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Rachel Jenkins

Lingual braces, a different way of moving teeth

Orthodontics is the practice of straightening teeth literally in Greek; ‘ortho’ meaning true/correct as orthodox and ‘dontic’ meaning tooth. It seems that aligned teeth have long been associated with beauty and correctness, this is probably an aspect of the symmetry that people look for in faces, and rate very highly in terms of attractiveness.

Thankfully very efficient treatments have been developed and there are very few misalignments that can’t be resolved by 6 to 24 months of treatment using braces. For severe misalignments that restrict the patient’s ability to eat, talk and cause persistent discomfort this course of action is a no-brainer. For minor misalignments that only have a cosmetic impact, this creates a  dichotomy and a barrier to entry. Most people see their time in a brace as an aesthetic drawback, so to reach their goals, they have to take a step backwards.

The penalty for wearing braces varies throughout life. During adolescence when in full-time education there is the least pressure to maintain standards, so this is probably the best time to wear a standard brace. For patients out of all-time education and maintaining a career that requires face-to-face interactions, the idea of wearing a brace is unthinkable and treatment is, therefore, beyond reach.

Lingual braces – simple but ingenious

Lingual systems like Incognito Weybridge try to resolve this by placing the brace on the inner surface of the teeth; this minimises the impact in everyday conversations and face-to-face interactions. No part of the brace extends over the teeth so, unless you open your mouth extremely widely, it is unlikely to ever be seen.

Who are lingual braces suited to?

Lingual braces are not universally better than standard braces or they would have replaced them in general practice.They are a niche option for those who value subtlety in treatment, as the brackets used in normal braces have a significantly higher profile. The slender fitting brackets of a lingual brace have to be individually designed for each tooth and this significantly increases their manufacturing cost.

They also take longer to fit and longer to adjust during the periodic brace tightenings that occur throughout treatment, and when it comes to hitting treatment milestones they behave very similarly. If your misalignment involves a significant overbite this may limit the usefulness of lingual braces, but you should seek out an assessment to find out for sure.

The lisping problem

One of the first questions most patients ask when introduced to lingual braces is will they give me a lisp or stop me using ‘th’ phonemes?

The truth is yes, but only for a very short period of time. Your tongue will adjust in a matter of days to the presence of the brace and the lisping period will not last the entire length of the treatment. It can also be made shorter by practising talking and deliberately using as many ‘th’ sounds as possible. Avoiding going through this process will increase the amount of time it takes for your tongue to adapt, so it’s best to get it over and done with as soon as you get your brace.