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Braces and clear aligners like Invisalign are popular orthodontic treatments that correct misaligned teeth over time. Choosing the better treatment option can be difficult, though.
In this article, we’ll compare the specific features of Invisalign and braces to help you make the right decision. Always discuss your options with your orthodontist.
Here’s a quick look at some of the major differences:
|Best for||Mild to moderate misalignment, excluding skeletal (jaw) issues||Moderate to severe misalignment, including skeletal issues|
|Cost||$3,000 to $8,000||$3,000 to $12,000|
|Treatment Time||6 to 18 months (12 months on average)||6 to 36 months (24 months on average)|
|Orthodontist Visits||Every 6 to 8 weeks||Every 4 to 8 weeks|
|Appearance||Nearly invisible||Often very visible, but more discreet options exist|
|Convenience||Removable (but must be worn properly for most of the day)||Not removable (but no need to remember to put them on)|
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each option in more detail below. But remember that Invisalign isn’t your only option for clear aligner treatment (see near the bottom for more information on alternatives).
ZocDoc can help you find a dentist in your area that:
Invisalign was the first clear aligner brand and may have more name recognition than any other brand. Clear aligners are thin plastic trays custom-made to fit over your teeth.
Over several months, these trays put pressure on your teeth, bringing them into the desired positions. For people with mild to moderate teeth misalignment, clear aligners are an excellent alternative to braces.
Note that Invisalign–like braces, but unlike some other clear aligners–is an in-office treatment. This means you’ll have periodic check-ins at your orthodontist’s office to monitor your progress.
Advantages of clear aligner treatment with Invisalign over braces include:
Clear aligners like Invisalign are nearly invisible. This allows for a more discreet orthodontic treatment process than braces. Teenagers and adults may prefer Invisalign for this reason.
Unlike braces, clear aligners are removable. Although you must wear them for most of the day (20 to 22 hours), you can also easily take them off for meals and cleaning. This means you won’t have to avoid certain foods the way you would with braces.
You also won’t have any metal brackets or wires in your mouth, which increases comfort. Invisalign requires orthodontic check-ins, but unlike braces, these won’t involve tightening or changing ligatures.
Invisalign offers the possibility of shorter treatment times for people with less complex alignment issues. Treatment may be as short as 6 months.
Note that this isn’t guaranteed. Individual treatment lengths vary, and it may take over a year for Invisalign treatment to be completed.
Potential downsides to Invisalign include:
Invisalign costs about the same as braces. Both cost around $5,000 without insurance.
Dental insurance might offer partial coverage for braces but not Invisalign. This might make Invisalign significantly more expensive.
On the other hand, Invisalign may still be cheaper than ceramic or lingual braces. These tend to be more expensive than traditional braces, and insurance won’t always cover them.
The convenience of clear aligners may be a downside for some people. Because clear aligners are removable, you’ll have to remember to put them back in consistently. If you don’t keep your aligners in for 20 to 22 hours a day, you risk a longer treatment time and compromised final result.
Unlike braces, Invisalign can’t adequately address severe cases of misaligned teeth and jaws. You may not be a good candidate for clear aligner treatment if you have:
For these more complex alignment problems, clear aligners are not effective. You’ll likely need braces to meet your orthodontic needs.
Interested in straightening your teeth at home? Here are the best clear aligner companies.
Braces are the most popular, versatile, and accessible type of orthodontic treatment. They consist of brackets (one over each tooth) and wires held together with metal or elastic ligatures. By applying pressure to misaligned teeth, braces alter their positions over time until they’re in perfect alignment.
Unlike Invisalign and other clear aligners, braces can also be adapted to address more serious jaw alignment problems.
Here are the major advantages of braces treatment over Invisalign:
Braces treat several orthodontic needs, including complex cases of tooth and jaw misalignment. Braces can also easily interface with other orthodontic appliances to correct overbites, overjets, and other serious malocclusions.
Because braces exert and withstand more pressure than clear aligners, the results can be more exact.
For milder cases of misaligned teeth, Invisalign can be just as effective. But for people with more complex needs, braces are better at shifting the teeth into the exact desired positions.
While traditional metal braces are the most common and affordable, more discreet options exist. These include:
These options tend to be more expensive. Insurance may not provide as much (if any) coverage for them.
Traditional metal braces are much more visible than clear aligners. They call more attention than some people may be comfortable with. This can make them less desirable for people who are good candidates for clear aligner treatment.
Unlike clear aligners, braces can’t be removed. They’re fixed in place until treatment is over. You’ll have to be mindful of what you eat to avoid getting food stuck in your braces.
On the other hand, this means you won’t need much discipline to wear your braces consistently. This is an advantage for people who fear they won’t be able to adhere to Invisalign’s 22-hour rule.
Invisalign is more likely to offer shorter treatment, but treatment times vary for both.
Invisalign can take 6 months to 2 years. Braces, on the other hand, often need to be worn for at least a year and sometimes take longer than 2 years.
Part of the reason Invisalign’s treatment time may be shorter is that it handles less complex issues than braces. For severe alignment issues that involve the jaw and not just the teeth, the longer treatment times associated with braces may be necessary.
Braces and Invisalign have similar price ranges. Expect to pay at least $3,000 for either treatment, with costs possibly reaching $7,000 or more.
Note that braces that are less visible, such as ceramic or lingual braces, will likely cost more than Invisalign without insurance.
Orthodontic treatment costs will vary according to your location, your specific treatment needs, and what your dental insurance covers.
Some dental insurance plans may provide coverage for braces but not for clear aligners like Invisalign. This could make Invisalign more expensive than braces.
If you don’t have dental insurance, you may be able to find orthodontic treatment through low-income dental services. However, these options are more likely to cover treatment for braces rather than clear aligners.
Before starting treatment, discuss payment options with your orthodontist. They may offer a payment plan to make payments easier for you.
If you have an HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible savings account), you may also be able to use those tax-free funds toward braces or Invisalign.
Invisalign is one of the most expensive clear aligner options available. It is the oldest clear aligner brand around. Many additional brands have formed since Invisalign’s beginning, which occurred more than 2 decades ago.
If your orthodontic needs don’t require braces and you want a more affordable option than Invisalign, there are several alternatives.
The most affordable alternatives to Invisalign are at-home aligners, also known as direct-to-consumer aligners. These clear aligners don’t involve any office visits. Instead, you’ll order an impression kit and begin treatment from home.
These aligners include remote monitoring, which may or may not involve an actual orthodontist. Common brands include:
Other clear aligner brands offer a similar in-office model to Invisalign. These options are typically hybrid, involving office visits and remote monitoring. These include:
ZocDoc can help you find a dentist in your area that:
To know what your best orthodontic treatment option is, it’s important to know:
If you have mild teeth alignment issues that don’t involve your jaw, you’re probably a good candidate for clear aligners.
If your issues are more complex, or you aren’t interested in clear aligners, braces are likely going to be the better option.
If you’re unsure what exactly your alignment issues are, consult your orthodontist and discuss treatment options. Only you and your orthodontist can come to a final decision about what’s best for your unique needs.
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