Is Invisalign Better Than Braces? The Honest Truth

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Is Invisalign better than braces, in all honesty? 

If your teeth are crooked or misaligned and you have decided to finally get something about it, the next question you are going to have to figure out is whether to opt for traditional braces or clear aligners, whether from Invisalign or from another clear aligner provider.

Clear aligner therapy is made possible thanks to technological advancements in orthodontic dentistry, and clear aligner trays offer several obvious advantages over traditional braces. But traditional braces have also seen innovations and improvements every year since they were firs introduced over a hundred years ago.

One thing is clear: Invisalign aligners have become an increasingly popular choice of orthodontic treatment over the past few years, and the success of this clear aligner provider is showing no signs of slowing down. Quite the reverse, in fact. 

But how effective are Invisalign aligners really when compared to traditional braces? How do the results you can achieve with either treatment compare side by side? What are the differences in price point, treatment time, ease and comfort?

In this article, we are going to pitch Invisalign vs braces and look at how they compare on every count. By the time you have read all the way to the end, you will have gained a much clearer idea of how well Invisalign hold up against traditional braces, and whether or not one option or the other is going to be the ideal solution for you.

Traditional braces

Traditional metal braces have been in use for hundreds of years and modern orthodontics are said to have originated in the 1700s.

Of course, the metal, ceramic and lingual braces that are available today are much more refined and effective than their Victorian Era counterparts. They are also significantly less bulky. 

The reason why traditional types of braces are still in use today, even with a deluge of clear aligner providers flooding into the orthodontic treatment space, is that they get the job done. Even in complex cases where the teeth or even the jaw are severely misaligned, a skilled orthodontist will be able to install and adjust traditional braces until the issue has been corrected and the patient ends cup with the straight teeth and the healthy smile they desire. 

The clearest advantage of wearing braces when clear aligners are also available is that they are able to move the teeth properly, even when their starting positions are very far from ideal.

At the same time, braces have their drawbacks and limitations when compared to Invisalign and other clear aligners. But we will get back to that in a minute.

Metal braces

Metal braces are the best known type of traditional braces. Like the name indicates, they are made from metal alloy attached to the fronts of the teeth and connected by an archwire. 

It is by tightening and adjusting this archwire that the orthodontist is able to direct the course of the teeth straightening treatment.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces are almost exactly the same as metal braces, with the one crucial difference being that the metal alloy attached to the fronts of the teeth is swapped for tooth-coloured ceramic. 

Ceramic braces are often slightly more expensive than metal braces, but the difference in price might be worth it to you due to their much more discreet appearance. In fact, from a difference, most people are not able to tell if someone is wearing ceramic braces as they simply blend in with the teeth.

Lingual braces

Lingual braces are metal brackets attached to the backs rather than the front of the teeth. 

The advantage of lingual braces is obvious – they’re hidden behind the teeth and therefore invisible to anyone but the person wearing them. Before ear aligners were an option, lingual braces were the most discreet orthodontic treatment option available. 

Traditional braces treatment process

The teeth straightening treatment process is pretty much the same whether we are talking about traditional metal, ceramic or lingual braces.

In all instances, the brackets and the archwire have to be installed by a highly skilled orthodontist or dentist. The teeth straightening process with braces inevitably requires regular checkups and adjustments at the dentist’s office. 

Traditional braces are popular among both children, teens and adults, but as Invisalign trays have become increasingly popular, more and more teens and adults choose them over traditional braces.

Special considerations when wearing braces

It is particularly important to stay on top of your oral hygiene and health while you are getting your teeth straightened with braces. The reason for this is that braces make it much easier for plaque to build up between the teeth, between the teeth and the wire, and in the gum pockets around the teeth. Food particles can also very easily get caught in these places and can sit there and fester until they are removed. And as we all know, plaque buildup and bits of food sitting in your mouth for hours at a time put you at risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. 

With braces, you lack the option of being able to remove your orthodontic appliance when it is time to eat – therefore, you cannot avoid foods getting stuck in your braces. For this reason, there are certain foods you should try to reduce or even eliminate completely from your diet for the duration of your teeth straightening treatment. These foods include hard foods like nuts, hard candies and popcorn and chewy foods like toffee, chewing gum, dark meats and chewy bread products.

There are other habits to consider as well when you are wearing braces. One of them is your smoking habit, if you have one. Smoking is of course never a good idea for your health, but it is particularly bad if you are wearing braces. The reason is that nicotine and other chemicals get trapped in your mouth for longer, therefore causing more damage. Nicotine is also one of the primary substances that can cause stained and yellow teeth. Smokers who continue smoking while wearing braces tend to find that, when their braces are finally removed, their teeth are perfectly straight but their enamel color has changed – except where the metal or ceramic brackets were attached to the teeth. The result is two-toned teeth. Not a great look, by most people’s standards.

Traditional braces treatment time

The treatment time with traditional braces, just like with Invisalign aligners, varies, Typically, however, the treatment time falls somewhere between 12 and 36 months.

In other words, achieving straight teeth with braces tends to take significantly longer than it would if you had opted for the Invisalign treatment instead. 

Traditional braces cost

Like the expected treatment time, the cost of braces can vary by a whole lot. The normal price range is between $4,000 and $10,000. 

Again, Invisalign trays are less expensive in most cases.

Traditional braces pros

Now that you have a good overview, let us break down the main upsides of choosing braces over Invisalign clear aligners.

The primary upside has got to be that traditional metal braces are able to treat even severe cases – cases that would be untreatable with Invisalign trays. In other words, if you get rejected as a candidate for Invisalign treatment, you know you will be able to get braces instead. 

Another pro is that braces require less personal discipline. With clear aligners, you are responsible for taking them in and out – and not least, for wearing them for the prescribed 22 hours a day when you should cheat and only wear them for a few hours now and then (thus jeopardising your progress and results).

Traditional braces cons

The most immediately obvious con of wearing braces instead of clear aligner trays is that braces are visible. Highly visible, in fact. Many adults forego teeth straightening treatment and the perfect smile of their dreams simply because wearing braces would make them feel too self-conscious. After all, will you be taken seriously in the courtroom, the classroom or the boardroom if you are wearing braces? 

Another considerable drawback when wearing braces is the obstacle they pose to keeping your teeth and gums healthy and clean. As mentioned earlier on in this article, it food particles and plaque can very easily build up in your mouth when you are wearing braces. On top of this, brushing and flossing properly becomes much more of a challenge when metal brackets and wire are in the way.

Invisalign aligners

Now that we have given you a thorough insight into what choosing braces entails, let us look at the Invisalign treatment option through a similarly detailed lens.

Invisalign has been around for a few decades, but in the grand scheme of orthodontic treatment options, clear aligners are still the newest shoot on a long-standing practice. Still, it is not surprising that the Invisalign treatment has become a worldwide phenomena. 

Never before has achieving straight teeth been this easy, this discreet and this inexpensive.

Invisalign offers several hard-hitting advantage over traditional braces – but also a few drawbacks, which we will be discussing later on in this section of the article.

Traditional braces treatment process

Like teeth straightening with traditional braces, the Invisalign treatment starts in the dentist’s office. However, where all dentists worth their title are able to instal braces, only some dentists are trained Invisalign doctors. 

Before you are accepted or rejected as a candidate for Invisalign treatment, you will have to attend an initial assessment, where the Invisalign doctor will assess and make highly accurate 3D scans of your teeth. This information is then sent back to Invisalign HQ where a team of specialists tailor make a treatment plan for your smile. The treatment only begins once you have approved of this plan and worked out a payment plan.

The treatment itself consists of wearing successive sets of clear aligners. These all get sent to your dentist’s office, where you can pick them up and get help putting them in the first time.

One of the truly wonderful things about the Invisalign treatment is that it comes with a lifetime smile guarantee. When you opt for braces, you don’t receive this level of service, and over time, some of your teeth might shift back towards their original positions. It is highly unlikely that they will ever end up back where they started, but your perfect smile will not last forever without maintenance.

This is why the Invisalign treatment includes a clear retainer. A retainer is similar to clear aligner trays, only it is made from a more sturdy and hard-wearing material. It is made to fit the shape of your new, perfect smile, and if you wear it occasionally on an ongoing basis, it will help you maintain it for life.

Invisalign treatment time

The timeframe of treatment can and will vary, but anywhere between 6 and 18 months is within the normal range.

Invisalign cost

The average cost of Invisalign is $5,000. Options range between $3,500 and $8,000.

Invisalign pros

Now, let us go through the major pros of choosing Invisalign over traditional braces.

First and foremost, clear plastic aligners, including Invisalign, have a practically invisible appearance. This obviously makes them a very attractive option. 

The treatment timeframes also tend to be much shorter. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to achieve the same results with Invisalign that you would achieve with traditional braces, but in about half to two thirds of the time.

Another pro is the slightly lower price point.

Yet another upside worth pointing out is that, with Invisalign, staying on top of your oral health and hygiene is much easier. Clear aligner trays are made from a flexible material and can be lifted off of the teeth – which of course makes it much easier to clean them and floss between them.

Invisalign cons

If there is one con associated with the Invisalign treatment, it is that it isn’t for everyone.

If your teeth are severely misaligned, or if you have a misaligned bite, traditional braces are the only option.

Another potential downside is that wearing clear aligners of any kind requires a bit of personal discipline. After all, if you can remove your aligners whenever you want, why wouldn’t you? (The answer, of course, is because it would compromise your treatment length and results, but some people may still struggle to find the motivation).

Invisalign or braces? FAQ

Is Invisalign more effective than braces?

It depends. Whether clear aligners or traditional braces are going to be most effective at correcting your dental misalignment issue depends on the specifics of your dental misalignment issue.

If your problem is mild to moderate crowding, particularly of the front teeth, Invisalign aligners are generally going to be your best option. If, on the other hand, a greater number of your teeth are significantly misaligned or you need bite correction, tradition metal braces are going to work more effectively.

Is Invisalign safer than braces?

Invisalign aligners are generally considered to be a safer orthodontic treatment than tradition braces.

When wearing clear aligners, you avoid many of the unwanted drawbacks that come with wearing traditional metal braces which are bonded to your teeth for up to three years at a time. One of the significant advantages to wearing clear aligner trays is that they are removable, which means you can remove them in order to eat, as well as to brush and floss your teeth. Having removable braces makes it so much easier to keep your teeth clean and healthy throughout your teeth straightening treatment, whereas with traditional braces it can be difficult to stay as vigorously on top of your oral hygiene and health.

Does Invisalign work worse than braces?

In most cases, Invisalign aligners are either as effective or more effective than traditional braces while offering several advantages; a shorter treatment timeframe, a slightly smaller cost, greater ease and comfort while undergoing the treatment. 
The underlying principles of how braces and Invisalign aligners work are the same. The braces or the aligners put constant firm pressure on the teeth in order to shift them into a desired position. 

Having said that, there are some cases where only traditional metal braces are able to do the trick. If your teeth are very severely misaligned to begin with, tradition metal braces might be needed, as the pressure they apply to your teeth is constant over a longer period of time.

To find out what type of orthodontic treatment your teeth require, consult with your nearest Invisalign dentist. He or she will throughly examine your teeth and make detailed scans of them using the revolutionary iTero scanner in order to determine whether or not you would benefit more from Invisalign or braces.

Do braces and Invisalign give the same results?

Yes, Invisalign and braces can both yield the same great results. 

What is important to consider is your starting point. In cases where the teeth only require minor corrections, Invisalign aligners are the more desirable option due to the much faster treatment timeframe, the discreet appearance of the aligner trays, and the fact that they are made of a flexible material which allows you to take them in and out to eat and to brush your teeth. Which in turn makes it much easier to stay on top of your overall oral health.

What’s cheaper braces or Invisalign?

It is important to note that prices – both of braces and Invisalign – vary depending on your location and on the level of correction your teeth require. 

Having said that, Invisalign tends to be the less expensive option. Invisalign costs, on average, somewhere around $5,000, with options ranging from $3,500 to $8,000. The cost of traditional braces can also vary greatly. Anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000, is in the expected range. 

Why is Invisalign faster than braces?

Invisalign clear aligners are a much faster orthodontic treatment option than traditional metal braces. The reason for this is that each set of clear aligners that you wear throughout your treatment is custom made to move each misaligned tooth into its correct position. 

Throughout your teeth straightening treatment with clear aligners, your clear braces are constantly refining the results that have already been achieved. By contrast, traditional metal braces have to be adjusted manually by your dentist, and it can take longer to obtain the results you desire.

Our verdict

If you are a candidate for Invisalign aligners, we would always recommend this option.

Not only are Invisalign clear aligners practically invisible, they are also faster, usually cheaper, and they come with the same level of supervision throughout the length of your treatment. They also come with the added bonus of a lifetime guarantee, which is more than you can say for braces.

In other words, yes, Invisalign is better than braces, in most cases.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.