Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Pros, Cons, & Best Options for Teeth Straightening

Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Pros, Cons, & Best Options for Teeth Straightening

Updated on March 19, 2024

Teeth Straightening Options — Braces vs. Clear Aligners

Elena Borrelli
Written by 
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed by Elena Borrelli
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Braces and clear aligners are two popular teeth straightening techniques. Clear aligners, also called invisible aligners, are a virtually invisible and removable alternative to braces designed around convenience and flexibility.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners straighten teeth discreetly and conveniently. The trays are custom-made and come in two forms: at-home and in-office. 

gloved hand putting clear aligners on patients teeth

Here are the most popular brands of aligners and how they differ:

  • Invisalign — most popular in-office option. Suitable for mild to severe teeth alignment issues.
  • ClearCorrect — another popular in-office option. Suitable for mild to moderate teeth alignment issues.
  • Byte — a completely remote aligner brand with quick treatment times. Suitable for mild teeth alignment issues. 
  • Candid — a hybrid option with some of the convenience of at-home teeth straightening. Suitable for mild to moderate teeth alignment issues.
  • NewSmile and ALIGNERCO — two affordable remote aligner brands. Suitable for some mild teeth alignment issues. 
  • SmileDirectClub — the first-ever remote aligner company. Suitable for mild teeth alignment issues. 


There are three main types of braces: 

1. Traditional braces

Traditional braces consist of metal brackets and wires. The brackets attach to teeth, and the wires connect to the brackets. This gently applies pressure to the teeth, pulling them into the correct positions. 

2. Lingual braces

Lingual braces attach to the back of teeth, making them more discreet. However, they can cause temporary lisps and speech problems at the beginning of treatment. 

Lingual braces system

3. Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces consist of tooth-colored brackets, which blend in well with natural teeth. But they are more expensive and tend to break easier than traditional braces. This is because they are made of plastic, which is less stable than metal.

What is Malocclusion (Teeth Misalignment)?

Malocclusion refers to the misalignment of teeth. It is commonly passed down through genetics. However, lifestyle factors can also cause teeth alignment issues.

Anterior Open Bite with upper and lower front teeth overlapping

Common types of malocclusion include:

  • Crowded teeth — the teeth overlap each other
  • Overbites — the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth
  • Underbites — the lower front teeth overlap the upper front teeth
  • Diastema — small or large gaps between the teeth
  • Open bites — the front upper and lower teeth slant outward and do not touch when the mouth is closed

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between in-office and at-home aligners?

With in-office aligners, you have to visit a licensed dentist to begin treatment. The treatment process is more intensive and requires frequent in-person visits.

Also called direct-to-consumer aligners, at-home aligners are more affordable than in-office aligners. Treatment is monitored remotely. This means you don’t have to visit a licensed dental professional throughout treatment.

How long does clear aligner treatment take?

Treatment times vary depending on personal needs. However, aligner treatment typically takes less than 12 months. Some at-home options claim to straighten teeth in less than 6 months (mild misalignment only).

How long do braces take to straighten teeth?

Braces are worn for 12 to 24 months, on average. This is typically longer than clear aligner treatment.

What are retainers? Why are they recommended after teeth straightening?

After teeth straightening treatment, you will need to wear a custom-made retainer every night to prevent tooth movement. Retainers come in both removable and permanent forms, depending on preference.

How much do braces and clear aligners cost?

Braces typically cost around $2,000 to $10,000. Invisalign averages between $3,000 and $8,000. At-home aligners are cheaper than Invisalign (usually less than $3,000).

When should you choose braces over Invisalign or other aligners?

Braces are typically better if you have moderate to severe teeth misalignment, specifically jaw misalignment.

Key Terms

Braces Costs and Insurance

Clear Aligner Costs

Invisalign Alternatives

Braces Costs and Insurance

The average cost of braces is $2,000 to $3,000. They may cost up to $10,000 for severe cases. Some dental insurance plans partially cover braces.
Learn More:
Cost of Braces Explained

Clear Aligner Costs

Clear aligners cost anywhere between $1,200 and $8,000. The cost depends on the brand, the length of treatment, and the type of aligner you select.
Learn More:
How Much Do Clear Aligners Cost?

Invisalign Alternatives

At-home aligners are a cheaper alternative to Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and braces. These companies sell plastic aligners directly to consumers. Everything is monitored remotely with direction from orthodontists and dental professionals.
Learn More:
Invisalign Alternatives
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