Do Clear Ceramic Braces Work? Just Pretty? What You Need to Know

September 28 2022

Braces are a great option for those who want to straighten their teeth. But, before you make a decision, it is important to know your options and ask your orthodontist for their option before making a final decision.

History of Clear Braces

Braces were invented in 1874 by the American Edward Angle, who is considered the father of modern orthodontics. Braces have come a long way in manufacturing processes, accessories, and in how they can be used to best move teeth. The first braces were made of metal and they were only used for adults. The next generation of braces became more widely available after World War II when new materials like nickel-chrome steel became available. Ceramic braces are much newer, having first been used in regular patient care in 1987. They were introduced as an alternative to metal braces with improved aesthetics—the same reason they are used today. They are often made of aluminum oxide in different crystalline arrangements, though plastic versions exist as well.

What are Clear Braces aka Ceramic Braces?

The first thing that should be clarified is the definition of clear braces. Some companies and members of the public have started calling clear aligner trays “clear braces” to communicate the idea that these clear aligner trays can be used to straighten teeth and that these clear aligners are not just retainers. Retainers only do what their name says they do; they retain (hold) hold teeth straight. They do not significantly straighten teeth.

To an orthodontist, clear braces are transparent brackets with a slot where a wire is placed. They are often made of ceramic materials and thus to avoid confusion, most orthodontists refer to clear braces as ceramic braces. They are very similar to traditional metal braces but with a more aesthetic appearance. Clear braces give your orthodontist the ability to straighten your teeth with all the tools that have been developed with braces over the past 100+ years while still providing a less noticeable look.

When other companies and members of the public call clear aligner trays “clear braces”, it ends up being confusing. The correct term for that form of treatment is called clear aligner therapy, often abbreviated CAT. The most common brand associated with clear aligner therapy is Invisalign, but many other brands can provide a great result, and in fact, many orthodontists can make clear aligners in their own office thanks to new computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM) and three-dimensional printers. These are options that were not widely available even ten years ago but have provided large changes in orthodontics that have made treatment faster and less expensive for patients.

The most important thing to remember, when it comes to any type of brace or aligner, is the same idea you would have when building a house. What matters more—the type of hammer that your builder uses, or the plans and expertise the builder has? There are many types of hammers, but at the end of the day, most of them do very similar things. What matters is that you see an orthodontic specialist to straighten your teeth. Would you go to your family doctor to get a heart transplant? Similarly, you should see an orthodontic specialist for any orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentists who finish at the top of their classes and complete 2-3 years of additional specialty school in only orthodontics after dental school. They only practice orthodontics and no longer do general dental procedures like crowns and bridges. This way they can continue to hone their skills as a specialist by dedicating all their time to this one area. This means orthodontists are the experts at aligning teeth and bites compared.

What You Need to Know about Clear Braces Before You Get Them

Now that we have clarified what clear braces are, you have better information before you choose your braces type. Clear braces have become a popular trend in orthodontics. They are often known as ceramic or invisible braces. There are advantages and disadvantages to clear braces that we will explore in this article.

The most obvious advantage of clear braces is the fact that you cannot easily see them on your teeth. Clear braces are just not as noticeable as traditional metal braces. This is because there is no metal in the clear brackets like with metal brackets. This can be beneficial for people who want to keep their treatment under the radar, or who are self-conscious about their teeth. Another advantage is that they are less noticeable in certain situations, such as at work or school because they blend in with your teeth and the rest of your face more easily than metal braces do.

Clear braces come in many different forms and prices vary depending on which type of clear brackets the patient chooses. Clear brackets can be made out of ceramic, with the two main types being monocrystalline or polycrystalline. These types of crystals have different clarities and strengths. Plastic brackets are also available in some cases. Clear brackets are typically more expensive than traditional metal ones, often costing an additional $1000 or so per set of teeth.

Clear Braces for Adults - Pros and Cons

Clear braces are becoming increasingly popular among adults. They are a cosmetic solution to correcting the alignment of teeth. Many adults prefer clear braces to clear aligner therapy like Invisalign because with braces you don’t have to remember to constantly be wearing your aligner trays. Also, with braces attached firmly to your teeth, you don’t need to remember to take them out when you eat or drink anything (except water) and then rinse your mouth when you are done like with aligners.


Clear braces are less visible than metal braces which for some can cause the wearer embarrassment. However, they still have the quality results of traditional metal braces without having to remember to wear clear trays and remove them to eat or drink. In many cases, they provide faster results than traditional aligners because of the types of movements your teeth require and the tooth shapes and sizes of your teeth (ask your doctor), especially in cases requiring major tooth movements.

Clear braces are also an option for those who have metal allergies. While not in large quantities, many traditional metal braces contain some nickel. While most skin contact allergies to metal aren’t a problem when used in the mouth in orthodontics, those patients who are extremely metal sensitive do occasionally have intolerances to metals. In these cases, nickel-free metal braces can be used, or to rule out any type of metal, patients can elect for clear braces instead.

Another benefit of clear braces is if someone will need special medical imaging during the course of treatment. When taking magnetic resonance images (MRIs) or computerized tomography (CT) scans, the metal in braces can often create a scattering effect that makes the images difficult or impossible to read, especially when imaging is required of the head and neck areas. Occasionally, this requires the removal of metal braces before these images can be taken, which slows down treatment. With clear braces, in most cases, the orthodontist need only remove the wires and the back brackets while being able to keep the other brackets in place. This means the patient can much easier resume treatment following the imaging.


Clear braces are usually more expensive than metal braces. They cannot be removed for special occasions, so they can make brushing and flossing teeth more challenging.

Clear brackets are harder than metal. If you bite on ceramic brackets and tend to grind your teeth while sleeping, it is possible you can start to wear your teeth where the braces touch the tooth. This wear is irreversible.

However, in addition to clear braces being harder than metal braces, they are also more fragile. Grinding and eating hard foods can sometimes chip off part of the more fragile ceramic brackets. Sometimes, the braces are still usable. However, sometimes, the braces must be replaced, slowing down treatment. To decrease breakage, care should be taken to wear a mouthguard if a patient wearing clear braces is involved in contact sports.

While it does not generally affect the patient much, clear brackets are often more difficult for the orthodontist to remove from your teeth at the end of treatment. While metal brackets often pop off in one piece, the more fragile clear braces made of crystalline aluminum oxide occasionally fracture and require a bit longer for the orthodontist to remove.

Clear Braces for Kids - Pros and Cons

Clear braces are a great option for kids that want to have the perfect smile. While some kids like the look of metal braces, other kids prefer the more subtle appearance of clear braces. Clear braces can be used with kids just as well as with adults. Clear braces can blend in by placing clear colors over the brackets, but also can take all sorts of color ties to provide fun when wanted. It’s the best of both worlds!


Clear braces are more aesthetic for kids who prefer less of a change in their appearance as they straighten their teeth. In most cases where traditional metal braces can be used, clear braces can be used just as effectively. Clear braces are a great choice for kids who want the less noticeable appearance change but who really would struggle to remember to consistently wear clear aligner trays. Our experience and the experience of many orthodontists is that kids like the idea of clear aligners, but they often eat very frequently and find it difficult to remember to put their aligners back in, or worse, lose them entirely. This tends to slow down treatment speed significantly.


The cost of clear braces is higher than traditional braces due to the higher costs required to manufacture clear braces compared to traditional metal braces. However, there are a few tooth movements that traditional metal braces can do which can be difficult for clear braces to do as effectively as traditional metal braces. These movements are quite rare, and there are other ways often for your orthodontist to make those movements. However, metal braces in those special situations can often work faster than clear braces. Ask your orthodontist if any of those movements would be involved in your case.

Time in Treatment and Cost

Clear braces usually take 12 months to 30 months to complete a case. However, more complicated cases may take longer than 30 months and more simple cases may be faster than 12 months. The cost of clear braces is higher than metal braces because of the more involved manufacturing process to make clear braces compared to metal braces. The cost of a case of clear braces is often between $4000 and $7000 depending on the amount of time to complete the case and the part of the country where treatment is being sought.

Clear Braces vs Clear Aligners (Invisalign)

The choice between clear braces or clear aligners should be communicated to your orthodontist. In some cases, either option works quite well. In other cases, one option or the other might be better. Clear braces work a lot better in those who struggle to remember to take their aligners in and out and tend to lose things. Get educated about the differences, then ask your orthodontist their thoughts on the considerations for your particular situation.

Conclusion - Clear Braces are a Winner!

Clear braces aka ceramic braces are a great aesthetic option for people who want to have an effective way of straightening their teeth while not having to remember to take in and out removable trays every time they eat or drink. They let patients either place clear ties over the braces for a subtle look that blends in, or the option to change colors for a fun way to align their teeth. They are a great option for those who prefer the clean look of clear braces over the classic metal shine of traditional braces.