Braces vs. Aligners: 5 Things to Consider

Two Girls posing for braces vs aligners

Did you know that the American Association of Orthodontics estimates 50-75% of Americans would benefit from orthodontics treatment? It’s true! There are many benefits to orthodontic treatment. Straight, healthy teeth make it easier to chew, brush, and speak, and having a smile that you’re proud of and comfortable with will improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Orthodontics can help reduce the risk of cavities and periodontal disease, as well as mitigate the risk of chipping, grinding, or dental emergencies. There’s no doubt that orthodontic care will improve your quality of life – but the question you may be asking yourself is, “Which orthodontic treatment is right for me?”
The easiest way to find out which orthodontic treatment will work best for you is to complete a free consultation, either in-person or with our virtual consult tool.

Still weighing your orthodontic options? Consider which of the following factors is most important to you:

  • Cosmetics – Would you rather keep your treatment on the DL or are you loud and proud about the smile you’re working towards?
  • Convenience – How often are you able to make trips to the orthodontist?
  • Compliance – How much effort are you willing to make to progress in treatment?
  • Comfort – How much soreness should you expect?
  • Cost – Which treatment is more budget-friendly?

There are options available for orthodontic patients to consider – traditional braces – but all of these treatment options will help you get to the smile you want faster and with less discomfort than previous generations of orthodontic patients (sorry, mom).

What’s the Difference Between Traditional Braces and Invisalign?

Traditional braces – a term used to describe a treatment system comprised of archwires and brackets – are available as an option to almost all patients. Braces are available in both standard metal brackets as well as clear or tooth-colored ceramic or plastic brackets and wire to minimize the appearance of the braces.

Invisalign treatment guides patients through a customized series of clear plastic aligners that are less noticeable than braces and are removable for eating, drinking, and special occasions. While Invisalign is an option for many patients, compliance is the most important factor to consider before committing to treatment.

Do you care if people know that you’re straightening your teeth?

Girl with clear aligners
Clear aligners are the most incognito way to get through orthodontic care. However, braces give you the option to be as colorful and creative as you want.

Traditional metal braces are noticeable, but to what extent they are noticeable is up to the patient. Braces use small elastics to keep the archwire secure and for many younger patients, this is a great way to use fun colors or patterns to turn their orthodontic care into an accessory. Likewise, the look of braces can be downplayed by using tooth-colored elastics or by using clear or tooth-colored plastic or ceramic brackets. Unfortunately, the wire will still be noticeable.

Invisalign clear aligners are the discrete way to go through orthodontic treatment. However, keeping your aligners totally transparent isn’t always guaranteed. Their transparency is reliant on how well you clean your aligners. However, since most patients receive a new set of aligners every 10-14 days, it’s hard to get a set of aligners dirty enough to be noticeable before it’s time for the next set. Some aligners require attachments to facilitate larger movements and these are typically in the form of tooth-colored bumps that snap into your aligners. Another factor to consider – aligners can temporarily accentuate a lisp or other speech impediments while you get used to them, but this typically goes away very quickly.

Convenience – Do you want fewer orthodontic appointments or more guidance?

If time is the most important part of your decision, consider this: when you follow instructions for both types of treatment, the amount of time you spend in orthodontics could be just about the same.
Traditional braces will comprise of two long appointments – called your bond and debond – which covers putting the brackets on and taking them off. Throughout the course of treatment, you’ll make several short visits to your orthodontist to check-in and make adjustments as needed (typically every few weeks). Because your orthodontist is crafting your smile as you go throughout treatment, you may have an appointment every few weeks. If you have a problem breaking brackets or wires, you may have to make more trips.

Invisalign uses your 3D iTero scans to plot a course of treatment with your orthodontist. Your initial and final appointments will be longer, but there will be fewer check-in appointments throughout treatment as aligners are delivered to the patient about every 10-14 days. There tend to be fewer emergency-type appointments with Invisalign (no brackets to break here!). The greatest inconvenience is the possibility of losing an aligner or ruining it when it’s not in your mouth. Depending on where you are in your treatment, you’ll need to call your orthodontist to see if the aligner set can be replaced, or if you’re ready to just move along to the next pair.

Compliance – Do you trust yourself to follow Invisalign instructions or do you need accountability?

girl with braces
Aligners take dedication to use, making them a great option for adults and old teens. Younger patients tend to have the most success with traditional braces, since the responsibility for movement is up to the orthodontist.

Traditional braces are a good option for younger patients (8-14ish) because it takes a lot of the accountability off the shoulders of the patient. For patients with braces, good oral hygiene is the most important responsibility, along with making sure to avoid foods that are bad for brackets. Other compliance concerns with braces include wearing elastics, although not all patients will have to use them. Ultimately, the responsibility for moving teeth rests on the orthodontist as long as the patient is cooperative.

Invisalign is a favorite for adults and older teens for its aesthetic quality, but also because it’s easier for adults and teens to keep up with the compliance requirements. In order to work, Invisalign aligners need to be in your mouth. Because these are aligners and not retainers, your teeth are in an active state of shift. Therefore, you should anticipate wearing your aligners 18-22 hours a day. Aligners should be removed for eating and drinking (except for water), rinsed, and put back on as soon as you’ve brushed. Compliance is the single biggest issue for patients when it comes to Invisalign, and while rare, failure to comply could result in needing to stop Invisalign treatment and move into braces.

Comfort – How much is being comfortable with your braces or clear aligners worth?

Traditional braces come with a variety of pokey metal attachments and wires, creating more opportunities to create sores on your cheeks, lips, or tongue. Orthodontic wax is a great resource to mitigate sore spots from your braces until you can get in for an adjustment. Typically after an appointment, patients with braces can have some soreness and discomfort for a few days before it goes away until the next appointment. If you are an athlete a mouth guard is recommended regardless, but any roughhousing can leave you with sore cheeks or gums.

Because the course of treatment with aligners is plotted from the beginning, it’s easier to spread out movements to limit discomfort. However, some patients do report soreness when it comes time to move into the next set of aligners. Because aligners are smooth (baring those that have attachments), the only problems patients run into when it comes to comfort is when the edges of the aligners rub against the gums. This is easy to adjust away, so contact your orthodontist if you experience issues so you can be comfortable again.

Cost – How much do orthodontics cost?

In Oklahoma, orthodontic patients can expect to pay between $3000-$6000, depending on the estimated difficulty and length of treatment – regardless of if the patient chooses braces or aligners. The combination of time and effort needed to achieve the final result is expressed by “comprehensive” and “partial” treatment plans.

Whether or not a patient has orthodontic benefits through their insurance provider can also affect the final price. For patients with Soonercare, an orthodontic consultation is worth checking out since approved treatment is covered at 100%*.

Because of these variations, Dental Depot is proud to offer free orthodontic consultations to our patients to discuss your treatment options and cost – before you sign any contracts. We look forward to talking to you soon and helping you get started on the smile you deserve.

*Dental Depot is proud to accept Soonercare. For orthodontic patients, Soonercare requires a comprehensive oral exam be completed with an orthodontic assistant to see if patients meet the criteria for orthodontic care to be considered a “need.” If patients do meet these requirements and Soonercare approves the case, it will cover traditional orthodontics at no cost to the patient (although compliance is required).

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