Years ago, the only choice to correct crooked teeth was metal braces. More recently, other orthodontic options have become available. Patients can now choose clear braces or other clear devices such as Invisalign.
Transparent options are popular with teenagers and adults. They offer a less conspicuous method of straightening teeth than old-fashioned metal braces.
Does Invisalign Do the Same Thing as Braces?
Many people assume that Invisalign is just another name for clear braces. The goals of both are the same—to straighten teeth. But they are actually quite different. Clear braces are attached to the each tooth and connected with wire, while Invisalign is a removable device that is placed over the entire row of teeth.
Their methods are similar too. Both braces and Invisalign devices exert gentle force on your teeth. This loosens the gum tissue so the tooth can move or turn. The tissue then grows back to hold the tooth in its new place. (You can read How Does Invisalign Work? for more details.)
This is where the similarity ends. If you are thinking about straightening your teeth, the differences outlined in this article may help you choose which is right for you.
Invisalign vs. Clear Braces. What’s the Difference?
Clear braces are just like regular metal braces. The only difference is that instead of metal, the brackets attached to the teeth are ceramic. The ceramic is either clear or a color that closely matches the tooth. Wire connects the brackets to one another and may be metal or clear.
Invisalign, on the other hand, is the brand name of a clear-aligner device. A 3D image is taken of the patient’s teeth and a series of “trays” is custom-made of transparent plastic. They fit over the teeth and move them gently into their proper place.
The Convenience of Invisalign
Both Invisalign and clear braces are more discreet than traditional braces. But one of the biggest attractions of Invisalign is that you can take them out whenever you want. Clear braces are bonded to the teeth with dental cement. They will stay put until an orthodontist removes them.
Invisalign is meant to be worn at least 20-22 hours each day. Much like a retainer, you can remove the device to eat and brush your teeth. Invisalign users enjoy the freedom to take them out for social occasions, photos, professional meetings, and to play contact sports.
Invisalign is Not for Everyone
Invisalign is effective for fixing mild to moderate crowding, crookedness or gaps. More serious issues, such as malocclusions (overbite, underbite, or crossbite) or very crooked teeth may be better suited for braces.
Invisalign “trays” gently coax the teeth toward where they should be. Approximately every two weeks, the patient replaces the old tray with a new one. It continues to push the teeth a little bit farther into place.
Because braces are used to move teeth with more severe alignment issues, they take a more aggressive approach. As teeth are moved with braces, the wires that connect the brackets are tightened. This happens every four to six weeks. Patients may also require the addition of bulky headgear to achieve results.
Because of Invisalign’s gentler approach, it is better for mild and moderate straightening. Patients prefer its comfort and convenience. And they like that most people won’t even notice they have them in.
Comparing Comfort of Invisalign vs. Braces
With Invisalign, movement is gradual. Most people experience some minor discomfort when they first use a new tray, but they quickly adapt. Our article Does Invisalign Cause Problems With Eating and Talking? goes into more detail.
With braces, many people find the tightening of the wires painful. Braces can also irritate the inside of lips and cheeks with their sharp edges. Invisalign devices are smooth.
Time is also a factor. Realignment with Invisalign takes about nine months to a year. Braces can take twice that time. Most patients have their braces on for an average of two years.
Dentist vs. Orthodontist for Invisalign
If you decide to get braces, you will need to find an orthodontist. While an orthodontist will also be able to fit you with Invisalign trays, some dentists are also able to do so. Check with your dentist to see if he or she is trained to work with Invisalign technology. Not only will you avoid the hassle of finding an orthodontist, you will be treated by the professional who knows you and your teeth the best.
If you have a mild to moderate gaps in your teeth, or they are crowded or crooked, you may be a candidate for Invisalign. Invisalign’s effectiveness, convenience, and comfort are very compelling reasons to consider them instead of braces.
For your next step, consider this article: How Do I Get Invisalign? Making That First Appointment.