Invisalign vs Braces Compared

Although efforts to straighten teeth date back to Ancient Greece and Rome, major advances in orthodontics didn’t occur until the 19th century, which is when it was recognized as a separate dental specialty. Many advances have occurred since, including the advent of clear aligners. 

Invisalign technology was first introduced in 1997 and gained FDA approval the following year. Although competitors have emerged since, Invisalign is the most widely used aesthetic alternative to traditional metal braces, with more than 14 million people treated and counting, according to the company. 

Dr. David Sabourin is an adept Invisalign provider with vast expertise in helping teenage and adult patients who desire a more discreet option than traditional metal braces achieve functional and aesthetic improvements. 

In this post, we will go over the difference between Invisalign and braces so you can make the right choice for your oral health.

What You Should Know About Traditional Braces 

Traditional braces are a time-tested method for straightening teeth and helping individuals achieve healthier, more attractive smiles. Braces can be made of either metal or a tooth-colored ceramic with transparent brackets, depending on your cosmetic preference. 

Whether metal or ceramic, traditional braces consist of a series of brackets, wires, and elastic bands. The brackets are glued to teeth and connected to the thin wire that puts continual pressure on teeth to move them into proper positions. Periodic tightening required every four to six weeks enables steady pressure that gradually straightens your teeth and aligns your jaw. 

Lingual braces are similar to traditional braces, except the wires and brackets are placed on the inside of teeth and feature a slide mechanism in place of elastic to connect the wires. Results are achieved faster and with less pressure and friction, however, these braces are more expensive and not appropriate for all cases. 

Pros and Cons of Traditional Braces 

Since traditional braces are made of stainless steel, they’re strong and durable. Metal braces are more effective for correcting serious issues, including jaw misalignment, crowding, large gaps, rotation, and major overbite or underbite. 

Metal braces are also non-removable, thereby eliminating the possibility of breaking or misplacing them, which makes them ideal for pre-teens and teens who often need to be reminded to wear their clear aligners.

On the other hand, many people feel self-conscious wearing metal braces, which is the reason tooth-colored braces and clear aligners were introduced. 

The hardware that covers parts of the teeth makes it difficult to reach certain places, so it isn’t uncommon for teens to neglect their oral hygiene. Lastly, it’s also necessary to brush gently to avoid damaging brackets and wires and use a special flossing tool to remove food debris to prevent accumulation of decay-causing bacteria. 

Other downsides of braces include: 

  • Can’t eat hard, crunchy, and sticky foods or chew gum
  • Brackets can sometimes rub against the inside of the mouth and form sores
  • Periodic tightening of braces can cause temporary soreness

What You Should Know About Invisalign 

Invisalign is a gentler and nearly invisible protocol for straightening teeth that eliminates the cumbersome brackets and wires required with traditional metal braces. The aligners are made of a BPA- and latex-free plastic called SmartTrack. Invisalign tends to be more comfortable because the clear trays apply less pressure on teeth than metal braces. 

Invisalign was originally intended to only treat mild-to-moderate cases, but its usage has expanded to treat more complex issues such as open bite, crossbite, underbite, and spacing. Studies have indicated it is also a clinically effective option for patients who need jaw surgery for dentofacial deformities. 

How Does Invisalign Work? 

The process starts by taking a fast and precise 3D digital scan of teeth to map out a custom treatment plan with the iTero Element scanner. Invisalign software provides an algorithm to calculate just the right amount of force for every tooth movement. The impressions are sent to the Invisalign dental lab to create customized trays using an advanced 3D printing process, which can take up to a month. 

Patients wear aligners a minimum of 20 hours a day and change them out about every two weeks as teeth gently move into the targeted position. While the entire process can take as little as six months, average treatment lasts about 12-18 months. After treatment, the Vivera retainer helps ensure transformed and beautiful smiles stay that way! 

Pros and Cons of Invisalign 

In addition to being discreet, clear aligners can be removed for flossing, brushing, eating, and sports. 

Studies have shown that patients treated with clear aligners have better gum health and hygiene and lower oral bacteria than patients who wear metal braces. 

On the other hand, because Invisalign trays are removable, some patients may not always comply with the recommendation to wear them at least 20 hours a day. This can extend the overall duration of treatment and/or lead to less than desired results. 

Although Invisalign can address many bite problems, it doesn’t offer all the capabilities of traditional braces. The following issues are better treated with traditional metal braces: 

  • Severe overbite
  • Too-short or pegged teeth
  •  Overly rotated teeth
  • Large gaps
  • Previous dental work (e.g., bridges)
  • Intrusion or extrusion (lowering or raising the position of teeth) 

How to Decide Between Braces and Invisalign 

Many people assume only children and teens are candidates for orthodontics, but teeth can continue to shift into adulthood, resulting in crookedness, misalignment, and other painful side effects. 

Learning about the pros and cons of each option and consulting a certified Invisalign provider like Dr. Sabourin will help determine which straightening method is best. With the exception of major alignment issues discussed above, deciding between Invisalign and braces is primarily a personal choice. 

Speak to a Specialist like Dr. Sabourin 

Whether you’re unhappy with your teeth for cosmetic or health reasons, it’s never too late to improve your smile. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Sabourin to assess your smile and determine if virtually invisible Invisalign or traditional braces are the better option to straighten your teeth.

Dr. David A. Sabourin, D.D.S.

Dr. Sabourin relocated to San Diego from Ann Arbor, Michigan where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He graduated at the top of his class with High Honors from the University of Detroit School of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

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