There certainly seems to be a straight teeth revolution. It’s hard not to turn on the TV, radio, or YouTube without being bombarded with a variety of teeth straightening ads. If you are interested in straightening your teeth, you may wonder which is better: Invisalign vs. braces.
Now when I say Invisalign vs. braces, what I really mean is how do clear aligners compare to braces. Invisalign is a brand of clear aligner therapy. There are many brands of clear aligners, some that are done professionally by a dentist, and some that are available direct to consumer.
For the purposes of this article I’ll use the term Invisalign to represent professional in-office options for aligning your teeth with clear aligners. There are other brands, but for the sake flow of reading, we’ll just say Invisalign here— kind of like people say Kleenex for tissues. For the at-home clear aligner companies, we’ll call them, do-it-yourself (DIY) clear aligners.
So on with it. Let’s dive in and discuss Invisalign vs. braces and consider how at-home DIY clear aligners compare.
Do Braces Work Better than Invisalign
Okay let’s get right to it, Invisalign vs braces, which one is better for you? Here’s the deal, for a large percentage of adult orthodontic cases, Invisalign works equally as well as braces. And that’s a good thing because 1 in 4 orthodontic cases nowadays is on an adult. There are two primary factors when braces become more beneficial.
The first factor to consider between Invisalign vs braces is patient compliance. Plain and simple, that means will the patient wear the Invisalign as they are instructed to which is typically 20-22 hours per day. The studies show patient compliance is the key.
Clear aligners work excellent when worn as instructed, but if the patient isn’t committed to doing their part, that’s when problems with successful treatment arise. The teeth only move with Invisalign. There’s a critical tipping point in the amount of time the aligners are worn for the teeth to move properly. So, if the patient doesn’t wear them the minimum amount of time: it’s no bueno.
The second factor to deciding Invisalign vs braces is age. And here’s why: There are times when the dentist is trying to guide growth by orthodontics during child or teenage development. Braces have more options for leverage to apply force to the jaws to guide the growth and prevent developmental problems. Therefore, braces are preferable for children and young teenagers during their years of growth.
Clear aligners are a great option for adults when growth has completed due to the cosmetic advantages of treatment. Adult patients generally will find that clear aligners are an easier process to incorporate into their work and lifestyle without too much attention.
Invisalign vs Braces Effectiveness: What the studies show
A 2019 study found, both clear aligners and braces were effective in treating misalignment of the top and bottom teeth. Both can move many types of misalignment issues. For example:
- Overly crowded teeth
- Gapped teeth
- Crooked teeth
- TMJ disorder related to misalignment
But here’s where things begin to differ between Invisalign vs braces. The studies found that clear aligners are not as effective in creating a balanced bite. A dentist typically will need to manually adjust the bite after clear aligners, making sure the teeth are contacting evenly. When the bite is uneven it can cause TMJ issues, also called temporomandibular joint disorder, later in life. To overcome this a dentist will often adjust the bite manually at the end of Invisalign using a dental handpiece. Braces also have the advantage of being able to address complex issues during growth.
So, to recap, for most adult cases, Invisalign and braces have near equal effectiveness. They are two different paths that lead to the same destination. However, there are times when braces may be more effective if the case is excessively complex. The good news is a dentist or orthodontist would be able to determine any pitfalls of a specific case prior to treatment.
Do braces work faster than Invisalign
Oh yes, the question on everyone’s mind, how soon can I be done? I know what you’re thinking, you want to start tomorrow, and you want to finish yesterday. Who doesn’t? But in terms of speed between Invisalign vs braces, it’s they are similar. Both can move the teeth equally as fast. However, there usually is a slight edge to Invisalign simply based on the process of the treatment.
For Invisalign, the patient changes their aligners twice per month, but for braces the orthodontist changes the hardware once per month. The braces are trying to work twice as hard during each change. Therefore, the Invisalign method moves the teeth slightly faster when worn properly.
And in case you’re wondering how long your case will take, let’s discuss. For a mild Invisalign case it will take about 3-6 months, an average case will take about 8-12 months (the most common), and a severe case will take 12-24 months. Braces generally will be slightly longer compared to a compliant Invisalign patient and shorter compared to a non-compliant Invisalign patient.
Invisalign vs Braces Cost
Of course, cost is a factor when deciding your treatment, but luckily in the case of deciding between Invisalign vs Braces, generally cost isn’t a factor. Typically, Invisalign costs the same as traditional braces when considering dentists in the same geographic area.
But remember, the cost of braces or Invisalign varies from case to case, dentist to dentist, and state to state. So, feel free to do your research and choose the provider you feel most comfortable investing in.
Should I consider Do-It-Yourself Clear Aligners
Up until now we have talked about in-office clear aligners, but what about the do-it-yourself clear aligner options? First let’s talk the benefits. The DIY at-home clear aligner industry has opened accessibility to orthodontics like never before. The industry has created a convenient process for patients and an option for a lower price point.
Now you’re probably wondering, should I consider DIY clear aligners? The answer is that it depends. Here’s the deal, the at-home options use the same concepts as Invisalign, but they are not identical.
Each of the DIY clear aligner companies have different materials and systems for producing their aligners. Invisalign is unique. It was first to market by a longshot. It developed its clear aligners in 1998 and therefore had years to perfect the material, as well as patent the material. Many of the material patents are still in effect and exclusive to Invisalign.
The second reason why DIY clear aligners are than different Invisalign is an obvious one: at home clear aligners are less monitored. Yes, many of the companies have telemedicine incorporated into their treatment, but the fact is: there is less monitoring.
With less monitoring the patient’s assuming a little more risk if treatment doesn’t progress ideally. The big factor comes in to play at the end of treatment. With DIY clear aligners it’s difficult to make the fine tune adjustments to perfect the shape of the teeth and level the bite.
The studies show that clear aligners have difficulty creating a balanced bite. A dentist is typically needed to manually adjust the bite. So, it’s important to be mindful to have a consult with a dentist in person to help perform these finishing steps when completing at-home clear aligners.
Invisalign vs Braces vs DIY clear aligners: Wrapping Up
The truth is the choose is up to you. Depending on your personality, goals, and finances one of these options may be a better fit for you. Review the facts of each and discuss with your dentist which might be most appropriate. The fact of the matter is you are making a lifelong investment in yourself, so choose the option which will be most successful for your health, your cosmetics, and for the long term.