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Updated on November 27, 2023
6 min read

Braces Alternatives

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5 Alternatives to Braces

Here are the five best alternatives to traditional metal braces:

1. Clear Aligners — The Best Braces Alternative

Clear aligners are an excellent option if you want straighter teeth but don’t want metal brackets and wires on your teeth. They’re a virtually invisible and removable alternative to braces designed around comfort and convenience.

There are two types of clear aligners available, in-office and at-home. Here are the differences:

In-Office Aligners

In-office aligners (like Invisalign) are the most well-known option for in-office aligners. You must visit a licensed specialist to begin treatment, which is more comprehensive and expensive.

Invisalign is the most established in-office aligner supplier in the U.S. Here’s an overview of how it works:

  1. Only a licensed dentist can provide Invisalign treatment, which is done in person
  2. You must visit your provider regularly for checkups and mid-treatment adjustments (if necessary)
  3. Invisalign treatment plans require attachments (known as buttons)

In-office aligners have an average cost of $5,500 but can cost up to $8,000. 

At-Home Aligners 

At-home aligners are also called direct-to-consumer aligners. They’re significantly cheaper than in-office aligners like Invisalign.

However, at-home aligners can only treat minor to moderate cases of teeth misalignment, including slightly crooked/overlapping teeth and gapped teeth.

Here is an overview of at-home aligners:

  • Treatment is completed without visiting a dentist for in-person checkups (has a slightly higher risk for error)
  • You will send progress photos to ensure your teeth are moving correctly (usually through an app)
  • The aligners are made of clear, medical-grade, BPA-free plastic
  • Each custom-made aligner is worn for 1 to 3 weeks at a time (22+ hours a day)
  • Treatment length depends on your customized plan

The cost of at-home aligners is around $870 to $2,400, depending on the brand. Some insurance companies may also cover the cost of aligner treatment. 

The Best At-Home Invisible Aligner Brands

2. Lingual Braces

Lingual braces consist of the same components as traditional metal braces. However, they’re fixed to the back of your teeth instead of your front teeth.

Traditional braces use a wire that is bent into a horseshoe form. However, the wire on lingual braces can be custom fixed to the contours of your mouth. This process might help shorten treatment time.

Lingual braces attach to the back of your teeth (where your tongue hits when you speak). Because of this, you may have a temporary lisp or interference with your speech when you first begin treatment.

The cost of lingual braces treatment ranges from $5,000 to $13,000. Lingual braces can be twice as expensive as traditional metal braces since the brackets are custom-made. 

3. Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces also use the same components as metal braces. However, the brackets are tooth-colored ceramic or porcelain instead of stainless steel, making them nearly invisible. 

Ceramic braces are more convenient than traditional metal braces because they blend in with your teeth. But they’re also more expensive and tend to break more frequently since they are made of plastic, which is less stable than metal.

Excellent oral hygiene is crucial if you choose ceramic braces because foods and beverages can stain the brackets.

Ceramic braces cost around $4,000 to $8,000. Many insurance companies don’t cover ceramic braces costs unless your dental insurance covers orthodontic treatment. 

4. Dental Veneers 

Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that cover the front of your teeth. They’re a permanent, cosmetic dental treatment usually made of ceramic or porcelain.

While veneers improve your teeth’s appearance, they don’t repair any damage. They’re great for minor imperfections like:

  • Uneven-sized teeth
  • Small gaps
  • Irregularly shaped teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Chipped teeth
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Some patients require orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign before veneers are placed. This is because the teeth should all be properly positioned for optimal results.

You need healthy teeth and gums before veneer placement. In addition, you may not be suitable for veneers if you grind or clench your teeth, which can crack and damage the shells.

Traditional veneers cost around $1,000 and $1,230 per tooth. The cost of veneers will vary depending on the type. For reference:

  • Porcelain veneers — $500-$2,500 (per tooth)
  • Composite veneers — $250-$1,500 (per tooth)
  • Removable veneers — $300 or more (per arch)
  • Lumineers — $700-$2,000 (per tooth)
  • Palatal onlays — $650-$1,200 (per tooth)

5. Retainers

Retainers hold the teeth in place after braces shift them into the correct position. A retainer is either made of a metal/acrylic bite plate (fixed) or plastic (removable).

A fixed retainer consists of a thin strip of metal fixed to the back of your teeth. A removable retainer is similar to a clear aligner and is only worn at night.

Most people must wear a retainer every night (for a lifetime) to prevent shifting teeth.

Clear retainers are around $100 to $300 per set. Some dentists or brands offer discounts for returning customers. A few at-home aligners also offer free retainers as part of their treatment. 

Clear aligners can save you thousands of dollars compared to braces. Learn about clear aligners.

When are Braces Necessary Over Aligners?

At-home clear aligners can only treat minor cases of teeth misalignment. Invisalign can often treat more extreme cases. However, braces are usually necessary for severe misalignment and bite/jaw issues.

Are Braces or Clear Aligners Faster?

An aligner applies pressure to all of your teeth simultaneously (instead of each tooth). If you are strict about wearing your plastic aligners, they will likely work quicker than braces.

Are Braces or Clear Aligners Cheaper?

The cost of Invisalign treatment is comparable to braces. Braces typically cost around $2,000 to $7,000. Invisalign averages between $3,000 and $8,000. 

Most at-home clear aligners are less expensive than Invisalign aligners (usually less than $2,300).

Other factors that can affect the cost of braces and aligners include:

  • If your oral health requires more work and attention (.e.g., overbite treatment will take longer than fixing minorly crooked teeth)
  • How much orthodontic treatment costs in your city (varies greatly)
  • The brand/type of treatment you choose (e.g., in-office vs. at-home aligners)
  • How much your dental insurance plan will cover

When are Braces Not the Best Option?

If you have any of the following issues, a braces alternative listed in this article may be a better option:

  • Minor to moderate dental crowding
  • Minor to moderate teeth spacing issues
  • Minor jaw misalignment

Wearing braces can be expensive and uncomfortable, especially for adults. In addition, braces can also cause food to get stuck underneath it, and it can also affect your tooth enamel. 

We recommend at-home clear aligners if you have mild teeth misalignment. View our top recommendations.

What are Traditional Metal Braces?

Traditional braces are one of the most common orthodontic treatments that straighten teeth. They consist of metal brackets and wires. The devices apply gentle pressure to the teeth, pulling them into the correct positions. 

Braces are worn for 12 to 24 months, on average. You also have to wear a retainer to keep your teeth straight after treatment (at night only).

Braces can correct misaligned teeth, including:

  • Crooked or gapped teeth
  • Irregular jaw alignment
  • Underbites
  • Overbites
  • Open bites
  • Crossbites

Orthodontists are the primary providers of braces (some general dentists also offer orthodontic services). However, orthodontists are the best choice because they have 3 or more years of specialty training in teeth straightening.

Summary

Metal braces are one of the most common treatment options for straighter teeth. However, many adults may prefer other treatments. Others also have minor problems, so alternatives are more recommended. 

The best orthodontic treatment for you will depend on your needs and preferences. Always consult with your dentist and orthodontist to ensure your safety during the treatment.

What’s Next?

The most popular at-home clear aligner kits can be found right here:

Learn about the different brands and what they offer.

Last updated on November 27, 2023
9 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 27, 2023
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. "Dental braces and retainers." Health Direct, 2018.
  2. "Braces Have Changed, From Metal to Tooth-Colored to Clear." U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2017.
  3. "Why Candid?" Candid Co.
  4. "Why Byte?" Byte.
  5. "How it works." Smile Direct Club.
  6. "The Invisalign Difference." Invisalign. 
  7. Auluck, A. "Lingual orthodontic treatment: what is the current evidence base?" Journal of Orthodontics, 2013. 
  8. Chalipa et al. "Comparison of Bond Strength of Metal and Ceramic Brackets Bonded with Conventional and High-Power LED Light Curing Units." Journal of Dentistry, 2016.
  9. "Veneers." Health Direct, 2018.
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