Self-ligating braces: Costs, Pros & Cons

These days, you have numerous options when it comes to correcting your teeth. Teeth braces come in various shapes and sizes, from traditional metal braces to invisible braces such as Invisalign. However, choosing the best teeth aligners for your situation usually comes down to the nature of your condition, as well as personal preference. In this article, we are going to be talking about self-ligating braces. We will explain what they are and how they differ from traditional braces, as well as their cost, pros, and cons.

What are self-ligating braces?

Self-ligating braces utilize brackets and archwire to facilitate teeth straightening. They don’t use colored rubber bands to connect the brackets. Instead, they connect the brackets to the archwire, forming a specialized bracket that clips directly. The locking mechanism ensures that the wire retains its tension and does not require tightening.

a plethora of rubber bands
Self-ligating braces do not utilize rubber bands.

That being said, the installation and treatment process of self-ligating braces is quite similar to that of traditional metal braces. You still get braces affixed directly to your teeth, and the archwire is still bent across them. However, due to their design, these braces do not utilize rubber bands to hold the wire in place. Instead, the brackets themselves hold the wire in place. This is accomplished through a specialized slot for the wire to slip through.

Self-ligating braces are not exactly new, as they have been around for many decades. They play a large role in the history of braces and have influenced numerous new designs. However, due to more people being exposed to the benefits of this particular form of teeth straightening, they have become quite popular. Why is that, you may wonder? To answer that question, we need to take a look at how these braces differ from their traditional counterparts.

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The differences between self-ligating braces and traditional braces

As mentioned previously, the primary difference between self-ligating braces and traditional braces is that the former does not utilize rubber bands to connect the brackets to the archwire. This seemingly unimportant thing comes with numerous benefits.

First, the absence of rubber bands makes braces less noticeable than traditional braces. Second, it is easier to brush and floss your teeth as the food is less likely to get trapped in the brackets. Third, wearing self-ligating braces is much more comfortable than wearing traditional metal braces. Lastly, due to not needing to change the rubber bands over time, visits to the orthodontist’s office are shorter.

Tightening and comfort

Even though self-ligating braces might need adjustments over time, they do not require tightening. This is due to the fact that the brackets contain spring-loaded doors for the archwire, which tighten the wires in place. The fact that there’s no tightening required means that there is no period of discomfort that usually comes after the procedure.

a clip on a wire
Due to the design of these braces, the wire does not require tightening.

This is a true “game-changer” for most people because the tightening process can create considerable discomfort for up to several days. Not to mention that there is considerable pressure and friction involved, as well as some pain. Self-ligating braces eliminate all of that. On average, self-ligating braces cause more than 50% less discomfort than their traditional counterparts.

The cost of self-ligating braces

When it comes to the cost, self-ligating braces are in the same “ballpark” as traditional metal braces. This means that you can expect your treatment to cost, on average, anywhere between $3,000 and $8,000. This puts them slightly below the average cost of braces, which is about $6,000. What this means is that self-ligating braces will usually be your most cost-effective treatment option, provided you qualify for them. Even though there are many benefits that these braces bring to the proverbial table, there are situations where you can’t use them. For example, any issue that requires precise teeth movements precludes the use of self-ligating braces.

Braces and medical insurance

Due to the fact that these braces cost thousands of dollars, it is natural to try and utilize your medical insurance. However, you might want to double-check your policy before getting your braces. Standard medical insurance policies do not include dental insurance; it is a plan that you need to purchase separately. Each dental insurance plan has very specific rules and limitations, so you will want to pay attention to them before you make your choice. Pay special attention to the “waiting period” clause. Some plans even offer dental insurance without a waiting period. What may also happen is that your plan precludes you from getting the necessary services from your chosen orthodontist. In most cases, you will need to get your braces from one of the orthodontists on a pre-approved vendor list.

Presuming that you have dental insurance sorted out, you can expect coverage for brace costs, preventative services (X-rays, routine cleaning, exams, etc.), and basic services such as cavity fillings and tooth extractions. Needless to say, this can save you up to 50% of the total cost, depending on your plan.

Membership plans

Membership plans are an alternative to dental insurance plans. Many practices offer great discounts on their services if you become a member. In fact, unless you can get a dental insurance plan from your employer, you are usually much better off signing up for a membership plan instead. The only thing that you will be required to do is pay a small annual fee. After that, you will get a discount on pretty much any orthodontic service you might need.

Self-ligating braces, on average, cost slightly more than traditional braces. That being said, they are usually less expensive than most other different types of braces. These braces come with numerous benefits, but they offer some disadvantages, as well.

A stetoscope next to a laptop
Dental insurance can help you cover the cost of the treatment.

Pros of self-ligating braces

The most notable advantages of these braces include:

  • Shorter visits to the orthodontist
  • No elastics
  • Less noticeable than traditional braces
  • Easier cleaning
  • More comfortable than traditional braces
  • Faster results
  • Fewer appointments

The most important pro of self-ligating braces is the fact that brushing and flossing your teeth is much easier than doing so while wearing traditional metal braces. The absence of the rubberbands also means that there is less plaque buildup, allowing you to maintain your oral health much easier. And, of course, they do not require tightening, making them a lot more comfortable than metal braces.

Of course, many people are “drawn” by the visual appeal of self-ligating braces. While they might not be an “invisible” variant of braces, they are far less noticeable than traditional braces. You can even utilize colored wire to make them more discreet.

person wearing self-ligating braces
Self-ligating braces are less noticeable than traditional metal braces.

Self-ligating braces require fewer adjustments

Thanks to the design of the locking mechanism, adjusting self-ligating braces is much easier than adjusting traditional metal braces. Furthermore, the adjustments themselves are usually much faster. Some patients also report that they are able to remove their self-ligating braces more easily (and quickly) than metal braces. All of that combined means that, on average, you will need to visit your orthodontist less frequently.

Self-ligating braces offer faster results

The duration of braces treatment is a considerable drawback for most people. By using a self-ligating system, orthodontic treatment times can be considerably shorter, up to as many as six months! There will also be fewer appointments, making self-ligating braces a great choice for those with busy lives, as well as those who might be coping with dental anxiety. But the fact that you can reach your orthodontic goals within a smaller timeframe remains one of the most important pros that self-ligating braces can offer.

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More comfortable than traditional braces

The lack of ligatures (rubber bands) on the brackets results in far less friction. This, in turn, makes self-ligating braces much more comfortable to wear than traditional metal braces, usually resulting in shorter treatment times. Furthermore, since there is no wire to be tightened, you can expect fewer visits to the office. For some people, this might be the most important reason to choose self-ligating braces over traditional metal braces.

With so many advantages, one would think that choosing these braces is always the best option. However, there are some drawbacks to these braces that go alongside the benefits.

dentistry instruments for fitting self-ligating braces
You can expect fewer visits to the orthodontist’s office.

Cons of self-ligating braces

The obvious disadvantage of self-ligating braces is that they are still contraptions that are highly visible over your teeth. Even though they are more discrete than metal braces, they are still not exactly discreet in the first place. Furthermore:

  • They offer less precise movements
  • The locking mechanism is vulnerable
  • They may cost significantly more than traditional braces
  • Hinges can break

As you can see, not everything is “sunshine and rainbows” when it comes to self-ligating braces. Let’s take an in-depth look into these drawbacks so that you can understand them better.


The reliance on the locking mechanism that connects the wire to the brackets (instead of rubber bands) also means that there is less pressure on the wire. What this means is that your orthodontist will be unable to create precise, detailed, teeth movements by using self-ligating braces.

Vulnerability of the locking mechanism

The brackets that are used for self-ligating braces can break through the course of the treatment. This can be an issue for people that are not very conscious of their braces, as the repair timeĀ is usually longer than that found in traditional braces. Furthermore, the repair/replacement procedure brings quite a bit of discomfort, all but negating some of the primary advantages that self-ligating braces can provide. That being said, if you are diligent with your duties and responsibilities while wearing braces, you can easily negate this particular disadvantage.

There’s a significant cost increase in some cases

Most of the time, there is not a large disparity between the price of self-ligating braces and their traditional counterparts. However, complex cases may significantly increase the price. Therefore, it is very important to talk with your orthodontist at length before choosing your braces. One of the qualities of a good orthodontist is that they can provide you with the most cost-effective option for your unique situation. In most cases, however, the cost between traditional braces and self-ligating ones is not high.

numerous $100 bills
Self-ligating braces may be prohibitively expensive in rare cases.

Hinges may break

Another thing that can go wrong with self-ligating braces is the fact that the hinges on the “doors” can break. If they do, closing the doors becomes impossible, and your treatment may be compromised. Luckily, you can avoid this from happening in most cases simply by following your orthodontist’s instructions to the letter.

Who should opt for self-ligating braces?

Self-ligating braces are an excellent choice for treating a wide variety of dental issues. They offer similar coverage as traditional metal braces do, including teeth crowding, teeth spacing, overbite, crossbite, etc. However, self-ligating braces are not a good fit for people with severe bite issues. This is due to the fact that these issues create a lot more pressure on the locking mechanism, causing it to break.

Furthermore, these braces are ideal for people that want faster treatment times, fewer office visits, and a more discreet set of braces. Of course, the lower cost than some of the other variants of braces is a large factor as well. Lastly, these braces can provide an excellent alternative to home aligners and Invisalign. What they lack in “invisibility”, they more than make up for in versatility and cost-effectiveness.

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Overall, choosing self-ligating braces over their traditional counterparts is almost always beneficial. The technology is newer, after all. Unless you have severe dental issues and require a specific braces solution, you will never go wrong with choosing self-ligating braces. If you need more information on other braces variants, you can simply browse and explore the Consumer Opinion Guide. Our expert articles will provide you with all the information you need, offer critical advice, and allow you to make the best possible decisions.

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