When it's time to get braces on your teeth, there are several types to choose from. You may prefer the look of ceramic braces over conventional stainless steel, because ceramic braces are translucent and appear to be clear, or tooth-colored, which makes them nearly invisible in your mouth. Ceramic braces are not always practical, however, so you should discuss your options with an orthodontist.
Ceramic braces are not as easy for your orthodontist to manage as metal braces. It can be more difficult to move teeth into the desired position, and you will probably have to wear ceramic braces for a longer time than you would conventional braces. Some orthodontic procedures cannot be done at all with ceramic braces.
The hard composite material used to make ceramic braces is much stronger than stainless steel braces and also harder than tooth enamel. As a result, when teeth touch the brackets, or when the brackets are removed from teeth, enamel can be damaged. The potential tooth damage from ceramic braces is worse than that from stainless steel, according to a review of ceramic brackets published in a 1997 issue of the "American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics." Improved bracket removal techniques, such as laser debonding, are less painful for the patient and less damaging to tooth enamel than earlier methods of removal.
Ceramic brackets are larger than metal brackets. This makes them harder to clean, which may result in hygiene problems and some loss of calcium from the teeth. Although ceramic brackets are not easily stained by food, drinks or smoking, the clear elastic ties that hold the arch wire to the bracket do get stained. Stained ties cannot be cleaned; they must be replaced.
Because ceramic material is brittle, it can chip or break. According to Dr. Robert Silverstein, a board-certified orthodontist in Somerset, New Jersey, ceramic braces are not a good idea if you are involved in contact sports.
You will probably have to pay more for ceramic braces than for stainless steel. The braces themselves are more expensive, and treatment often requires more and longer visits to the orthodontist to achieve the desired results.