Cosmetic Braces vs. Functional Braces

When you are considering orthodontics, we need to decide if your primary need is for cosmetic or functional braces. People seek cosmetic braces for a number of reasons, including:

  • Crowding of front teeth
  • Gaps or spaces between front teeth
  • Rotated or tipped front teeth

These problems are primarily related to the appearance of the teeth. There are likely functional problems as well, such as food getting stuck between teeth or difficulty cleaning teeth, but these are secondary.

People are looking for functional braces because they’re experiencing problems such as:

  • Tooth wear or breakage
  • Tooth soreness or pain not associated with decay
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Breathing problems including snoring and sleep apnea
  • Jaw pain, neck pain, and headaches associated with chewing or speaking
  • Desired facial cosmetic changes in jaw size, or to correct problems caused by improper growth or development

It’s likely that there are cosmetic problems as well, either crowding or gaps in the smile, but these aren’t the primary reasons for seeking treatment.

Sometimes people are primarily focused on cosmetic problems, but there are significant functional problems that might be identified during the planning process.

Cosmetic braces can be more flexible in your treatment options. Invisalign works well for cosmetic braces. Treatments tend to be shorter and less involved. Depending on your needs, we may supplement treatment with other appliances to achieve the necessary orthodontic changes

adult male showing off his traditional metal braces


Functional Braces and TMJ Treatment

One of the most common applications of functional braces is as part of TMJ treatment. If you have TMJ, braces can be used as part of treatment. The goal is to take the effects of a bite splint or other short-term treatments and create permanent results that will give you a fully functional bite for life.

Functional braces will be used only after we have determined the optimal position for your bite and achieved positive results that confirm we’ve optimized your bite. Once your teeth are moved into position, we may also recommend alteration of some of the teeth to help maintain the proper bite, such as building up teeth with dental crowns. Again, we only recommend this stage of treatment after we have used fully reversible TMJ treatments to confirm the optimal bite configuration.

If you want to learn more about functional braces in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 or email us for an appointment at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.