Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Which Is Best for You?

Did you know that braces made of gold wire have been found in ancient Roman tombs? Braces have been around for longer than you think and people have always wanted straight and healthy smiles.

If you’ve been contemplating getting braces, you’re likely trying to decide between standard braces and clear aligners. Which one is right for you?

We’re here to help you make this tough decision. Read on to learn about traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, and clear aligners.

Getting Braces: The Basics

Traditional metal braces are the classic gold standard when it comes to teeth straightening options. They’re tried and tested and, as we mentioned, they’ve been around for longer than most countries.

They’re the most common option for children and teenagers and they’re even getting more common among adults who never had the opportunity to straighten their teeth in their youth.

But what does the process look like?

After you decide to get braces and the orthodontist evaluates your case, they may start the actual dental work right away. They’ll take an x-ray of your teeth to see what needs to change and to ensure that you don’t need any other type of dental care before you can safely start treatment.

They’ll place a bracket (metal or ceramic) on each tooth. Then, a wire goes around those brackets. During every visit, the orthodontist will tighten and adjust the wires to slowly shift your teeth and jaw into alignment.

Depending on your case, braces can take anywhere from several months to several years. Some people may need to wear rubber bands, and in some cases, more extensive orthodontic equipment may be necessary.

Here are a few common types of braces as well as their pros and cons.

Traditional Metal Braces: Pros and Cons

When most people think of braces, they think of traditional metal braces. These are the silver-toned braces that you can see all the time in the mouths of middle school and high school students.

Traditional metal braces can also be gold, but not all orthodontists offer this. This is, however, a stylish option for anyone who feels unsure about metal braces but wears a lot of gold jewelry. Your braces can be a fashion statement.

One of the top benefits of traditional metal braces is that they can handle almost any orthodontic problem with ease. Many orthodontists prefer to use metal braces for complex cases, even if it’s possible for clear aligners to work.

Traditional metal braces are the most affordable option, and many dental insurance plans cover them. You can also sometimes get them on the same day as your consultation.

These braces are also great for children. They’re difficult to damage and it’s nearly impossible to remove them without help from an orthodontist.

On the downside, they’re the most visible option. While children with braces will fit right in, adults with braces may feel as though they stand out.

Traditional metal braces are also the least comfortable. It’s not uncommon for the metal wires and brackets to cut up the sides of the patient’s mouth. Getting them tightened is also an uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) experience.

Cleaning metal braces is difficult, and you’ll have to modify your diet to exclude foods that are too hard or chewy.

Ceramic Braces: Pros and Cons

Ceramic braces are another great option for anyone seeking orthodontic treatment.

The process is the same as getting traditional metal braces, but instead of metal brackets, patients get tooth-colored ceramic braces. This makes the braces less visible.

While patients will have tooth-colored brackets, the wire will still be a silver or gold metal. The orthodontist may be able to coat the wire to make it match your teeth, but this isn’t always an option. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Ceramic braces have the same benefits as traditional metal braces but with one added benefit: they’re far less visible. You won’t be able to see the braces from a distance or in photos as long as they aren’t too close.

While ceramic braces have all of the benefits of traditional metal braces, they also have all of the same cons (aside from the subtlety). On top of that, they often cost more than metal braces.

Traditional braces still require you to change your diet, they’re still uncomfortable, and they’re still difficult to clean. All of those things aside, however, they’re a great option for anyone on a budget who still wants a straight smile without a mouth full of metal.

Getting Clear Aligners: The Basics

Clear aligners are the most modern option. Instead of metal wires and brackets, patients get a series of clear plastic trays that will move their teeth slowly over time.

During your consultation for Invisalign treatment at Warren Orthodontics (or your local orthodontist’s office), the orthodontist will scan your mouth. Some orthodontists choose to take physical molds, but this is far less common in 2022.

The orthodontist will determine if your case is viable for clear aligners and, if it is, they’ll send the scans either to their in-house aligner team or Invisalign headquarters. Invisalign is the most popular brand of clear aligners and it’s the most reliable option for complex cases.

The aligners should arrive in about six weeks. The orthodontist will likely place attachments (similar to brackets, but smaller and tooth-colored) to help move your teeth into alignment. They may also place buttons that will hold rubber bands.

Every week, you’ll swap out aligners. You have to wear the aligners for at least 20 hours per day to get the best results.

Clear Aligners: Pros and Cons

Clear aligners have several obvious advantages over traditional metal braces, at least for adults.

First, they’re the least visible option. They’re not truly invisible (they’re shiny and the attachments will still be obvious, at least to the wearer), but many people won’t notice them unless you point them out. They’re also not visible in photos or from a reasonable distance.

They’re less uncomfortable than traditional metal braces. There will be some tightness when you switch trays and you may experience some scratching from the attachments at first, but the discomfort will fade.

You can eat all of your favorite foods with Invisalign. You remove the aligners to eat and drink (except for water), so you don’t have to give up anything.

There are still some downsides.

They are the most expensive conventional treatment option and insurance often won’t cover them. This can be a deterrent for anyone on a budget.

They require a certain level of responsibility, making them less ideal for children and young teens. Because you can remove them, it’s easy to lose them or to forget to put them back in after a meal. This will extend your treatment time.

While clear aligners are suitable for a wide variety of cases, they do have limitations. Your orthodontist might not be comfortable giving you clear aligners if you have a complex case.

Watch Out for Unsafe Clear Aligners

Not all types of clear aligners are created equal. Invisalign is by far the most reliable brand. Some orthodontist’s offices have in-house brands that are also reliable, but avoid in-house brands by dentists unless the aligners are only cosmetic.

Invisalign is the best for complex movements due to the use of attachments and rubber bands.

Avoid any mail-order DIY aligner systems, especially if you have a semi-complex case. Because there are no actual orthodontist appointments, you could end up causing irreparable damage to your teeth.

It’s true that Invisalign is more expensive, but if you have a minor case, you may be able to get treatment for less than the lower-quality competitors. For advanced cases, the cost is worth a safe and effective treatment.

Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Is One Better?

Both braces and clear aligners are valid and reliable treatments for a wide variety of orthodontic issues. One is not better than the other. It all depends on your situation.

If you prioritize a subtle smile correction treatment, Invisalign is likely your best option. It’s by far the least visible treatment type. It’s also the most comfortable and the least restrictive.

If you’re getting treatment for a young teenager, you’re on a budget, or you have an advanced case, traditional or ceramic braces might be a better option. While braces are less subtle and often more uncomfortable, they’re cost-effective and there’s a reason they’re so popular.

Which Teeth Straightening Option Is Right for You?

Whether you get clear aligners or traditional (or ceramic) braces, you’re sure to end up with a straight and healthy smile that you love. Both braces and clear aligners are fantastic options.

Talk to your orthodontist about your specific case so you can work together on a treatment plan today.

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Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Which Is Best for You?
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