Braces and clear aligners such as Invisalign are orthodontic treatments used to treat malocclusion (crowded, protruding, or crooked teeth) to improve the look and feel of your smile. Both teeth-straightening methods work by exerting pressure to realign the teeth and jaw and correct a malocclusion, sometimes called a “bad bite.”
Traditional braces typically consist of brackets attached to a wire and fitted to your teeth. Clear removable aligners, such as Invisalign, were created more recently to address some of the problems associated with traditional braces.
This article discusses the pros and cons of Invisalign versus braces, including the procedures, cost, aesthetics, comfort, effectiveness, and care. With this information, find out which one fits your needs.
Comparing Invisalign vs. Braces
Invisalign and braces work similarly to correct problems with the alignment and spacing of your teeth. Take a look at the differences between these orthodontic devices in terms of price, aesthetics, comfort, effectiveness, speed, and more.
The cost of orthodontic treatments depends on many factors. On average, braces cost about $3,000–$7,000 in the United States. Invisalign may be comparable or a little more. These costs may vary based on your location, the duration of your treatment, the complexity of your dental concerns, and the orthodontist you choose.
Some dental insurance plans may cover a certain percentage of orthodontic treatments, especially for children and teens. Braces are somewhat more likely to be covered than Invisalign.
Many dentists and orthodontists offer financing and flexible payment plans to make teeth straightening treatments more affordable. You can also consider third-party healthcare financing options.
Braces usually consist of small brackets that are attached to a wire and fitted with bands. The brackets may be made out of metal, ceramic, plaster, or other materials. They may be clear, silver, the color of your teeth, or a variety of other colors. Lingual braces are a type of brace attached to the back of your teeth to make them less obvious.
Many people, especially adults, opt for Invisalign because of its natural aesthetic appearance. Plastic aligners like Invisalign look like clear retainers and are custom-made to fit your mouth. The trays are virtually unnoticeable, even from short distances away.
Research suggests that people with traditional braces experience more pain and discomfort than those using Invisalign, especially in the early weeks of treatment and each time an orthodontist tightens them.
Clear aligners like Invisalign may also take some time to get used to. Patients may have excessive salivation and speak with a lisp for the first few days after beginning treatment.
Braces may also be uncomfortable when metal scrapes or pushes up against the inside of your mouth. Invisalign has a smoother, softer feel.
Effectiveness and Speed of Straightening
Both Invisalign and braces are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the orthodontic treatment of malocclusion.
Invisalign is typically used to treat mild to moderate dental concerns. Braces are often preferable and more effective in more complex cases, such as rotated teeth, large gaps, or severe crowding.
People typically wear Invisalign for 12 to 18 months, but some people may only need them for six months. By contrast, fixed braces often take one to two years to work. The length of time depends on many individual factors, so talk to your orthodontist about what to expect for your case.
If you have braces, you’ll have to avoid certain foods that can stick to or damage the brackets. Steer clear of hard foods, like apples, pears, carrots, popcorn, and nuts, as well as sticky foods, like chewy candy and gum.
One of the advantages of clear aligners like Invisalign is that they’re removable. You can (and should) take them out when you’re eating or drinking. Just remember to brush and floss before you put them back in to avoid tooth decay.
Care and Cleaning
To avoid tooth decay, you should brush your teeth after every meal or snack and floss daily if you wear braces. Use an interdental brush (a tiny brush that goes between the teeth) to get into all the crevices.
Research suggests that people who straighten their teeth with clear aligners experience fewer cavities, less tooth decay, and have fewer gum problems than people who wear braces. To prevent bacteria and calcium buildup, wash your aligner with Invisalign’s cleaning solution after each meal.
To get traditional braces, you’ll start with a thorough dental examination and X-ray imaging. Your orthodontist will secure the brackets to your teeth with bonding adhesive, thread a wire through them, and keep the wire and brackets firmly in place with a series of bands.
Traditional braces may involve more follow-up visits to the orthodontist over time for tightening and adjustments. After your braces are removed, you might also have to wear a retainer for one to three years to maintain your results.
Getting fitted for Invisalign starts with a similar process, including a dental examination and imaging. Then, your orthodontist will make a mold of your teeth to create a series of custom-fit aligner trays. They may be temporarily fitted to your teeth with small attachments. You’ll switch to another set of aligners every one to three weeks to gradually realign your teeth.
It’s important to wear Invisalign at least 22 hours per day in order to see results. If you frequently forget to put your aligners back on, they won’t be effective.
Which Option Is Best for Me?
Both Invisalign and braces can straighten your teeth, improve your smile, and correct common dental complaints, such as an overbite or underbite. If you’re self-conscious about wearing braces, especially as an adult, you might prefer a more discreet orthodontic device like Invisalign.
However, Invisalign isn’t right for everyone. If you’ve had previous orthodontic treatments, you might not qualify.
Clear aligners may not be effective if you have certain orthodontic issues, such as:
- Rotated teeth
- Severe overbite
- Severely crowded teeth
- Large gaps between the teeth
- Dental intrusion or extrusion (tooth displacement)
In more complex cases, braces are often more effective.
Invisalign for Adults vs Invisalign for Kids
If your child or teen uses a removable orthodontic device like Invisalign, it’s important that they are willing and able to wear it most of the day to achieve optimal results.
Braces and clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are orthodontic treatments for malocclusion (a “bad bite,” or crowded or crooked teeth). Both teeth-straightening methods can help with the appearance of your smile.
Many people opt for Invisalign over traditional braces because clear aligners are virtually invisible and more discreet. Invisalign is often more comfortable than braces and having Invisalign requires fewer visits to the orthodontist. Because Invisalign trays can be removed, people who wear them can generally eat and drink what they prefer.
However, braces may be a better choice for people with more complex dental concerns, such as a severe overbite, severely crowded teeth, or a rotated tooth.
While braces and Invisalign have similar out-of-pocket costs, braces are more likely to be partially covered by certain insurance plans. Also, people who use Invisalign have to be willing and able to wear the device consistently to achieve optimal results.
A Word From Verywell
If you’re self-conscious about your smile, both braces and Invisalign can help you feel more confident. Which option is better is going to depend on many factors, which your orthodontist can assess. They will advise you which is preferable for you or your child.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat with Invisalign on?
You shouldn’t eat or drink anything while wearing your Invisalign tray. Small particles of food can get lodged inside the aligner, leading to bacteria buildup and tooth decay. Brush your teeth after every meal before putting your Invisalign back on.
Do braces and Invisalign give you the same results?
Both braces and Invisalign are approved by the FDA as orthodontic treatments for malocclusion and other dental concerns. They are both effective in correcting mild to moderate cases of crooked, crowded, protruding, and misaligned teeth.
However, clear aligners aren’t as effective in treating more severe orthodontic problems, such as rotated teeth or a severe overbite.
Does insurance cover Invisalign?
Basic insurance plans typically do not cover Invisalign and other orthodontic treatments. Some private dental insurance plans may cover part of the costs of Invisalign. Third-party financing options and monthly payment plans can help make clear aligners like Invisalign more affordable.