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Clear Aligners (Invisalign) vs Braces

Michael Bayba Headshot
Written by
Michael Bayba
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Lara Coseo
8 Sources Cited

Many adults and children have 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.
  • Clear aligners (also called clear braces) are aligner trays made of smooth plastic that fit over your teeth.

Invisalign treatment is an "in-office" clear aligner treatment. There are also several "at-home" clear aligner options.

Effectiveness

The main differences:

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners have shown to be just as effective as braces in treating minor 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

The main differences:

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.

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.

Cost

The main differences:

Clear Aligners

The cost of clear aligners varies greatly, especially between in-office treatment, such as Invisalign aligners, and at-home aligners such as Byte and SmileDirectClub.

The average cost of treatment without insurance is:

  • Invisalign: $3,000 to $8,000 (100% in-office)
  • Candid: $3,300 (on average — not completely remote)
  • Byte: $1,895 to $2,295 (completely remote)
  • SmileDirectClub: $1,950 (completely remote)

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

Cost Comparison

Braces In-Office Aligners At-Home Aligners
Cost $3,000 to $12,000 $3,000 to $8,000 $1,200 to $2,300
Treatment Time 12 to 24 months 12 to 18 months 4 to 12 months
Treatable Cases Mild to severe, including skeletal issues (jaw) Mild to severe, excluding skeletal issues Mild, some moderate
Monitoring/Care In-person, every 4 to 8 weeks In-person, every 6 to 8 weeks 100% remote (hands-off care) 

Follow-Up Visits

The main differences:

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's office every four to six weeks.

Treatment Time

The main differences:

Clear Aligners

The average treatment time for clear aligners is six to 18 months (depending on the 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

The main differences:

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

The main differences:

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. 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.

Last updated on March 30, 2022
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 30, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.
  2. Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  3. Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.
  4. Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.
  5. What to Expect with Invisalign® Treatment.” Invisalign.
  6. FAQs About Invisible Aligners, byte.
  7. Candid. “Discover the Candid Difference.” Candid.
  8. SmileDirectClub. “How Does Smile Direct Club Work.”
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