Invisalign vs. Traditional Braces: Which Option Is Right for Your Smile?

If you’re considering orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth or adjust your bite, you generally have two options: Invisalign or traditional braces. Knowing the pros and cons of each helps you make a better decision for your lifestyle and treatment needs. 

For decades, orthodontists turned to traditional braces because they were the only option. Now, Invisalign offers patients an alternative, aesthetic, low-maintenance solution to straightening their teeth. 

But which option is better for you? Read on to learn the pros and cons of Invisalign versus traditional braces. 

How does Invisalign work?

The Invisalign system uses a series of trays or aligners that gently move the teeth into the ideal position. Your orthodontist works with Invisalign to craft customized trays that fit atop your teeth, nudging them slowly over time into their new alignment. 

Every two weeks, you switch trays to move your teeth toward the final spots, similar to the process of tightening braces. 

How do traditional braces work?

Traditional braces rely on metal brackets, wires, and rubber bands to adjust any out-of-place teeth. Your orthodontist attaches the metal brackets to your teeth, securing them with thin wire and using small rubber bands make minor adjustments. With consistent checkups and brace alterations, the wire moves your teeth into a new position over time. 

How long do treatments take?

Your unique orthodontic treatment needs affect the time it takes to achieve the final straightened look. In general, traditional braces usually need one to three years of treatment time. Invisalign works faster, with most people needing less than two years to achieve the final goal. 

The speed of Invisalign treatments depends on how often you wear the trays. Invisalign recommends that you wear the trays 22 hours daily, only removing them to eat or drink. If you wear them less than the recommended time, your treatment plan might take longer.  

What orthodontic treatment is the most painful?

Most orthodontic treatments have some discomfort, but traditional braces tend to be more uncomfortable than Invisalign trays. The transparent trays sit atop your teeth and lack painful metal parts that scratch or irritate your gums, like metal braces. 

People with traditional braces experience the most discomfort after their orthodontist adjusts their wires. However, orthodontists provide their patients with wax to cover the brackets and wires to reduce irritation. 

Any discomfort from Invisalign trays usually occurs when switching to a new tray. However, for most patients, the pain subsides quickly, with many describing the sensation as loose teeth.

How do you maintain your teeth with metal braces?

Your orthodontist will permanently attach the metal braces to your teeth. Without consistent care and maintenance, food (and bacteria) can lodge in your teeth, so ensure you engage in proper care. 

Though flossing can become complicated as you maneuver around the brackets and wires, it’s critical to avoid infection from stuck food. You’ll have to visit your orthodontist monthly to have the metal wire removed and replaced. 

Additionally, if you don’t care for your teeth properly while wearing metal braces, your teeth might stain around the metal brackets, leaving marks after removal.

How do you clean your teeth with the Invisalign system?

Patients with Invisalign trays should remove them to brush and floss at least twice daily, making sure to remove any lodged food that may cause complications. Your orthodontist will also give you a solution to clean the trays to avoid contamination, infection, and discoloration. 

You’ll need to visit your orthodontist regularly, but not as often as you would with metal braces. Plus, because Invisalign trays are removable, you don’t have to worry about staining your teeth. 

What foods should you avoid during your treatments?

Unfortunately, several foods can cause complications for people wearing traditional braces. Orthodontists warn against eating hard candy or chewing gum because the foods can damage the equipment and reverse progress. Additionally, snacks like apples, popcorn, nuts, and crunchy veggies can wreak havoc on your braces. 

Because you remove your Invisalign trays to eat, your orthodontist shouldn’t set any food restrictions. The only issue with your Invisalign trays is that you must wear them 22 hours per day, so you might find yourself avoiding snacks or sipping slowly on your daily coffee to bypass removal. Unfortunately, eating or drinking strong liquids with your trays in can cause damage or discolorations.

How do you maintain braces and Invisalign trays?

In order to rid your trays of leftover bacteria from food and drinks, you’ll need to clean your trays regularly. The easiest way to clean your Invisalign is by rinsing them in warm water and using a gentle brush to scrub away scum and grime. 

If you have braces, the only maintenance you’ll do is brushing and flossing with brace-specific tools. That way, you can get into every nook and cranny, ensuring your teeth and wires remain clean and bacteria-free. 

What accessories might braces or Invisalign trays require?

People with braces often need more frequent adjustments, larger rubber bands, or special brackets to ensure movement remains on track. Though some evade constant trips to the orthodontist or years of braces, many are subject to uncomfortable alterations.

Patients might also need additional treatment accessories like screws, spacers, or retainers after removing the brackets and wiring. 

Patients with Invisalign trays occasionally need additional accessories, like small buttons to adjust tooth movements. The attachments tend to be metal, making them easy to see through the clear trays. Usually, the orthodontist applies these accessories for a short time, then removes them to keep the transparent look. 

Which orthodontic treatment costs more?

The costs of orthodontic treatments vary based on each patient’s unique needs. Braces have a lower starting cost, but the price increases based on time, appliances, and severity. 

Invisalign has a higher starting cost, but often ultimately costs less when compared to traditional braces due to a more predictable treatment time. 

Wrap up

Your orthodontist can help you choose the best treatment for your tooth alignment and bite needs, so consult the experts before making a decision. However, as a general rule of thumb, metal braces better suit severe problems, while Invisalign can help with more minor adjustments. 

Regardless of your choice, the payoff of having a beautiful smile is worth the time and price. 

Adrianna Tori

Every day we create distinctive, world-class content which inform, educate and entertain millions of people across the globe.

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