Everyone wants beautiful straight teeth that can flash a million Rand smile but deciding how to go about getting one is enough to cause a toothache. Most South Africans have plenty of options between braces or aligners, but sometimes having too much choice isn’t a good thing. Dr Sheryl Smithies, a Cape Town based aesthetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetic practitioner explains that most patients get to pick their preference based on what best suits their lifestyle. Dr Smithies shares some important information that people should consider before making that all-important final decision.
Firstly, brace yourself with the facts
Most of us have either worn braces in our childhood, or know someone who has, but how much do we really know about their purpose and functionality?
Braces are essentially wires made of either metal or porcelain that are attached to your teeth (the more modern ones can be fixed behind). More wires and rubber bands are then used to create tension, effectively forcing the teeth to move into the correct position. It’s a slow and very tedious process and can cause uncomfortable pain too.
In contrast to this, aligners are a more advanced type of orthodontic treatment. These are made of plastic and are custom-made to securely fit around only the teeth that need straightening, rather than the whole mouth. Small bumps of composite resin, which is like a tooth-coloured filling material, are used to help the aligner grip the tooth and each one then moves the teeth separately but rapidly, in a step-by-step fashion until it achieves the final layout, with very little discomfort.
Secondly, brush up on the pros and cons of each
The pros for both are the same – whichever one you go with; you’re guaranteed to get straighter teeth over time.
Braces, however, can be very painful, especially at the onset with the wires cutting the lips and inside of the cheeks. There is also the risk of them causing potentially irreversible damage to teeth and bone structure, especially over a long period of time and it can sometimes be tricky to get the teeth into the correct positions.
It is difficult to get precise movements with a brace and because part of the tooth is covered with a wire, cleaning can become awkward too, and this can lead to potentially significant tooth decay. Braces also require an individual to have regular check-ups at their dentist usually every 4-6 weeks, so this is something to bear in mind too.
If this scares you, then aligners are probably the better option. Not only is this the most advanced way of moving teeth, but they are much easier to clean and there is very little discomfort, except perhaps over the first three days when the mouth is getting used to them.
The almost transparent look of an aligner is especially attractive to older patients who do not want something that is noticeable. If you stay away from some foods like turmeric which can stain, you probably will only need to see a dentist every 3-4 months, which is also welcome news for those with busy lives.
Then chew on the costs
Costs vary depending on the type and length of treatment and every patient will have a different set of circumstances.
Braces can cost anywhere from R30 000 to R70 000, whilst the price bracket for aligners starts from R25,000 to R110,000. Again, this depends on the number of aligners a person needs and the brand.
Finally, choose the one that aligns with you
Because braces are bonded onto your teeth, they require little input from you when it comes to maintenance and are best suited to those people who are not as diligent with their dental care. The only significant changes you will need to make will be to your eating habits (things like chewing gum are a complete no), and perhaps adding new toothbrushes to your teeth-cleaning tools. You should also be prepared for a significant change in your appearance when you smile as well as lots of pain.
Aligners on the other hand are a much quicker treatment as they target only the teeth that need to move, as opposed to all the teeth. They therefore are better suited to those who want a quick transformation but still value comfort, aesthetics and ease of use, and who like to be able to clean their teeth well.
As an aesthetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetic practitioner, Dr Sheryl Smithies believes that understanding the frame of your face and smile – is the keystone to your personal beauty.
Dr Smithies started her professional life at the University of Pretoria where she graduated with a bachelor’s in dental surgery where she helped underprivileged communities in Mkuze as part of the Community Service programme.
She then continued to study and learn more about many fields of aesthetic medicine including implant dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, digital dentistry, root treatments and minimally invasive dermatological procedures including botulinum toxin, facial threads and fillers. Her studies have left her skilled and with the ability to treat patients holistically, using minimally invasive techniques, to give them the best smile to enhance their natural beauty.
Her excellent bedside manner allows her to connect with each of her patients on both a professional and personal level and her intense dedication to her profession ensures that her patients receive the highest quality care.