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If you or your child has crowded or crooked teeth, an overbite, underbite, or another type of malocclusion, straightening your teeth can help improve your oral health and give you a more confident, beautiful smile.

The two most popular orthodontic treatments are clear aligners (Invisalign) and traditional braces. Both treatment options are effective at straightening teeth, and each has its pros and cons.

Braces are metal brackets that get glued to your teeth and tied together by wires and tiny rubber bands.

enjoying braces

Invisalign is the most popular brand of clear aligners (also called clear braces), which are aligner trays made of smooth plastic that fit over your teeth.

smiling woman holding invisalign invisible braces 43937 94

In this post, we'll compare clear aligners to metal braces to help you choose the best treatment for you or your child.

Invisalign treatment is an "in-office" clear aligner treatment. There are also several "at-home" clear aligner options. To learn more about the different types and brands, read our article on clear aligners.

Effectiveness

Clear Aligners:

Clear aligners have shown to be just as effective as braces in treating most cases of malocclusion. The final results of clear aligner treatment are virtually identical to those of braces when patients wear them as directed.

The main difference is that clear aligners are not ideal for patients with:

  • Bridges
  • Back teeth bite issues
  • Need to rotate premolars or canines
  • Need to move teeth vertically
  • Lack of self-discipline to keep the aligners in for 22+ hours a day

Traditional Braces:

Traditional braces are very effective at straightening nearly any type of misaligned teeth. However, they may not be ideal for patients who play rough contact sports frequently.

Appearance

Clear Aligners:

One of the main reasons people opt for clear aligners instead of traditional braces is their appearance. The aligner trays are made of clear plastic that is nearly invisible. They are also removable and can quickly be taken out for pictures.

smiling woman invisalign clear aligners

Traditional Braces:

Traditional metal braces are very visible and are irremovable. This is a big con for many patients who are already self-conscious about their smile, however other people don't mind the distinctive look that comes with the metal wires and brackets.

braces 1

Cost

Clear Aligners:

The cost of clear aligners varies greatly, especially between in-office treatment, such as Invisalign aligners, and at-home aligners such as Candid Co. and SmileDirectClub. The average cost of treatment (without dental insurance) is:

  • Invisalign: $3,000 to $8,000
  • Candid Co: $2,400
  • byte: $1895 to $2245
  • SmileDirectClub: $1895

Traditional Braces:

The cost of traditional brace treatment varies depending on the difficulty of treatment, your location, and your orthodontist's pricing. The average cost of traditional braces (without insurance) is between $1,800 and $5,500

Follow-Up Visits

Clear Aligners:

You'll receive several sets of Invisalign aligners at once, which you will need to change every two weeks or so. You will only need to visit a professional every 6 weeks or so.

For an at-home clear aligner treatment plan, all of your check-ups will be done remotely, every 6 weeks or so. You will also have access to the company's network of remote orthodontists or dentists in case you need help.

Traditional Braces:

Traditional braces need frequent adjustments, so you will be required to return to the dentist or orthodontist office every four to six weeks.

Treatment Time

Clear Aligners:

The average treatment time for clear aligners is six to 18 months depending on complexity of the case and patient compliance.

Traditional Braces:

The average treatment time for traditional braces (followed by retainers) is 18 to 36 months, also depending on the complexity of treatment.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Clear Aligners:

Aligners can be easily cleaned by brushing them and running them under lukewarm water. It's also recommended that you brush your teeth after every meal or drink besides water. If you don't, you run the risk of staining your teeth. You can floss and brush your teeth as usual.

Traditional Braces:

With braces, it's important to brush your teeth after each meal as well. If you don't, leftover food particles can get stuck in your brackets or wire. This can lead to poor oral hygiene or staining of your teeth. You'll also have to purchase special flossing tools to help you clean around your brackets and between your teeth.

Comfort

Clear Aligners:

Clear aligners should not present any discomfort besides the pressure and slight pain of your teeth repositioning themselves.

Traditional Braces:

Traditional braces may produce the same discomfort and pressure of moving teeth. They also can potentially rub the inside of your cheek or gum and cause irritation. This can usually be treated by purchasing orthodontic wax from a drug store.

If you have further questions about braces vs Invisalign, or still aren't sure which is best for you, it's essential to speak with your dentist or schedule an appointment with an orthodontist to hear their recommendation.

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Updated on: January 20, 2021
Author
Michael Bayba
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Medically Reviewed
Photo of Lara Coseo
Dr. Lara Coseo
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