible braces to correct the relapse resulting from not wearing their retainers.

In a nutshell, metal or ceramic braces and clear aligners are safe to use and they are proper treatment choices for you to realign teeth with their own advantages and limitations. You should always consider characteristics of different types of braces and get advice from a credential dentist prior to making a treatment decision to find what best suits you. Never fall prey to fake braces that were sold online illegally by fake dentists that will jeopardize your health with nothing in return. Hope this article provides some insights to you about several materials for braces and may the force be with you!

Takeaway Message:

  • Orthodontic metal braces are made of stainless steel or titanium alloys. Conventional, affordable, effective choice of treatment. However, it is less hygienic, more discomfort and involves frequent appointments.
  • Orthodontic ceramic braces are made of porcelain or plastic. The difference between this with metal braces is its clear or tooth-colored brackets that makes it less noticeable and less irritating to the inner cheeks. But it is more brittle, less durable and more expensive. 
  • Invisible braces are modern aligners that are made of polypropylene plastic. They are transparent, invisible, more hygienic, removable, minimal pain, faster treatment time and minimal appointments but are indicated for simple malocclusion and require patient compliance.    



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