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Updated on May 19, 2023
5 min read

Braces Alternatives

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What are Traditional Metal Braces?

Traditional braces gently apply pressure to the teeth, pulling them into the correct position. They consist of metal brackets and wires.

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

Braces can correct teeth misalignment, 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 three or more years of specialty training in teeth straightening.

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

When are Braces Not the Best Option?

Braces can be expensive and uncomfortable, especially for adults. 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

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 are 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. 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 United States. It has been helping customers achieve a straighter and more attractive smile for over two decades.

Here is an overview of the treatment:

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

At-Home Aligners 

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

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 best at-home invisible aligner:

2. Lingual Braces

Lingual braces consist of the same components as traditional metal braces. However, they are 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 can potentially 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.

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. This makes ceramic braces nearly invisible.

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

If you choose ceramic braces, excellent oral hygiene is crucial because foods and beverages can stain the brackets.

4. Veneers (Ceramic or Porcelain)

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

Veneers improve the appearance of teeth but do not repair any damage. They are great for minor imperfections like:

  • Uneven-sized teeth
  • Small gaps
  • Irregularly shaped teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Chipped teeth
veneer NewMouth

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.

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

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

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

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 are likely to 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 (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

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 May 19, 2023
9 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 19, 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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