In the US alone, more than 4 million people are wearing teen and adult braces, and well more than a million of those are adults.
Adult braces are a common thing today, and it's only getting more common thanks to the advancements in technology. With the advent of clear braces and teeth aligners, even the stigma of wearing adult braces is gone. In case you're not aware, clear braces and aligners help you correct your smile discreetly and efficiently. Wondering which of these miraculous devices is the right one for you? Check out this comparison post that highlights the pros and cons, cost differences, and procedural variations of the latest and greatest in teeth straightening procedures.
What are Clear Braces?
Clear braces are exactly what they sound like: teeth braces that are clear. Doing the same job as the more traditional metal braces you are used to, clear braces are generally unnoticeable unless you take a really good look. This is accomplished by using clear plastic, ceramic, or porcelain for the brackets and, sometimes, the wire as well. With clear material, it's nearly impossible to see these braces, making them an ideal choice for anyone who prefers to have a more subtle orthodontic treatment.
What are Teeth Aligners?
Teeth aligners are also clear and used to correct issues with your teeth, such as overcrowding, excessive space, or overbites. Unlike clear braces, though, teeth aligners are removable guards that fit snugly around your teeth. You’ll make an imprint of your teeth, and based off of that imprint, the lab will create a set of teeth aligners for the entire course of your treatment. Periodically, you will change the current teeth aligner for the next one in the series as per your orthodontist’s schedule and instructions. For example, you may need to change your aligner every two weeks, replacing the one you are currently wearing for a new one. This will be repeated until the entire course of treatment is completed.
Benefits of Teeth Aligners and Clear Braces
Both teeth aligners and clear braces offer benefits to the patient. They can both help resolve orthodontic issues, including:
Correcting an overbite
Moving teeth that are too high
Realigning teeth that are not properly positioned
Correcting excessive space between teeth
Dental overlaps or overcrowding teeth
Prevention for premature erosion
Correcting an underbite
And other simple bite irregularities
Both require you to take care of your teeth, maintain dental hygiene, and upkeep them in some capacity. But that’s really where the similarities end.
How Do Clear Braces Work?
While the underlying work is pretty much the same, how aligners and braces work differs in terms of their implementation.
Clear braces are fit onto the front of your teeth, one bracket per tooth. There are some clear braces that can be fitted to the back of your teeth, but these are uncommon and not highly-recommended. Brackets are then connected to a wire that is usually held in place by tiny rubber bands. Some braces are self-ligating, so they don’t need the rubber bands. Instead, a tiny hinge on each of the brackets keeps the wire connected and in place.
Every month or so, you will need to visit your orthodontist to have the rubber bands changed. Frequently, the wire will be tightened, as well. This will continue until the completion of your orthodontic treatment.
How Do Teeth Aligners Work?
Teeth aligners, on the other hand, are more similar to retainers -- the kind that many people wear after they’ve completed a treatment of braces. A lab, or at-home kit, will take a mold of your teeth. Based on this, x-rays, photos, and other sources, the lab will then create a set of aligners to fit your teeth. Each aligner will be slightly different. You’ll wear an aligner for the prescribed time (usually a week or two, depending on the company and severity of the shift), and then you’ll change the aligner for the next one in the series. You’ll then wear this new one for the prescribed time, and continue this way for the entire length of the treatment.
Teeth aligners need to be worn for most of the day. Most often, it's 22 hours of the day (you can decide if you want to take it out when you sleep or during your workday). There are some teeth aligners that allow you to wear it for shorter periods of time. But then the course of treatment will be longer, obviously.
Both teeth aligners and clear braces have strong benefits and can usually get the same job done (though, not always). Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of both options:
Clear Braces Pros and Cons
Stronger and more resilient
Clear braces are affixed directly onto your teeth. They’re also made from very strong material. This combination adds up to a resilient treatment form that can withstand a lot of tough stuff. For this reason, clear braces are the better choice for more serious or complicated orthodontic treatments. And because they’re stronger, teeth braces can handle any orthodontic case you throw at them.
While teeth aligners are used frequently to correct orthodontic issues, braces still have a better reputation for being more reliable when it comes to getting long-lasting and confirmed results. If you are looking for a no-questions-asked, guaranteed great smile, clear braces are your better option.
One-on-one personal treatment
Another benefit of using braces is that you have to go into your orthodontist once every 4 to 8 weeks for tightening. This is a benefit because it means a professional orthodontist will be looking at your teeth every month or so, monitoring your progress, and keeping tabs on what's going on. So, if something needs correcting, they'll spot it right away and correct it. If issues come up, you have someone to speak to directly that is aware of your personal situation to help make the best decision.
Not everyone wants to wear their braces subtly. In fact, many people use the opportunity as a form of self-expression. You can choose different colors for your rubber bands, creating patterns, or representing your favorite sports team. If you're wearing something across your face anyways, why not have fun with it?
Not 100% clear
While clear braces are pretty darn clear, if someone looks closely, they’ll still be able to see them. If you are petrified of being spotted, then clear braces will sell you out on the social scene.
Hygiene is harder
It's harder to brush and to floss teeth with braces. So, more care has to be taken when tending to your dental hygiene.
Teeth aligners are the most discrete option possible. Because they fit snugly over your teeth, nobody will really see them. And what’s more, you can take out your aligners whenever you want. So, if you have an important meeting, a hot date, or something else that you just need to be free, you can remove your aligner. Then, just pop it back in when you’re done.
That’s right, teeth aligners can be removed easily and quickly. Many people enjoy this because you can take them out for eating, brushing, and social outings.
Since there are no wires, sharp edges, or brackets, aligners can be more comfortable. While many people don’t even notice their braces after a little while, if you really can’t stand any discomfort, aligners may suit you better.
One of the biggest reasons teeth aligners don't achieve their intended results is because people stop wearing them. Since it's so easy to pop these things in and out of your mouth, people quickly remove them for any reason, including the ones mentioned above. The trouble is that many clients forget to put them back in, misplace the aligners, damage them, or just lose patience with the procedure and stop wearing them altogether. When this happens, obviously, you will not get the desired results.
Constant maintenance can be annoying
In that same vein, many people dislike having to deal with the constant removal, cleaning, and replacement of teeth aligners. You need to have a case (so it doesn’t get lost, broken, or thrown out accidentally), and popping an aligner out just before a meal sort of defeats the entire discretion you are trying to achieve with clear aligners.
The level of clarity of the aligners will depend on the brand you use. Invisalign is one of the clearest invisible aligners out there, which is probably why so many orthodontists use this brand.
Many teeth aligners are available for at-home fittings and treatment. While it’s a more convenient option, at-home treatments can be a good thing or a bad thing. It means you aren’t coming in contact with a professional orthodontist regularly. In our book, that’s not a good thing because issues can go unnoticed and untreated.
Can’t handle tough jobs
The biggest con of teeth aligners is their limited scope. For complex orthodontic cases, braces are the only solution because aligners simply can’t handle the job.
Teeth Aligners vs. Clear Braces: Cost Comparison
Another factor to consider when comparing these two options is how much each will cost you. Many dental insurance providers will cover partial orthodontics treatments, and most dental clinics will assist you with getting reimbursed. It's difficult to put a set price tag on teeth aligners because the prices can vary incredibly. One company charges less than $1800, while another will take a whopping $5500 for their services. The average is closer to $2000, though, if you have a complex case, you can expect to pay more.
Clear braces are becoming more affordable as they replace the traditional metal braces. Even without the price decrease, though, braces are always a more affordable option. You’ll seldom pay more than $1800 for the entire treatment. The best way to really compare costs is to speak to your orthodontist directly since there are many factors that will contribute to the overall cost.
Teeth Aligners or Clear Braces: Which Will Make You Smile?
At the end of the day, an orthodontist will help you determine which is the best option for you based on x-rays, photos, and models taken of your teeth and jawline. As we already mentioned, both teeth aligners and clear braces are good options. But if you're given a choice, clear braces are probably the smarter option, because they'll provide you with the most reliable results possible. And that's really what you're looking for at the end of the day.