Aligners and Braces | Affordable Braces Houston | Elara Orthodontics

Aligners and Braces – A Comparison

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Invisalign vs. Braces

Since its establishment as the first dental specialty at the beginning of the 20th century, orthodontics has evolved dramatically and continuously. The first orthodontic appliances were bulky, ugly, unhygienic, and uncomfortable. Thanks to technological advancements, orthodontics today is very different from what our parents may have experienced. Today’s orthodontic appliances have evolved to become low-profile, less visible, more cosmetic, more hygienic, and more convenient. They have also developed to consider anatomic variety among the patients and have become custom-made and precise.

Furthermore, Patients today have many options to choose from. It is much easier for orthodontists to adjust and modify the treatment plans to the specific needs and priorities of their patients. One of the most common questions that we get from our patients at Elara Orthodontics is regarding a choice between Invisalign/aligners vs. braces. Patients want to know what the pros and cons are to decide which option, braces, or Invisalign makes more sense for them.

Braces and Invisalign aligners are inherently very different from each other. They have their own distinctive advantages and disadvantages, and patients will have different experiences with them. It is crucial to consider these differences and also take into account each patient’s unique situations and needs to make a sound decision. Consultation with our doctors and staff at Elara Orthodontics can guide you through this decision-making process and help you chose the option that makes the most benefit to you.

Appearance

Being transparent or Invisible is usually the first thing that comes to mind when comparing Invisalign with traditional braces. Clear aligners are less noticeable compared to conventional metal braces for sure. At a closer look, you can still see the attachments on the front teeth, or notice the shiny look of the plastic, but aligners overall are almost invisible.

You can get special braces that are less visible or completely hidden as well. Lingual braces such as Incognito are 100% invisible as they are placed on the backside of the teeth and therefore are entirely hidden. Ceramic braces, while not entirely invisible, provide a better cosmetic choice as they are almost unnoticeable.

Looking for an invisible or less visible orthodontic device, you may want to consider all three options of ceramic braces, lingual braces, and Invisalign. There are, however, significant other differences between braces and Invisalign that may affect your choice besides the appearance.

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Convenience

Orthodontic appliances fall into two broad categories of fixed and removable. Invisalign is a removable orthodontic appliance. That simply means in contrast to braces, patients can remove their Invisalign whenever they want. As a result, aligners are typically more convenient.

For example, when you have braces, you should avoid certain foods to prevent damage to your braces and wires. (Sturdy bread, tough meat, or hard candies can cause the wires to bend or the brackets to pop out of their place.) However, when you have Invisalign, you can simply take your aligners off and eat whatever you crave for.

Another example is brushing with braces vs. Invisalign. With braces, you would need to have specific toothbrushes and dental floss threaders. You would also need to learn new brushing techniques to clean your teeth and braces properly. With clear aligners, you don’t need any of that, as you can simply remove your Invisalign aligners and brush and floss the way you usually do.

Compliance

Freedom always comes with responsibility. Invisalign Patients have total control over their aligner use. They can literally remove their aligners whenever they want. But they shouldn’t! Aligners need to be worn 22 hours per day to work correctly. Invisalign patients need to take this responsibility; otherwise, the treatment may not proceed as planned. A common mistake is to remove the aligners whenever the teeth get tender due to movement. Similarly, it is not very unusual to forget putting the aligners back on after you remove them. Overall, success with Invisalign depends highly on the compliance and discipline form the patient’s side. Braces, however, are affixed to the teeth and keep working consistently. Still, a patient’s compliance matters even with braces as patients need to keep their teeth and braces clean and in good shape.

Some believe clear aligners are not suitable for teenagers as they are generally not disciplined. This is not necessarily the case. Teenagers, when highly motivated for their treatment, can be very disciplined and compliant with their aligners. At Elara Orthodontics, we have found responsible and compliant patients in both age groups.

Frequency and Length of the Office Appointments

When you have braces, you need to be seen at the orthodontist office on a regular basis. The appointment intervals are most commonly set as 4 or 6 weeks. In contrast, when you have Invisalign, you do most of the work yourself at home by changing your aligners and moving forward with your aligners set. As such, you can see your orthodontist less frequently. It is still imperative to be under the care of the orthodontist to ensure everything is working correctly. Nevertheless, you can stretch the time between appointment to 3-4 months or even longer intervals that your orthodontist decides to be safe. Moreover, the time you need to sit on the dental chair for your adjustment appointments is usually shorter with Invisalign aligners.

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Efficacy and Treatment Time

Patients are always anxious about how long their treatment with braces or clear aligners will take. At Elar Orthodontics, we routinely get this question: which one, braces or Invisalign, works faster. The truth of the matter is that there is no single right answer to this question. The length of the treatment depends on many factors and varies significantly from case to case.

A common misconception about Invisalign (and clear aligners in general) is that they are not as efficient as braces. Therefore it may take longer to get the desired result. This is not necessarily true. Even in some cases, Invisalign treatments can be significantly faster than braces. It is fair to say that for a majority of patients, the choice between braces or Invisalign doesn’t make a significant impact on their treatment length. However, there are particular situations where the type of appliance can make a difference. Your orthodontist is the best person to inform you when such a distinction exists.

Effect on the Gums

A growing body of evidence indicates that clear aligners can be less disturbing to the gums compared with braces. Food and microbial plaque can accumulate around braces. Patients need to learn new ways to brush and floss with braces. They also need to take more time and effort to do that. The ability to remove the aligners makes the brushing and flossing much more straightforward and, therefore, facilitates oral hygiene. Aligners generally apply gentler forces to the teeth as well. So, for these reasons, for patients who are more prone to gum disease, it always makes sense to consider or even prioritize clear aligners.

Orthodontic Emergencies

Orthodontic emergencies with braces are usually when a bracket breaks or a wire sticks out. Broken brackets and misplaced wires can rub against or stab the cheeks, and become uncomfortable for the patients. With clear aligners, patients won’t have such problems. However, Invisalign patients may call for an emergency appointment too. For example, when they lose their aligner(s) or when one or few of the Invisalign attachments break.

Cost

Generally speaking, metal braces make a more economical choice compared to the other options. As we climb the ladder from metal braces to ceramic braces, clear aligners, and Incognito lingual braces, the cost of the treatment typically increases. However, this may be an overgeneralization, as many other factors can also affect the price. [We can put a link to the cost of braces or cost Invisalign here]

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