Metal braces have been a popular and effective orthodontic treatment for many years. While alternative options like ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners have gained popularity in recent years, traditional metal braces continue to be a reliable and widely-used treatment choice. In this article, we will explore the components, functionality, treatment process, maintenance, and appearance considerations associated with metal braces.

If you are considering metal braces in Aliso Viejo, we invite you to contact us at South Coast Dentistry. We will assess your teeth, bite, and jaw alignment to determine if this is the suitable option for you. We can also advise you on alternative options that suit you. We understand that there are many types of metal brace brackets and components on the market today, so be assured we use the best and most-effective option for you.

Metal Brace Components and Functionality

Metal braces consist of several components that work together to move teeth into their desired positions. The main components are metal brackets, archwires, and ligatures or modules.

Metal Brackets

Metal brackets are small, square-shaped pieces that are attached to the front surface of each tooth using dental adhesive. These brackets act as anchors for the rest of the braces system. They are typically made of stainless steel, but other materials like titanium may also be used.


The archwire is a thin, flexible wire that connects the brackets and provides the necessary force to move the teeth. It runs through the brackets and follows the curve of your dental arch. The archwire applies gentle pressure on the teeth, gradually guiding them into their desired positions. The wire is usually made of stainless steel, but in some cases, nickel-titanium wires may be used due to their shape memory properties.

Ligatures or Modules

Ligatures, also known as "ties" or "O-rings," are small elastic or metal bands that secure the archwire to the brackets. They hold the wire in place, ensuring it exerts consistent pressure on the teeth. They can be changed during adjustment appointments to allow for wire tightening or replacement. Elastic ligatures come in various colors, giving patients the option to personalize their braces with their favorite color or change it during each visit.

Other Components

Bands — In some cases, metal bands may be used to encircle certain teeth. Bands are custom-fitted metal rings that go around the molars and serve as anchors for the archwire. They provide stability and additional support for tooth movement.

Buccal Tubes — Buccal tubes, also known as molar tubes, are metal attachments welded or bonded to the bands or brackets. They are located on the back teeth (molars) and serve as anchor points for the archwire. The buccal tubes help control the movement of the back teeth during treatment.

Hooks or Attachments — Hooks or attachments may be present on the brackets or bands. These small metal extensions are used to hold elastics or other auxiliary components that aid in specific tooth movements, such as correcting bite issues or closing gaps between teeth.

Springs — Springs may be incorporated into the braces system to apply additional force for specific tooth movements. They can be used to close spaces between teeth or correct certain bite problems. Springs come in different types, including coil springs and power chains.

Metal Braces Procedure

Initial Consultation

The first step in getting metal braces is to schedule an initial consultation with an orthodontist. During this appointment, the orthodontist will examine your teeth, jaws, and bite to determine if metal braces are the appropriate treatment for you. They may take X-rays, photographs, and impressions of your teeth for a comprehensive evaluation.

Treatment Planning

Based on the examination, the orthodontist will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific dental needs. They will discuss the recommended course of treatment, estimated duration, and the expected outcome with you. You'll have the opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns you may have. Consider asking these questions:

  • What orthodontic treatment options are available for my specific case?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment option?
  • Why do you recommend metal braces for my situation over other alternatives?
  • What is the estimated duration of the treatment?
  • What are the specific dental issues that metal braces can address in my case?
  • How frequently will I need to visit for adjustment appointments?
  • Can you show me examples of past patients who have had similar treatments with metal braces?
  • Are there any potential risks or side effects associated with metal braces that I should be aware of?
  • What are the steps involved in the metal braces procedure?
  • How should I care for my braces, including oral hygiene practices and dietary restrictions?
  • Will I need to wear any additional appliances or auxiliary components along with the braces?
  • What is the expected outcome of the treatment, and what will my smile look like after the braces are removed?
  • Will I need to wear retainers after the braces are removed? If so, what type of retainers are recommended?
  • Are there any alternative treatments that could be considered for my case, and what are their pros and cons?
  • What is the total cost of the treatment, and what payment options or financing plans are available?

Remember, the consultation stage is an opportunity for you to gather as much information as possible and address any concerns or doubts you may have. Don't hesitate to ask any questions that can help you make an informed decision about your orthodontic treatment.

Braces Placement

Once you decide to proceed with metal braces, the next step is to have them placed on your teeth. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Teeth cleaning — Before the braces are placed, your teeth will be thoroughly cleaned to ensure optimal bonding of the brackets.
  2. Tooth preparation — The orthodontist may apply a conditioning gel to the surface of your teeth. This helps create a suitable surface for the adhesive to bond the brackets securely.
  3. Bracket bonding — The orthodontist will apply a dental adhesive to the back of each bracket and carefully position them onto the front surface of your teeth. They will use a specialized light or laser to cure the adhesive, securing the brackets in place.
  4. Archwire Installation — Once the brackets are in place, the orthodontist will insert an archwire into the brackets. The archwire is secured to the brackets using ligatures or modules. These ligatures help hold the archwire in position.

Adjustment Appointments

After the braces are placed, you'll need to visit your orthodontist regularly for adjustment appointments. These appointments usually occur every 4-6 weeks but can vary depending on your treatment plan. During these visits, the orthodontist will make adjustments to the archwire to gradually apply pressure and guide your teeth into their desired positions. They may also replace ligatures or modules as needed.

Retention Phase

Once your teeth have been aligned, the active phase of wearing braces will end. However, to maintain the results, you'll enter the retention phase. During this phase, you'll typically be given a retainer to wear. The retainer can either be removable or fixed, depending on your orthodontist's recommendation. The retainer helps prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.

Maintenance and Care of Metal Braces

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial when wearing metal braces. You should brush your teeth thoroughly after every meal and floss daily to remove food particles and plaque that can accumulate around the brackets and wires. Orthodontic brushes and floss threaders can help you reach difficult areas.

Additionally, certain dietary considerations should be followed to prevent damage to the braces. Avoid sticky, hard, or chewy foods as they can dislodge or break the brackets or wires. If you experience discomfort from the braces or notice any issues like loose brackets or wires, contact your orthodontist for guidance and assistance.

Metal Braces Vs Other Alternatives

Despite the ever-evolving technology and orthodontic care options, traditional metal braces are still widely used. Here is an overview of why these braces are still a great option.


Metal braces are highly effective in treating various dental issues such as severe misalignment and complex cases. This is an advantage over clear aligners like Invisalign, which are more suitable for mild to moderate cases of misalignment.


Metal braces are made from durable stainless steel, ensuring that they can withstand the forces of orthodontic treatment without easily breaking or becoming damaged. This is an advantage over ceramic braces and other braces, which are more prone to chipping or fracturing due to their more delicate material.

Treatment Control

Metal braces provide orthodontists with a high level of control over tooth movements. The brackets and archwires can be adjusted and customized as needed, allowing for precise and accurate tooth positioning. This level of control is often more comprehensive than what can be achieved with clear aligners, which have certain limitations in terms of tooth movements.


Metal braces are generally more cost-effective compared to alternatives like ceramic braces or clear aligners. They offer an affordable orthodontic option for individuals who may have budget constraints.

Treatment of Complex Cases

Metal braces are particularly effective in treating complex cases of misalignment, overcrowding, and bite problems. They provide the strength and control necessary to address severe dental issues. Clear aligners and other types of braces are more suitable for mild to moderate cases and may not be as effective in complex situations.


Metal braces have a long-standing history of successful orthodontic treatment. They have undergone extensive testing and development, making them a reliable and trusted option for achieving optimal results. This is an advantage over newer alternatives like clear aligners, which are still evolving in terms of their effectiveness and long-term stability.

Appearance and Social Considerations

The appearance of braces is a significant consideration for many of us when seeking orthodontic treatment. Here is what to consider when choosing metal braces:

  • Visibility — Metal braces are typically noticeable due to their metallic appearance. The brackets, archwire, and ligatures are visible when you smile or speak. However, modern metal braces are smaller and less conspicuous than their predecessors. The brackets are designed to be sleeker and more discreet, making them more aesthetically pleasing.
  • Adjustment period — It's common for patients to experience an adjustment period when they first get metal braces. You may feel self-conscious or concerned about how you look with the braces initially. However, keep in mind that this is a temporary phase, and as you become accustomed to your braces, you'll likely feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Self-expression — Metal braces offer an opportunity for self-expression. With elastic ligatures available in a variety of colors, you can personalize your braces to some extent. You can choose your favorite color or change the ligature color during each adjustment appointment. This ability to customize your braces can make the experience more enjoyable and help you feel more involved in your orthodontic journey.
  • Coping strategies — If you feel self-conscious about wearing metal braces, there are several coping strategies you can employ. One approach is to focus on the long-term benefits of orthodontic treatment and the positive changes it will bring to your smile. Remember that the temporary appearance of braces is a small price to pay for a lifetime of improved oral health and a beautiful smile.
  • Alternative options — If the visibility of metal braces is a significant concern for you, it's worth exploring alternative orthodontic options. Ceramic braces, lingual braces (braces placed on the inner surface of the teeth), and clear aligners like Invisalign offer more discreet treatment options. These alternatives may be suitable if you desire a less noticeable orthodontic treatment while still achieving the desired results. However, you should consider other issues like cost and the severity of your condition.

Remember, metal braces are a temporary means to a long-lasting and beautiful smile. While they may require some adjustment and self-confidence during the treatment period, the end result will make it all worthwhile. Focus on the positive aspects of your orthodontic journey, and soon enough, you'll be proudly showing off your straight and healthy smile to the world.

Apart from appearance concerns, here are other disadvantages of metal braces that you should consider:

  • Metal braces create small spaces where food particles and plaque can accumulate more easily. If proper oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing, are not followed, this buildup can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  • In some cases, the pressure applied by metal braces can cause a mild gingival recession (gum recession) or irritation. This may occur if the braces are not properly adjusted or if excessive force is applied. Your orthodontist will closely monitor the progress of your treatment and make any necessary adjustments to minimize these risks.
  • Root resorption. This is a rare condition in which the root structure of a tooth shortens due to the pressure applied during orthodontic treatment. While root resorption can occur with any orthodontic treatment, including metal braces, the incidence is generally low and typically does not result in significant problems. Regular monitoring by your orthodontist can help identify any potential issues early on.

An Overview of Alternative Options

Here is an overview of the alternative orthodontics treatment options.

Lingual braces — Unlike traditional metal braces, lingual braces are placed on the inner surfaces of the teeth. This positioning makes them virtually invisible from the outside, offering a highly discreet orthodontic option. Lingual braces are custom-made to fit the individual's teeth and can effectively address various dental issues.

Ceramic braces — Ceramic braces have a similar structure and functionality as metal braces. However, instead of metal brackets, ceramic braces use tooth-colored or clear brackets that blend in with the natural color of your teeth. Hence, they are popular for people who want a more discreet appearance but still require the effectiveness of traditional braces.

Clear aligners (e.g., Invisalign) — Clear aligners are a popular alternative to traditional braces, particularly for individuals seeking a highly discreet and removable orthodontic treatment. Clear aligners are custom-made, transparent trays that gradually shift the teeth into proper alignment. They are removable, allowing for easier oral hygiene maintenance and the freedom to eat and drink without dietary restrictions. Clear aligners are generally recommended for mild to moderate cases of misalignment or spacing issues.

Self-ligating braces — These braces are similar to traditional metal braces, but they don’t use ligatures to hold the archwire in place. Instead, the brackets have built-in clips or doors that secure the wire. With these braces, there is smoother and more comfortable tooth movement, reduced treatment time, and fewer adjustment appointments.

The suitability of alternative treatment options depends on factors like the severity of your dental issues, your lifestyle, and your preferences.

Contact an Aliso Viejo Dentist Near Me

While they may be more noticeable compared to alternative options, metal braces' advantages make them a popular choice for many people. Metal braces offer excellent treatment control, durability, and cost-effectiveness. They can effectively address complex cases and provide reliable results.

If you are looking for an Aliso Viejo orthodontist, don’t hesitate to contact South Coast Dentistry at 949-274-9086. We will assess your situation and determine the best option for you.