Today we dissect two of the most popular options available to patients who want a straighter, more beautiful smile. The options are regular braces or Invisalign clear aligners, so which one is the better option?
Going to the dentist is usually never fun but it’s a necessity. This is especially true if you’re smile is less than perfect and more than a little crooked. In this case, you might actually want to visit your dentist because a straight smile is in your best interests.
Upon visiting your dentist, you’ll be taken through a consultation and have your teeth inspected. As long as your crooked teeth aren’t too bad, you’ll probably be offered two choices – braces or clear aligners. Then it will be up to you to choose which way you’d like to go, and this is where we can help give you some advice.
What you need to know
For years, braces have been by far the number one option for straightening teeth, but now, clear aligners are making a strong surge in popularity, especially when it comes to patients who only require mild to moderate adjustments to their smile.
Traditional braces are kind of a nasty bit of dentistry when it comes down to it. This is because they rely on brackets, which are cemented to your teeth, tied together with wires and rubber bands and the treatment takes a long time to work. Seeing as the brackets of braces are typically made of metal, or ceramic, they are uncomfortable to wear and can really cut your lips and gums up as you get used to them. On top of that you won’t be able to remove the braces, so every time you eat they’ll get full of food particles and will be a real hassle to clean. Depending on how badly your teeth are misaligned, traditional braces could also take a long time to do their thing. The plus side with braces is that they are very dependable and can straighten even the most crooked smile.
Clear aligners like Invisalign (you’ve probably seen them advertised on TV or Facebook) are the newest products to hit the market for straightening your teeth. We’re going to put this out there right away, so you don’t get your hopes up – clear aligners aren’t for everyone because they are only effective at treating mild to moderate cases. The pros of clear aligners are quite plentiful though. It starts with the fact that unlike ugly metal braces, clear aligners are, you guessed it – clear, and are nearly invisible to the casual observer. They are also made of plastic and worn over your teeth like a mouth guard or a retainer. They are not permanent which means you’ll be able to remove them for eating and cleaning. It’s a huge time saver and way less of a hassle to clean your teeth (and the aligners) when you can remove them from your mouth. Clear aligners or clear braces are made through a process which includes taking x-rays of your teeth and jaw, creating an impression cast of your teeth and waiting to have your custom set of aligner trays fabricated. Once you pick them up from your dentist, you’ll start wearing the first set of aligners, letting them gradually move your teeth over a period of weeks, then transitioning onto the next set of trays in the series until your entire straightening program is complete. Clear aligners also offer the option of a no-hassle touch up in case your teeth start to revert from their positions some years down the road.
Pros & Cons of Each Method
|Regular Braces||Clear Aligners (Clear Braces)|
|Cost||Braces tend to be slightly cheaper than clear aligners. However, the price will depend largely on how much adjustment your teeth require and how difficult your case is.||Clear aligners can be more expensive than braces and the price varies depending on how long your treatment program is. A consultation with your dentist is the best way to nail down an accurate idea of cost.
|Length of Procedure||Applying braces to your teeth can take anywhere from a half hour to two hours. It depends on whether you need upper and lower braces.||Clear aligners require an appointment for x-rays and to take an impression of your teeth. Then you’ll have to wait while your clear aligners are fabricated. You’ll also generally have to visit the dentist to pick them up.
|Length of Treatment||Braces are typically worn from 6 months to 2 years, but it depends on how severe your treatment is.||Clear aligners are a bit faster, typically being worn from 6 months to 18 months depending on how severe your treatment requirement.
|How will they look||Traditional metal braces are cemented to your teeth and connected with wires which means they are very visible when you smile. You may have options to choose ceramic braces or ones coloured to match your teeth but even then, they are more visible.||Clear braces are clear and resemble a slim sports mouthguard. While you will still be able to tell you are wearing them, they are not very noticeable and are often virtually invisible to others.
|Wearer comfort||You will get used to your braces, but cut, irritated and sore lips or gums are common early on. Braces often cause some difficulty speaking clearly at first but patients get used to them over time.||You may have to get used to wearing your clear aligners, but they shouldn’t be overly uncomfortable even at the beginning. They are smooth plastic, not pointy metal, so even if you need to get used to them as well, it’s a much faster and easier process. Clear aligners will also cause difficulty speaking at first, as you would expect from wearing a mouthguard.
|Maintenance & Cleaning||Braces need to be cleaned otherwise the built-up food particles will cause permanent damage to your teeth. You’ll typically spend a lot of time cleaning (picking, rinsing, brushing etc.) to keep them and your teeth clean after meal times.||Clear aligners are a breeze in this regard. You remove them when you eat or to brush/floss your teeth. You can wash them with soap and water or a dental product as well. You will also need to change your aligner trays as required by your treatment schedule as you move onto the next step.
|Dental Check-ups||Traditional braces will require you to visit the dentist regularly so that the wires can be tightened and continue to exert pressure on your teeth and move them in the right direction. Once your treatment is over, they will also need to be removed at the dentist’s office. After your treatment is complete, you may be required to wear a retainer or mouthguard at night to ensure your teeth don’t revert to their old positions.||Before you start your treatment program, you will be provided all the aligner trays you’ll need to go through during your treatment. After your initial visits, you won’t need to visit your dentist until the treatment program is complete. It may also be recommended to wear your last set of aligner trays at night so your teeth don’t revert.
|Who is a candidate||This is where regular braces have a big advantage over clear aligners. Regular braces are capable of straightening even the most crooked smiles if given enough time. Everyone is typically a candidate for teeth straightening with regular braces.||Not everyone may be a candidate for clear aligners. It’s unfortunate, but those patients with more than moderately crooked teeth will most likely be required to where traditional braces instead, at least at first. X-rays and an initial consultation with your dentist will let you know if you are a candidate for clear braces or not.|
Regardless of which direction you choose (or are forced into), it’s a good idea to have your smile straightened. It might be an unwelcome process, but a straighter smile helps your teeth wear evenly, takes pressure off your jaw and can work wonders for your self image and confidence. If you’re thinking about it, or your dentist has recommended it, don’t hesitate to consider having your teeth straightened with regular braces or clear braces. After a consultation with your dentist, you’ll know what your best option is and what is involved in proceeding. Ask about treatment options and treatments plans – how much they cost, how long they take and the probability of success in straightening your smile. After your treatment is complete and your smile is beautifully straight – it will all have been worth it.