What’s the difference between Invisalign and braces? is a question I’m asked daily by patients.
Invisalign and braces are both treatments used by orthodontists to straighten teeth, however they do this in different ways.
What are the benefits of braces?
Braces are used to correct a variety of problems, including crowded, crooked, spaced or protruded teeth and bite problems. Braces can be self-ligating and non self-ligating brackets. This is not just fancy orthodontic terminology! Let me explain in plain English.
With non self-ligating brackets, the orthodontic wire is held in place by a small rubber O-ring. If you’ve ever seen a teenager with braces, you would know this O-ring as the coloured rubber band on braces.
By contrast, with self-ligating brackets, the wire is held in place with a metal clip, rather than the rubber O-ring used in traditional metal braces.
Are there different types of braces?
Yes, there are different types! Braces can be clear, metal and lingual.
Clear, ceramic braces are made of clear, translucent material and are most popular with adult or older patients. They are generally placed on upper teeth only, unless the patient’s bite allows for them to be used on the lower teeth. These braces are typically slightly more expensive than metal braces.
Metal braces are the most familiar to people. They are commonly used for children and teens.
Lingual braces are fitted to the inside of teeth and as such, are not visible at all.
In my practice, I prefer to use self-ligating brackets. These braces have three main components: brackets, active clips and archwires. Each works together to provide the necessary pressure to move teeth.
With self-ligating braces, metal or ceramic, brackets are attached to each tooth. An active clip – the part of the bracket clipped over the archwire – holds it in the bracket slot. Archwires connect each individual bracket to another through a slot at the front of each bracket.
Patients also often ask me whether one type of bracket works more effectively than the other. In terms of metal or ceramic braces, there is no difference in the outcome. The difference is in the appearance, cost, and removal of these brackets.
The benefit of braces is they can be used for orthodontic treatment in children and adults of any age. Truly, there is no age limit to when a person can have braces.
Now what about Invisalign?
Invisalign is a teeth straightening treatment that consists of a series of clear plastic, custom made, removable aligners. The company, Invisalign was the pioneer in this treatment, and remains the market leader. However, there are now several alternatives offering a similar treatment.
The clear aligners are the ‘braces’ used to straighten teeth. They perform the same job of traditional metal braces, only in a much less visible way.
Where traditional braces use brackets connected by wires to encourage teeth to move, aligners are a series of tight-fitting custom-made retainers that slip over the teeth. Gradually, over time as each aligner is replaced, teeth move. Treatment continues until teeth have straightened to the ideal position identified by the orthodontist during the planning process.
Can anyone have Invisalign?
At an initial consultation, your orthodontist will determine if Invisalign is a suitable treatment pathway for you. If it is, a scan or impressions of your teeth will be taken and sent to the Invisalign laboratories. A virtual Invisalign treatment plan will be generated to show a series of tooth movement as prescribed by the orthodontist.
At that point, your orthodontist will be able to say whether you’re a candidate for Invisalign treatment. Depending on the complexity of your particular situation, braces might be the preferred treatment pathway. That said, a good orthodontist will present you with a range of treatment options.
What are the benefits of Invisalign?
There are many benefits to invisible braces like Invisalign.
They are invisible – This makes them much easier to live with during treatment. Unless a person is really looking for them, it’s very difficult to determine if the aligner is in place. This is a big plus for those self-conscious about their appearance during treatment.
They are comfortable – Because there are no metal brackets or wires to irritate cheeks and gums, it is much easier to get used to Invisalign ‘braces’. Certainly, treatment does take some adjustment, however within a very short space of time, patients find they become accustomed to wearing the aligners. Some patients even say it is more comfortable with them in than out!
Invisible braces treatment works. Well before treatment is finished, patients see and enjoy the benefits of a better looking, more confident smile. This helps to keep them inspired and on the treatment pathway to their desired objective – a beautiful smile.
Aligners are removable – Incredibly convenient, aligners can be taken out for eating, brushing, flossing and special occasions.
Are there any drawbacks with Invisalign?
There are lots of good things to say about Invisalign, but a few cautionary words are necessary too.
As Invisalign and other clear plastic treatments are removable, they require the patient’s active compliance for the treatment to be successful. This is the main reason it is not prescribed as commonly for children, although Invisalign offers an option for teens. Be aware the Invisalign company marketing focuses on the positives. However, patients need to consider some of the other important treatment conditions with Invisalign.
Another drawback with this straightening technology is aligners need to be worn 22 hours each day. If they aren’t worn, treatment is not effective. Certain lifestyles make this amount of daily wear a challenge.
Another couple of things to note about Invisalign is that the orthodontist sometimes must file between teeth to allow their movement and little attachments are bonded to the teeth to help with tooth movement.
Remember, Invisalign is a product. It is the skill of the orthodontist who customises the aligners to suit your treatment needs, which will determine the result. That’s why I encourage patients to do their research before making a final decision to proceed.
Regardless of the treatment option you and your orthodontist decide upon, both braces and Invisalign are effective treatment solutions. Just get all the facts and be guided by your orthodontist about the most ideal treatment pathway to get you the outcome you want when it comes to decision time.
Taking this approach will help make your orthodontic treatment journey the rewarding experience it should be.