The Difference Between Invisalign vs Braces

Not everyone has perfectly straight adult teeth, which is why orthodontics is such a popular branch of dentistry. For many years, braces were the only option for teens and adults looking to straighten their teeth, but advancements in orthodontics have resulted in another option: Invisalign.

Invisalign and braces are both effective in shifting teeth into their proper position over time, but the treatments have many differences. If you’re looking to improve your smile but you’re not sure which orthodontic treatment is right for you, here are the main differences between Invisalign and traditional braces:

Removable vs. Stationary

Invisalign involves transparent aligner trays made of BPA-free plastic that are worn over your teeth to gently move them into a straighter alignment. Orthodontic specialists use X-rays, photos, and impressions to create a precise 3D image of your teeth to configure the aligner trays accordingly. Patients must wear the trays for a minimum of 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat, drink, brushing and flossing, so discipline is extremely important.

Braces, on the other hand, do not require as much discipline because they are not removable. Brackets made of metal or ceramic are glued to your teeth and connected with wires and tiny rubber bands, which slowly move your teeth into position. The rubber bands are changed out during appointments, but the brackets are stationary for the duration of your treatment.

Invisible vs. Noticeable

Invisalign trays are virtually invisible to observers, making them ideal for adults who wish to avoid a “back to high school” look. There might be an adjustment period for the patient to get used to talking with the trays inserted, but after that it’s easy to forget they’re in place.

Metal braces are indeed noticeable, but ceramic brackets are less so, and they’re available in either clear coloring or off-white to match your teeth. The metal wires are still visible, however, which might not be as important to teenage patients versus adult patients.

Ongoing Adjustments

Invisalign trays must be replaced every two weeks to continue to the realignment process. Follow-up visits are required every four to six weeks to ensure the treatment is going as planned. Overall treatment takes about six to 18 months, depending on the patient’s needs.

Braces require more visits to the orthodontist, who will tighten the wires and replace the rubber bands at every visit. Overall treatment takes an average of two years, depending on the severity of the patient’s alignment issues.

Daily Maintenance

Invisalign patients can brush and floss as before, removing the alignment trays as needed, although it’s important to brush after every meal before replacing the trays to avoid staining the teeth. The trays themselves also require daily cleaning by just brushing and rinsing them with lukewarm water.

Patients with braces might find brushing and flossing teeth more challenging, but using a water pick can be extremely helpful. The brackets should also be brushed daily, as food particles left behind can lead to tooth decay.

Other Pros and Cons

Other benefits of Invisalign include less discomfort and more freedom for patients to eat whatever they want. But as mentioned previously, Invisalign requires a high level of discipline, which is why it’s more often recommended for adults rather than children or younger teens. Invisalign is also ideal for patients with minimal to moderate alignment issues, but not so ideal for substantially crooked teeth.

Braces, on the other hand, are ideal for complex alignment issues, including severe underbites, overbites, and crossbites, along with malocclusions and other major flaws in the teeth and jaw. Plus, the overall cost for braces is lower than Invisalign prices. However, patients will be limited in the types of food they eat for the duration, and there is usually some discomfort involved during adjustment appointments.

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by Thomas Gonzales D.D.S.

Thomas Gonzales D.D.S. is a Los Angeles dentist with advanced training in dental implants. He has 46 years’ experience and is licensed in IV Sedation. Dr. Gonzales has taught courses worldwide on dental implants including for Noris Medical, Nobel, Neodent, LVI Global and Dental Implant Institute. He was a professor of IV Sedation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine and a neuromuscular dentistry instructor for Loma Linda Medical Center. He is a member of several prestigious organizations, including: the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, American Academy of Implant Dentistry, American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation and American Dental Society of Anesthesiology. Dr. Gonzales is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. He served in the United States Army and is a Vietnam War Veteran.

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