When deciding which route to take to achieve straighter teeth, there are many options available thanks to modern technology. Traditionally, braces have been the sure way to enhance teeth alignment and there are many orthodontists who specialize in braces. Braces entails bonding metal brackets to the surface of teeth. A wire is placed through the brackets which is used to manipulate the teeth into the ideal position. A more recent method is to use clear aligners. Many orthodontists use clear aligners as an alternative method to braces. They are essentially clear, plastic trays that are worn over teeth to gently coax them to move to their ideal position. Since both braces and clear aligners are used by many orthodontists, which is better? Their individual benefits and weaknesses are shown in the table below.
|The cost of braces varies depending on the severity of the case and your specific orthodontist. For example, some patients like children have severe cases in which they are biting into the roof of their mouth, in which case, insurance may cover the cost of orthodontic treatment. But in general, braces average about $3,000 to $6,000.||Cost||Much like braces, the cost for clear aligners depends on the severity of treatment and on which brand of aligners you are using. In general, the cost can range from $2,500 to $8,000.|
|Braces are worn for various amounts of time depending on the individual and whether they follow orthodontic instructions to wear rubber bands and come in for follow-up treatments, but most patients use them for 18 months to 3 years.||Time||Clear aligners can take less time than braces, ranging from 9 months to 3 years. But again, the time depends on the patient’s willingness to follow treatment instructions, like wearing the aligners 20-22 hours a day.|
|Braces have actually changed significantly since the twentieth century and are less noticeable. Some orthodontists will even use clear brackets. However, they are still obvious, which may be a downside for youth and adults.||Appearance||Clear aligners are prefered among adults for the fact that they are completely clear and unnoticed.|
|For the most part, braces have no maintenance beyond brushing, flossing and showing up to ortho check-ups. Certain cases may require the use of rubber bands or headgear, which if ignored, may add on time to the overall treatment.||Maintenance During Treatment||Clear aligners require more maintenance by the patient. The aligners are switched out every 2 weeks for new ones, so failing to wear them can be detrimental to the treatment. They also require a daily cleaning to prevent them from staining or accumulating bacteria.|
|Most orthodontists will issue either a permanent retainer that is essentially a metal bar that is glued to the back of the teeth to maintain shape or a plastic retainer that is removable. If a permanent retainer is used, no maintenance is necessary. The plastic retainer, however, must be worn and cleaned regularly, otherwise the teeth may return to their original position.||Maintenance After Treatment||Post-treatment maintenance for clear aligners is very similar to post-treatment with braces. Generally, a removable retainer is used 20 hours per day during the first 6 to 12 months post-treatment, after which the patient can then choose to wear it only at night. Permanent retainers are not commonly used after clear aligners.|
| Braces have been used for decades and are proven to show very positive results. |
Braces are used for a variety of cases that range from slightly moderate to severe.
There is little maintenance that the patient has to do.
|General Strengths|| They are virtually invisible, so they will not take away from your smile. |
Treatment lasts a relatively shorter period of time compared to braces.
Flossing, brushing, and eating are easy because the aligners can be removed.
| Flossing can be difficult, as the patient must learn to thread the floss under the wire. |
They can be uncomfortable to the lips and sides of the mouth.
They are generally expensive and have a long treatment time.
|General Weaknesses|| Clear aligners generally cannot treat severe cases, such as rotated teeth. |
They must be cleaned daily, which is an added hassle.
When not worn 20+ hours a day, your teeth may move back; there is a greater responsibility on you as the patient.
So after reviewing the table above, it is difficult to say which are better: braces or clear aligners? Ask your orthodontist for more information about your specific case.