self ligating braces

Everything You Need to Know About Self-Ligating Braces

BY Dr. Rooz

Self-driving cars may be quick to snap up the headlines, but self-ligating braces represent an equally impressive feat of technology.

In recent years, self-ligating braces like the Damon braces system have become quite popular.

Now, you’re wondering: “could self-ligating braces be right for me?”

How do self-ligating braces work? Are self-ligating braces better than traditional orthodontic treatments? What about lingual self-ligating braces?

Self-ligating braces could end up being the most comfortable way to straighten your teeth, so they are definitely a solution worth considering.

In this article, we’ll give you the facts about self-ligating braces and answer your questions so that you can make a smart decision about your treatment.

What Are Self-Ligating Braces?

Self-ligating braces (sometimes called “self-ligating brackets”) are ligature-free braces.

The word “ligation” refers to an appliance that tightens to treat a health problem. Ligatures are the elastic ties that secure the archwire in the brackets. You might recognize ligature bands as the colored rubber bands that are part of treatment with regular braces. 

Braces that self-ligate do not need to be tightened manually. Self-ligating braces don’t need those bands because their brackets are specially designed to let the archwire slide freely to accommodate the rate of tooth movement.

How Do Self-Ligating Braces Work?

While traditional metal braces need to be periodically adjusted in order for the archwire to move all the teeth in place, self-ligating braces work a bit differently.

Self-ligating braces still depend on the pressure of an archwire to move teeth. But this wire isn’t locked in place by rubber bands. Instead, the brackets that hold the wire have built-in sliding lock mechanisms and spring-loaded doors that allow the wire to move. Special clips let the orthodontist open the brackets to remove and replace the archwire.

In passive self-ligating braces, the wire moves freely through the passive brackets with no added pressure.

Active self-ligating braces use brackets that have tiny springs that maintain a small degree of pressure on the archwire.

The archwire can move easily through the brackets and this helps self-ligating braces to naturally and comfortably guide teeth into healthy alignment without applying too much tension and friction on the teeth.

If you get self-ligating braces, you will still need to have them periodically checked and adjusted by an orthodontist. But these checkup visits don’t take long and you won’t need many of them as the braces are designed to gradually and subtly tighten on their own in sync with the natural movement of your teeth.

Do self-ligating braces even work?


Yes! Self-ligating braces are an effective way to straighten teeth without the need for rubber bands and they’re often an excellent alternative for those who want to straighten their teeth as comfortably as possible.

What do self-ligating braces feel like?


Just as with other types of braces, there may be a little discomfort in the beginning as your teeth get used to the feeling of orthodontic treatment. Ultimately, however, self-ligating braces will probably prove to be more comfortable to you than regular braces because they put less friction on the teeth.

How long does treatment with self-ligating braces take?


Some self-ligating braces wearers do actually notice a dramatic difference in their tooth alignment early in their treatment. This is fairly common with other orthodontic treatments, however, and it doesn’t mean that self-ligating braces take less time than regular braces.

Current studies show that there is no difference in treatment time when comparing regular braces with self-ligating ones. On average, treatment with either method takes about 12 to 24 months.

Self-ligating braces are meant to work with your natural tooth movement process, not rush it. Your teeth will move as quickly as they want to, and self-ligating braces can help you get a straighter smile in greater comfort. 

Do self-ligating braces need to be tightened?


Nope! The whole point of the self-ligating bracket system is that the braces essentially adjust themselves with no need for tightening. But don’t worry—this doesn’t mean that you’re on your own. You will still visit an orthodontist periodically to make sure your treatment is going as planned.

At these occasional checkups, the orthodontist will examine and possibly replace your archwire. Such adjustments can increase or decrease the amount of pressure on your teeth according to your treatment needs.

The Cost of Self-Ligating Braces—Are Self-Ligating Braces More Expensive?

Treatment with self-ligating braces tends to cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. As with any other orthodontic treatment, the cost of your braces will depend on factors like the length of your treatment, how much spacing you have between your teeth, and whether you have a crossbite or other types of malocclusion.

Self-ligating braces often end up costing slightly more than regular braces because treatment usually involves the use of more advanced treatment planning technology.

The Benefits: What Are the Advantages of Self-Ligating Braces?

There are some good reasons why you should seriously consider getting self-ligating braces to straighten your teeth.

More comfort

Self-ligating braces move your teeth gently without applying intense pressure on your teeth. This makes them much more comfortable than regular braces that are tightened and held in place with rubber bands.

Shorter and fewer appointments

With no rubber ligature bands to remove and replace, your adjustment appointments for self-ligating braces will take much less time. You also won’t need to have orthodontic checkups as frequently as you would with regular braces.

Easier oral hygiene

Without rubber bands or metal ties wrapped around your brackets, you’ll find that flossing and brushing are much easier. Improved oral hygiene can lead to improved oral health, which is the key to successful orthodontic treatment.

The Cons: Why Self-Ligating Braces May Not Be Right for You

Self-ligating braces aren’t the perfect orthodontic solution for everyone. It’s good to know the downsides so that you know exactly what to expect and can choose the teeth-straightening method that’s best for you.

Higher cost 

Although there isn’t always a big difference between the cost of regular braces and self-ligating braces, every cent counts for those who are trying to save money. If you need to choose the cheapest orthodontic treatment, then self-ligating braces are probably not right for you.

Visibility 

Self-ligating brackets are much less visible than traditional brackets because they don’t have colored rubber bands. But they are still noticeable on teeth, so if visibility is a concern for you, then you might want to choose an alternative like clear brackets, Invisalign, or another type of clear plastic aligners.

Risk of decay 

As with any other orthodontic appliance, there’s always an increased risk of tooth decay if you don’t practice excellent oral hygiene. When you have an archwire and brackets attached to your teeth, they provide places for cavity-causing plaque bacteria to grow. If you already have a high risk of tooth decay, then a removable orthodontic appliance may be best for you.

Of course, it’s good to note that self-ligating braces can actually lower your risk of tooth decay in comparison with braces because they are easier to clean.

What’s the Difference Between Self-Ligating Braces and Traditional Braces?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of self-ligating braces, we can compare them alongside regular metal braces.

Self-Ligating Braces vs. Traditional Metal Braces
Self-Ligating BracesConventional Braces
Less discomfort
Cheaper
Treatment time12–24 months12–24 months
Needs tightening
Requires visible elastic ties
Shorter orthodontic visits
Fewer orthodontic appointments
Less visible
Easier to clean

Self-Ligating Braces Are Worth It! 

If you’ve been wondering whether self-ligating braces are right for you, then this could be your sign. Self-ligating braces work wonderfully well and they offer some special advantages over traditional metal braces. They aren’t necessarily faster or cheaper than regular braces, however.

Now that you know all the pros and cons, you’re ready to book a consultation with an orthodontist near you to find out if self-ligating braces are the best type of orthodontic appliance for you.

If you live in the Sammamish or Bellevue areas, then plan a visit to or book a virtual consultation with PORTH to explore your orthodontic treatment options.