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Many kids have bite problems (also called malocclusion), and early treatment for these problems can make a big difference in quality of life. If your child has mild-to-moderate malocclusion, Invisalign may be a great alternative to traditional braces.
Invisalign uses clear aligners made from comfortable but durable SmartTrack material. Like braces, clear aligners put pressure on your child’s teeth to bring them into proper alignment over time.
A general dentist or orthodontist also monitors treatment with Invisalign. You’ll have an appointment every few weeks to check your child’s progress.
Invisalign isn’t ideal for all situations, however. Braces may better handle more severe bite problems. These may include:
Compliance is also key to Invisalign’s effectiveness. Braces may be a better option if your child isn’t mature enough to handle aligners, which are removable, and so can be easily lost.
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One of the main reasons Invisalign is so popular is that, as the name implies, it’s nearly invisible.
Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign is hardly noticeable. This is a major benefit for children and teenagers, who can often be self-conscious.
It can be challenging to get kids to brush and floss their teeth. Braces can make things even more difficult, with metal brackets and wires getting in the way.
Brushing and flossing are harder, and the braces must also be kept clean. Conversely, Invisalign can be removed while brushing and flossing, making good oral hygiene easier.
People who use braces typically go in for follow-up appointments every 4 to 6 weeks. Invisalign users may only need to go in every 10 to 12 weeks. The visits are also shorter since clear aligners don’t need to be tightened like braces.
For kids, this means less time out of their busy school schedules. It also means less time their parents have to spend driving them to and from appointments.
An Invisalign aligner is thin enough that a mouthguard can easily fit over it, making it ideal for sports. This may not be true for braces.
In addition, a hit to the mouth of a child wearing braces can damage either the braces or the child’s mouth, or both. This can mean expensive repairs or even a trip to the emergency room.
Braces can also make it difficult to play certain musical instruments, whereas Invisalign can be easily removed for performances.
Traditional braces come with dietary restrictions to prevent damage to the brackets and wires. Hard or sticky foods like popcorn, nuts, hard candies, caramel, gummy bears, and beef jerky are off-limits. Even foods that can be eaten with braces may need to be cut into smaller pieces first.
Because Invisalign can be removed during meals, children can eat what they want. And unlike braces, cleaning Invisalign aligners is simple.
Invisalign doesn’t have any pieces of metal to poke or scrape the inside of your child’s mouth.
In addition, the forces applied to the teeth are more gradual, so there is less pain with Invisalign. According to a 2014 study, traditional braces are significantly more painful.3
Invisalign straightens teeth. But aside from a better smile, it’s easier to brush and floss effectively. This means fewer cavities or other dental issues like gum disease.
Also, white spots on the teeth are sometimes visible after metal braces are removed. This does not happen with aligners.
Finally, there is less risk of a problem called root resorption, which is where the tooth’s root below the gum disappears. This is more common with braces because they apply more force.
Because Invisalign clear aligners are removable, your child has to be able and willing to adhere to the 22-hour-a-day guideline. Your child will not get the fastest or most optimal treatment results if they don't consistently wear their aligners.
Braces come with a good deal of inconvenience, but since they aren’t removable, they may be a better option for kids who have trouble following directions.
Invisalign has proven to be an effective alternative to braces for many children. But some teeth alignment issues are simply too complex for Invisalign to provide optimal treatment.
Braces may be better if your child has severely crowded or rotated teeth or underlying jaw alignment problems. Braces apply more pressure and are also easily combined with orthodontic appliances that can correct a child’s jaw placement.
While braces and Invisalign can be similar in cost before insurance, not all insurance companies offer the same coverage. Some insurance providers may cover braces for your child but not clear aligner treatments like Invisalign. Check with your provider to be sure what they’ll cover.
Invisalign is also among the more expensive clear aligner brands. If your child is entering their teen years and has only mild alignment issues, aligner brands like Byte or Candid may offer more affordable treatment and fewer or no office visits.
Interested in straightening your teeth at home? Here are the best clear aligner companies.
Invisalign’s average treatment time ranges from 3 to 18 months, depending on compliance and the issues involved.
For braces, it’s typically 18 to 36 months. When retainers are factored in, it’s even longer.
Several studies show Invisalign is between four and six months faster than braces, but this may be because Invisalign can treat only mild-to-moderate malocclusions.1, 2
The cost of either Invisalign or braces depends on location and insurance. That said, they’re roughly comparable.
Pre-insurance, the national average cost of Invisalign is between $2,500 and $8,000. For braces, it’s between $1,800 and $8,000.
If you have dental insurance, you may be able to receive coverage for a portion of the cost. You can also pay with a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA).
The cleaning process for Invisalign involves scrubbing the aligner with a soft-bristled toothbrush and some soap. After that, simply rinse it with warm water. You can also let it soak overnight in antibacterial mouthwash.
You must also remember to remove your Invisalign trays before eating to prevent damage to the trays.
Both Invisalign and braces can correct a wide range of bite issues. Invisalign is a reliable alternative to braces in cases of mild-to-moderate malocclusion. Braces are better in more severe cases.
If your child has misaligned teeth, Invisalign may be able to give them a new smile in a matter of months.
However, Invisalign isn’t suitable for every situation. If your child’s teeth alignment issues are especially severe, or they aren’t likely to comply with wearing aligners properly, you may need to opt for braces instead.
Talk to your child’s orthodontist about treatment options. Invisalign may offer a discreet and effective alternative to braces.
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