Traditional metal braces have been around for many years. As it turns out, there’s a good reason why: they work to correct even the most severely crooked smiles. Yet they do have their disadvantages. Recently, over the last several years, newer orthodontic technology involving clear plastic aligners has become an increasingly popular option. And while products like Invisalign® offer several benefits to dental patients, this type of aligner technology has some drawbacks as well. When it comes down to choosing between traditional orthodontics vs. Invisalign® braces, it all depends on your individual needs as well as some other considerations. In this article, we’ll compare metal braces to clear plastic aligners by looking at different categories and seeing how the two compare with each other.
- Appearance – The first comparison is also the most obvious: how do each of these tooth-straightening methods affect a person’s appearance. When it comes to appearance, it’s safe to say that Invisalign® is the obvious winner. In fact, one of the main reasons why clear plastic aligner technology was developed to begin with, and why it continues to grow in popularity with each succeeding year, is the fact that no one will ever know you’re wearing an orthodontic device with these aligner trays. Just as the name implies, Invisalign® aligners are virtually invisible. This stands in stark contrast to traditional metal braces, which are very obvious every time the wearer smiles.
- Comfort – Most people who have worn traditional metal braces for any length of time would probably agree that it takes some time to get accustomed to them. In fact, the metal can be quite irritating to the soft tissue inside the mouth, and the constant pressure the braces place on the wearer’s teeth while the alignment process is going on can be pretty uncomfortable. Invisalign® aligners, on the other hand, are generally much more comfortable than braces. That’s true for two reasons: 1) The aligner trays don’t have sharp metal edges that can injure soft tissues inside the mouth, and 2) the aligner trays apply less pressure on the teeth overall than traditional metal braces.
- Efficacy – Both Invisalign® and metal braces are effective ways to straighten teeth. But it’s important to remember that Invisalign® will only work for people with mildly to moderately crooked teeth. And in some instances, clear plastic aligners simply won’t work at all. Traditional metal braces, on the other hand, will correct virtually any problem related to crooked teeth. That includes underbites, overbites, crowded teeth, misaligned bites, wide spaces in between teeth, etc. In fact, one of the reasons why metal braces have been consistently used for so many years – and continue to be a viable option offered by many dentists and orthodontists today – is because they work so well.
- Dietary restrictions – People who wear metal braces have to be careful not to eat anything too hard, sticky, or chewy since those foods can get caught in their braces and can be difficult (if not impossible) to get out. Patients wearing Invisalign® aligners, on the other hand, can eat any foods they like. That’s because the clear plastic aligners can be removed by the patient during meals.
- Ease of cleaning – Speaking of being able to remove the Invisalign® trays, that also makes it much easier to brush and floss. The patient can simply remove the trays and go about their usual oral hygiene routine. Metal braces, however, can make it difficult to brush and floss thoroughly, although patients do get used to it and often become quite adept at cleaning their teeth and gums even with their braces on.
- Self-discipline – This might sound like an unusual category, but it’s one that definitely comes into play with Invisalign® patients. Because the plastic aligner trays can be removed by the wearer, it requires a certain amount of self-discipline on the part of the patient to make sure they wear them for the required period each day (at least 22 hours). If the aligners aren’t worn for that amount of time, they won’t work. People who wear metal braces aren’t required to exercise this kind of self-control since their appliances can only be removed by a dentist or an orthodontist.
- Price – In almost every instance, metal braces are somewhat more affordable than Invisalign. Depending on the length of treatment, braces usually cost between $2,500 and $8,000. Invisalign® trays, on the other hand, typically range from $3,500 to $8,000. Keep in mind that the prices will vary depending on the provider and the length of treatment. A good dental insurance policy often covers at least a portion of the costs.
- Follow-up visits to the dentist or orthodontist – Both traditional metal braces and Invisalign® require that the patient return to the dentist or orthodontist every few weeks. If you wear braces, these visits are necessary so that your braces can be tightened. For Invisalign® patients, they have to return for a new set of plastic aligners every few weeks.
- Post-treatment requirements – Patients who have finished their treatment with metal braces are usually required to wear a retainer at night to ensure that their teeth remain straight. But it’s not so different with Invisalign® patients, who are normally required to wear a tray at night after their teeth have been straightened using the plastic aligner method.
It’s probably apparent by now that both metal braces and Invisalign® have advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between the two treatment methods will depend on a variety of factors ranging from the severity of your dental issues to your budget constraints to your daily personal habits and much more. When it comes to comparing traditional orthodontics vs. Invisalign® braces, it should come as no surprise that both treatment methods have their place in modern dentistry and orthodontics, which is why they are both offered by so many oral health care providers. To find out more about metal braces and Invisalign® plastic aligner technology, and to decide which one is the best choice for you, contact your dentist or orthodontist today and schedule an appointment.