When researching orthodontic treatment options, patients frequently encounter different terms used to describe braces. Two terms often used on websites and on social media are ‘invisible braces’ and ‘hidden braces’ but what treatments do these words relate to?

Hidden braces usually refer to lingual braces which are the braces with the brackets attached to the inside surface of the teeth. From the outside, these braces are pretty much invisible as you will have to be standing very close to someone with their mouth wide open to see them. Every other type of brace is visible to a point depending on how close you are standing to the person with braces and the stage of their treatment they are at.

Invisible braces usually refer to clear or tooth-coloured brackets which are difficult to see. Aligners such as Invisalign would also feature in the category as they are made out of a clear material. Invisible braces are less obvious than traditional metal braces but unless the archwire is white, you will see the metal wire connecting the brackets and sometimes the elastics holding the wire in place. Self-ligating brackets which are brackets with a mechanism to hold the arch wire in place, do not need elastic modules but any elastics used to close spaces such as powerchains or elastics between the upper and lower arch will likely be visible.

With aligners, there are often small blobs of composite material on some of the teeth to help the aligner grip the tooth to perform certain movements and although these are very discreet, they do make the aligner more visible particularly if the attachments are on the front teeth.

You will sometimes see the terms ‘invisible braces’ and ‘hidden braces’ interchanged or being used to describe anything other than traditional metal brackets so as long as you do your homework and are clear on what is being described, you’ll be in a better position to determine what types of treatments are being offered and whether you want to explore further.