If you are considering straightening your teeth, the looming question is always: Invisalign vs. braces. Which one should you get?
Straightening teeth accomplishes more than getting your teeth in ideal alignment. You gain confidence, you improve your ability to chew food with a better bite, and you avoid potential TMJ problems with properly aligned jaws.
Invisalign vs. Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces and Invisalign have the same goals: straighter teeth, better oral health, and an enhanced smile.
The difference between the two treatments is the process each one uses to straighten teeth. The best treatment for you depends on your dental condition and your personal preferences.
Several factors need consideration before you and your dentist decide on Invisalign or traditional braces.
Invisalign uses orthodontic devices known as clear or invisible aligners to move teeth into better alignment.
Zia Chisti (an investment banker and not a dentist) invented Invisalign in 1997. He underwent traditional orthodontics while in his twenties. During this time, he envisioned clear aligners to move teeth. Invisalign was born out of his own experience and became the first clear orthodontic aligner. His method has exploded in popularity since receiving FDA approval in 1998.
The Invisalign process is relatively simple and involves the following steps:
- Initial consultation: Your dentist takes X-rays and photographs, and makes impressions of your teeth.
- A customized digital treatment plan: This plan shows each step that transforms your smile.
- Creation of aligners: You receive unique, customized aligners that fit snuggly around your teeth.
- You start wearing the aligners: You wear your clear aligners for 20 to 22 hours each day. Your dentist determines how often you need new aligners; typically, this ranges from 1 to 2 weeks.
Each set of Invisalign aligners gradually moves your teeth into proper alignment for an enhanced smile and improved function.
Traditional metal braces use metal brackets and wires to move teeth. This type of tooth movement has a long history dating back to the early 1800s. While orthodontic treatment principles have remained the same, the methods, materials, and technology have undergone tremendous advances to perfect the technique.
Recent advances that have improved metal braces include:
- Smaller and simpler braces.
- Ceramic or lingual braces that appear more discrete.
- Tooth-colored bands and wires.
- Improved materials such as nickel and copper-titanium use body heat to move teeth. This movement is more comfortable and requires fewer adjustments.
Invisalign vs Braces Pros and Cons
It is best to discuss the benefits of Invisalign vs. braces with your dentist. Your case is unique to any other and requires a professional assessment to guide you to the best choice for you.
That being said, let’s discuss the pros and cons to each one:
- Oral hygiene: You can brush and floss as usual after simply removing the aligners.
- Eating: You can also eat the foods you usually eat with the aligners out of your mouth.
- Comfort: The medical-grade plastic construction makes Invisalign aligners more comfortable than metal brackets and wires.
- Esthetics: The clear aligners are hardly noticeable to most people.
- Easy maintenance: You can remove the aligners and gently brush them with toothpaste and warm water before replacing them in your mouth.
- Compliance: You need to wear the aligners as prescribed by your dentist for the best results. This usually means wearing them fo at least 22 hours a day for faster results.
- Possible loss: Because you can remove the aligners, it is possible to lose them. They’re also more likely to break than braces.
- Less effective: Those who have impacted or overcrowded teeth may not be able to use Invisalign at first. These conditions require a stronger application (i.e. braces) than these retainers can provide.
- Typically cost less.
- You can’t remove metal braces and cause delays in treatment.
- More closely monitored by the dentist to check for any problems.
- Stronger and better for more complicated cases.
- You can choose the colors for brackets and wires.
- Braces have a long history of successfully straightening teeth.
- Suitable for children and adults.
- Show metal brackets and wires.
- Longer treatment time.
- Food limitations.
- Braces make oral hygiene more difficult.
- Mouth pain and soreness.
Invisalign vs. Braces for Overbite
One of the biggest reasons for getting Invisalign or braces is to correct an overbite. Overbites account for almost 70% of dental-related problems in children, according to the American Dental Association. There are different types and levels of severity of overbites that determine the best treatment to correct the problem.
The two general types of overbite are:
- Vertical overbite: With a vertical overbite, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than usual.
- Horizontal overbite (aka Overjet): This overbite occurs when the upper teeth protrude further than the lower teeth.
Dentists mostly use traditional metal braces to correct severe vertical and horizontal overbites. Metal braces offer the most effective treatment for most overbites because they do not get removed during the treatment time. This allows constant and slow pressure on teeth, which corrects your jaw effeciently over time.
Invisalign can correct some mild or minor overbites in some instances. However, Invisalign requires you get new retainers every couple of weeks and you have to wear them pretty much all day.
Because you can remove these aligners (or skip a retainer appointment), your overbite correction can be delayed. You have to be willing and able to commit to the proper Invisalign process if you want to use them to fix your bite.
Cost for Invisalign vs. Braces
Invisalign has a reputation for costing more than traditional metal braces, but this is not always the case. Several factors determine the total cost of treatment, such as:
- The severity of your orthodontic problem: Severe problems requiring extensive tooth movement can increase the total cost of treatment.
- Your dental insurance: Dental insurance plans can vary considerably in their coverage.
- The office you visit for orthodontic treatment: The price range can be significant when comparing different office locations and provider experience.
First, let’s compare the prices of the different types of braces:
- Metal Braces: These traditional braces with clear brackets cost $3,000 on average.
- Clear/Ceramic Braces: These are traditional braces with clear brackets. They cost $4,000 on average.
- Lingual Braces: These are braces that some patients can get behind their teeth for nearly invisable alignment. Becasue of this advantage lingual braces cost $5,000 on average.
You may also need to factor in extra costs such as broken brackets or wires which can cost $25-$100.
Now let’s look at the cost of Invisalgn:
- National Average: $4,500
- California Cost: $4,500 to $6,000
So keep in mind that your location and your dentist’s experience affect how much your Invisalign or braces cost. The cost of either of these services also goes up the longer you need to wear them and how misaligned your teeth currently are.
However, on average, you can expect Invisalign to be more exspensive than braces.
Does insurance cover Invisalign or braces?
In most cases, you should be able to get your dental or health insurance to cover these services to some degree. For example,
When considering cost, you might benefit from comparing the total treatment time of Invisalign and metal braces. Significant time savings may offset a higher price for one option over the other.
Does Invisalign Work Faster Than Braces?
Invisalign vs braces, which is faster? For most people, Invisalign requires less time to complete tooth movement. Replacing the customized trays every few weeks makes treatment faster.
Generally, the Invisalign process takes between 12 months and 18 months if you wear the clear aligners as directed. Usually, this requires wearing the custom trays for 22 to 24 hours each day. If your teeth only need a slight correction, sometimes you can achieve results in as little as 6 months!
Braces, on the other hand, typically take 1 year minimum to correct your teeth. For severe conditions (e.g. you have crowded teeth and an overbite), it can take as long as 3 years to fully fix your teeth with braces.
We know that shortening the treatment time is a significant concern for most people. The time of treatment varies according to your needs and compliance during treatment. The only true way to know how long you’ll need invisalign or braces is after your consult with your dentist and get a 3D dental scan.
Also, one study found that Invisalign was gentler on gingival tissues during tooth movement. Patients completed the orthodontic treatment with healthier gums and were more satisfied with treatment than those treated with traditional metal braces.
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Which One Is Best For You?
The best thing you can do to determine which of these is best for you is to talk to your dentist. We use the latest technology like 3D dental scans to determine the severity of your teeth misalignment.