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Invisalign Aligners vs. Traditional Braces: Which Is Right for Me? 

 December 13, 2021

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In the 18th century France, Pierre Fauchard studied abnormalities in teeth and postulated that they could be moved with pressure. As it turns out, he was right!

He used wires and forceps he named “pelicans” to force teeth into new positions. Where there was no room to move teeth, he made it by extracting or filing down others. Today, he is credited with inventing the first set of braces. 

Fortunately, orthodontics has made great strides over the several centuries since then. Today, patients have the choice between wacky-colored brackets to clear Invisalign aligners and everything in between. However, making a decision can be difficult, so keep reading for more information that can help guide your choice between Invisalign and traditional braces.

How Braces and Aligners Reposition Your Teeth

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When you imagine your jaw, you probably picture your teeth firmly planted in bone-solid, well, bone.

However, this isn’t exactly the case. Instead, your teeth are kept in place by a strong ligament called the periodontal ligament. Inside is a malleable membrane that allows your teeth to move and shift. 

One of the important jobs of the membrane is that it enables your mouth to make room for adult teeth to grow in and then later shift as your jaw continues to grow. While this flexibility allows your teeth to become crooked in the first place, it’s also how your orthodontist will reposition them.

Both braces and aligners use 3-D imaging of your jaw to plan your treatment and gentle pressure to move teeth into position over time. However, they accomplish this is in different ways and over different timelines.

All About Invisalign Aligners

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Although they may look similar, clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are not made from the same material as your teeth whitening trays. Instead, they are made from much stronger medical-grade thermoplastics. Specifically, Invisalign uses a proprietary material made from polyurethane resin.

A custom tray will be made for you, and this, along with tooth-colored attachments placed in strategic places, will help guide your teeth into the proper position.  This leads to one of the main perks of Invisalign; how inconspicuous it is. Another plus is that treatment plans can be as quick as six months in some cases.

These two benefits make Invisalign aligners an excellent option for getting braces as an adult. This is true especially for those concerned with noticeable brackets.

Some Minor Drawbacks to Invisalign

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Before you get Invisalign, it’s essential to consider the full scope of this type of treatment plan. For one thing, while your visits to the orthodontist may be shorter and fewer in-between, you will still have plenty of maintenance to do to keep your aligners in good shape. In addition, with Invisalign, you have to be conscious not to drink anything besides water, or it can stain or discolor your trays. 

Also, your aligner must be removed when you are eating. In all, you have to be sure you can commit to wearing it for 22 hours a day. That essentially means you get 2 hours to take off the trays and eat every day. 

All of this removing and replacing makes these trays easy to misplace. Some patients may also lose compliance with their treatment from forgetting to put them back in. Because of this, Invisalign is usually only recommended for older teens and adults. 

One more thing to consider is that some treatment cases are too severe for removable aligners to straighten. If this is the case, your orthodontist may recommend traditional braces instead.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Braces

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Traditional braces are the original way to straighten your teeth. Instead of tooth-colored attachments, braces use brackets that are cemented to your teeth and wire to make the necessary movements. In addition to brackets and wires, your orthodontist may also incorporate rubber bands to help move your teeth. 

Since only your orthodontist can remove them, it means they work overtime to gradually reposition your teeth, all-day and all-night. Also, the system of brackets, wires, and rubber bands make for a treatment system that can handle even the most complex of cases. This means braces can work faithfully for everyone. 

And, if you’re concerned about the way metal brackets look, you’re in luck! These days, brackets and rubber bands come in all kinds of colors. There are even creamy-white, tooth-colored brackets to help blend in better with your smile. Additionally, there are now lingual braces, which allow your doctor to place brackets behind your teeth so that your orthodontic treatment is nearly invisible. 

Now, here are the downsides. First things first, as you may already know, braces can be somewhat uncomfortable. Sometimes these brackets end up scraping against and irritating the inside of your cheeks and the sides of your tongue.

And, unlike with Invisalign, certain foods are now off-limits while you’re in treatment. These include anything sticky, tacky, or hard because these kinds of foods can get stuck in your braces or knock a bracket loose.

In addition, a lot of food can get trapped around your brackets. As a result, you must take special care while cleaning them out, or you can get (really) bad breath and, worse, an infection. Luckily, there are special tools you can use, such as a dental pick, to do a thorough job of cleaning your braces.

When Are Braces the Best Option?

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There are some scenarios where you would be better off opting for braces over Invisalign treatment. For one, if you don’t think you can stick to wearing your clear aligners for 22 hours a day, you will end up delaying progress with your treatment. If so, traditional braces will be a better option for you. 

Other reasons to elect for braces are if your straightening needs are more complicated than Invisalign can handle or if you are operating on a strict budget.

Making Your Choice 

When deciding between Invisalign aligners or braces, it’s important to remember that the end goal of your treatment is to have a healthy, functioning smile. Therefore, the best option is the one that will get you to that goal with minimal stress to you. For some, that may mean the cheapest option, and for others, that may mean choosing the fastest.

And, don’t forget that your dental care goes deeper than the aesthetics of your grin, so make sure you schedule regular appointments for twice-yearly checkups and cleanings.

If you found this article informative, be sure to explore more like this in our extensive Health section.

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