The 4 types of braces explained—plus, how to choose the right type for you

Thinking of getting braces? Check out the different types of braces to help make your decision

woman with braces and woman holding clear aligners on purple background
(Image credit: Future/Getty Images)

With so many types of braces out there, how can you choose the best option? Here we break down the pros and cons of the four different types, to help you choose the right option for you.

It's never too late to start working toward the smile of your dreams. No matter whether you're in your 30s, 40s, 50s or above, you shouldn't rule out braces for fear of looking like a teen.

There are many different types of braces out there, so start by researching your options to find the best one for your needs. With your new braces and the best oral care products—see our guide to the best electric toothbrush for our expert-approved picks—you'll soon be on your way to a healthy and happy smile. 

The 4 main types of braces

Now you've decided to invest in your smile, it's time to consider the different options available. There are four main types of braces including metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces and clear aligners. 

There are pros and cons of each type, so it's worth weighing up your options and considering each type based on budget, treatment time and comfortability. 

1. Metal braces

woman with metal braces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With metal braces, the brackets are attached to the front of the teeth with wire strung between them. They are tightened to move the teeth into alignment, explains Dr Paul Springs, a prosthodontist at Timeless Dentistry.

“These are what dentists have used for many generations, and it’s probably what most 40-year-olds had when they were 13,” says Dr Casey Lau, a chief dental officer at Elims. Since traditional braces have been around the longest, they are the most “tried and true” method. 

Pros and cons

“The biggest pro of this type is that it's the cheapest type of treatment,” says Dr Springs. “The major con for this treatment is that the braces are very noticeable.”

Dr. Lau also notes, “They tend to cut up your lips, and you can get cavities around your teeth where you wouldn’t normally get them, namely the front part of your teeth that people can see when you smile. When you're done, you may have perfectly straight teeth with white or brown spots, or fillings on your teeth.” 

Since the objective of braces is to make your smile look better, winding up with permanent marks as a result of the process is obviously not ideal. However, as long as you are extra attentive with your oral care while you have braces, cavities and staining shouldn’t be an issue.

Average cost

The average cost for traditional metal braces ranges from $2,000 to $6,000 (approx. £1,500 to £4,400), according to Dr Springs.

2. Ceramic braces

woman with ceramic braces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces in that they have a metal wire, however, they have tooth-colored ceramic brackets so may be less noticeable than metal braces, Dr Springs tells us.

Pros and cons

“One con is the price is higher than metal braces,” notes Dr Springs. “The other major downside of ceramic brackets is they're more likely to cause damage to enamel when they’re chewed on or removed.”

Some patients opt for solutions to make the ceramic braces even less visible, but these options can also cause issues. “They make white-coated wires, but those chip after a while, and then it just looks like you have spots around your teeth,” says Dr Lau. He also notes the brackets themselves tend to chip, and they need to be replaced more often than metal brackets.

Average cost

The average cost of ceramic braces is about $3,000 to $7,000 (approx. £2,200 to £5,100), depending heavily on the severity of the issue being fixed, says Dr Springs.

3. Lingual braces

woman with lingual braces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With lingual braces, brackets are attached to the back of the teeth rather than the front, explains Dr Springs. They work the same as traditional braces, only from behind the teeth. Unlike ceramic braces, this option is actually invisible to most patients.

Pros and cons

“The pro of this type is that you can't see it under normal circumstances,” explains Dr Springs. “The big downside to this type is it's the most expensive method.”

“They don’t work for everyone, because the top brackets may run into your lower teeth and you may knock them off frequently,” says Dr Lau. Depending on the alignment of your mouth and jaw, you might run into this problem. “While you won’t cut up your cheeks easily, you will do some damage to your tongue. And if you thought it was difficult to talk with braces on, you will find that lingual braces will require quite a bit of relearning how to talk,” Dr Lau adds.

Average cost

According to Dr. Springs, the cost of lingual braces ranges from about $10,000 to $13,000 (approx. £7,300 to £11,000) depending on each patient’s unique circumstances.

4. Clear aligners

clear aligners and blue case on pink background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Clear aligners aren’t technically braces, but they work in a similar way. Clear aligners swap traditional train track braces for plastic trays, explains Dr. Jeff Summers, private orthodontist at Summers Orthodontics. Clear aligners are the most different from traditional braces, and there’s a lot to consider when deciding between Invisalign vs braces.

Pros and cons

“In most cases, you can get to your desired outcome faster than with braces, and the cost is virtually the same,” says Dr Lau. “The best part is you can remove them to clean your teeth and eat, so you don’t get food stuck around them as you do with braces. It keeps the chances of you getting cavities during treatment down.”

They do require commitment though. “The only disadvantage is: you have to wear them. They don’t work if they aren’t in your mouth,” Dr Lau notes. Unlike traditional braces, with clear aligners, you must have the discipline to wear them all the time, except while eating.

Average cost

The cost of invisible aligners is about the same or higher than traditional orthodontic treatment, which ranges from $2,500 to $7,000 (approx. £1,500 to £5,100) according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. This cost depends on many factors, such as the duration of your treatment, your specific provider, and more.

What’s the best option for women in their 30s and 40s?

“I think women in their 40s are concerned about health, cosmetics, looking good, and convenience. Probably the choice that fits all four things is clear aligners,” says Dr Lau.

That being said, many women prefer an option they don’t need to think about on a daily basis. For these women, traditional braces might be the right move. You don’t need to remove them when you eat or drink, and they don’t require discipline to wear them—they are always on your teeth, doing their job.

Whatever you choose, make sure to take great care of your teeth and find out how to brush your teeth most effectively, so your beautiful new smile lasts a lifetime.

w&h thanks Dr Paul Springs, a prosthodontist at Timeless Dentistry,  Dr Casey Lau, a chief dental officer at Elims and Dr. Jeff Summers, private orthodontist at Summers Orthodontics for their time and expertise. 

Ciara McGinley

Ciara McGinley is a meditation practitioner and health journalist. She qualified as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation in 2020 and is the founder of Finding Quiet, a series of classes, workshops and retreats that combine meditation practices and mindfulness techniques to make mindful living realistic in an always-switched-on modern world. She is all about bettering that mind-body connection but believes wellness looks different to everyone.

Ciara is also the former Health Channel Editor at woman&home and has covered all things health and wellbeing for years, from fitness to sleep to relationships.