The last thing your teen likely wants is to be saddled with braces for a couple years on top of all the pressures of adolescence and growing up. After all, being a teenager means lots of time interacting with peers and living life on social media, and a mouthful of metal is no way to leave a great first or last impression. Even though everyone understands that braces are temporary, there are no do-overs when it comes to homecoming, prom or the other events that define a teenager’s life.
That said, braces continue to be one of the most effective ways to align a teenager’s teeth. But that’s not without significant financial and time considerations, and at the end of the day it’ll make your teen’s smile look a whole lot worse before it gets any better. Given the option, your teen may opt to ditch the braces altogether, but as a parent you know that investing in their smile is an investment in their future.
Alternatives To Metal Braces for Teens
Because your teen is likely anything but thrilled at the prospect of ugly metal braces, it makes sense to look at all your options before deciding. Not only are braces distasteful and cumbersome to wear, they’re also expensive and take forever to do the job — and your teen probably won’t appreciate being in braces for such a long period.
Luckily, alternatives to braces for teens are out there if you know where to look. Many are less conspicuous than metal braces and may save you some money, but you’ll have to evaluate each against your teen’s visibility concerns and your budget lest the alternative ends up being worse than regular metal braces.
Invisalign for Teens
One of the most popular alternatives to braces for teens today is Invisalign. They’re not braces in the traditional sense — they use clear plastic trays to align the teeth instead of rigid metal wires and braces. The result is a straight set of teeth without all that metal in the way.
Furthermore, Invisalign is easier to care for and has fewer food restrictions than braces, which can really help when it comes to your teen’s hygiene and diet — and they’ll also appreciate that they can take the aligners out to eat, drink or whenever they need a break.
However, Invisalign aligners must be worn for 22 of the day’s 24 hours, so they will still need to wear them while sleeping and pretty much everything else. If they take them out for a half hour in the morning for cleaning, a half hour at night and another half hour for lunch and dinner, that means having to wear them every other second of the day, and that can be prohibitive, if not exhausting over time.
Due to the aligners’ see-through nature, they’re also easy to misplace, which means replacing them and the cost that comes with it. Additionally, Invisalign aligners are also designed to work for about a week or two at a time — each successive aligner slightly moves the teeth ever closer to the ideal position — so you’ll be making frequent trips to the dentist to pick up new aligners and to test and tweak the fit.
Ceramic Braces for Teens
For an alternative to braces for teens that isn’t really an alternative at all but more of a side-step, ceramic braces are similar to traditional metal braces yet harder to spot in pictures and in various social situations. That could make them ideal for a teen that doesn’t want a mouthful of metal, though ceramic braces aren’t invisible by any stretch.
Unfortunately, ceramic braces take stains easily, so your teen could end up with a dingy set of braces after not too long. They’re also typically more expensive than metal braces, which may work for a teen that doesn’t have to foot the bill but might not be the best option for your pocketbook. But if your teen needs braces to fix more serious alignment issues and they’re not a candidate for Invisalign, ceramic braces may be the most inconspicuous option.
Lingual Braces for Teens
If the look of braces is really turning your teen off and you’re in search for an alternative to braces that aren’t visible at all, you may want to look into lingual braces. Unlike traditional braces that go on the outside of the teeth, lingual braces go on the backs of the teeth so that they’re hidden from view. That can be ideal for a teen that’s worried about the visibility of front-facing braces, but they’re much harder to keep clean and they can make it more difficult to eat or speak.
Lingual braces are also more expensive than traditional braces because they’re more difficult to place and work with, meaning that you’ll have to find a local dentist that will go the lingual route before your teen can take advantage of the opportunity. Unfortunately for your child, lingual braces are also much more uncomfortable than regular braces, which are already uncomfortable in their own right. While it’s certainly do-able, don’t be surprised if your teen comes running to you after getting lingual braces and wants them removed.
Cosmetic Dentistry for Teens
In addition to the alternatives to braces for teens that are actually more like braces than not, cosmetic dentistry is also a viable option for teens that may only need a minimal amount of dental work. If your teen’s smile is great already but there’s one or two smaller issues that need fixing, they may be able to get by with some limited cosmetic dentistry.
Both dental bonding and veneers are great at covering up unsightly gaps, chips and other issues, and it’s often cheaper than braces and more immediate because they require just a visit or two. That said, these quick fixes aren’t able to fix a mouthful of misaligned teeth without really running up the price tag, and in that case braces may be the preferable option.
However, there is one option we haven’t mentioned yet that’s more of a temporary fix and it doesn’t even require a visit to the dentist. They’re known as lumineers or snap-on veneers, and they work kind of like opaque aligners that cover up all those imperfections, giving your teen a beautiful smile without any dental work at all. Not only are they cheap and last for years, but they’re perfect for an upcoming event or if your teen is self-conscious about their teeth and you have your suspicions about the benefit of braces. To learn more about snap-on veneers, click here.