An orthodontists’ primary goal is to fix improperly positioned teeth to improve beauty and function and enhance the bite.
While interceptive orthodontics provides essential space and encourages permanent teeth to outbreak very early in a child’s life, an increasing number of individuals undergo orthodontic treatment to realign their teeth permanently.
This therapy has no age limit because the underlying procedure for moving teeth is similar in kids and adults, although the latter takes longer generally.
Here are some reasons why people seek orthodontic treatments:
- To avoid early deterioration
- To treat protruding teeth or an overbite
- To close a gap between teeth
- To repair dental overlap
- Teeth realignment
- Cosmetic smile changes
Deciding to get straighter teeth is a smart call, and not just for the sake of improving your smile. It also enhances the overall function of jaw muscles and teeth.
As such, two primary types of orthodontic treatments are:
- Clear teeth aligners and
- Fixed dental braces
Let’s take a closer look at both treatments and make a comparison.
Firstly, clear aligners
Clear teeth aligners do not require brackets or wires and are a good option for patients who want a more discreet orthodontic treatment. It is a novel, practically invisible way to treat mild to severe orthodontic disorders as aligners (known as trays) are worn over the teeth like an invisible mouthguard. They work in the same way that braces do, but with a clear, detachable aligner.
Clear aligners are mainly changed every 1-2 weeks (1), based on your dentist’s recommendations. Each aligner applies the appropriate amount of pressure to your teeth following the plan devised by your dentist.
Generally, clear aligner therapy is speedier than traditional braces. However, patients must be diligent about wearing their aligners at all times to avoid prolonging treatment or affecting results, as patient compliance is critical to the treatment’s success.
Treatment entails building a virtual model of your teeth with computer software to show you all of the procedures required, from the initial position of the teeth to the desired outcome. This way, you get to see what your smile will look like before treatment starts.
Dental hygiene is simple because you merely remove the aligner to clean and floss your teeth.
Around 4 million people wear braces in the US (2), and 25% are adults.
Dental braces are without a doubt the most well-known orthodontic treatment. Moreover, people should understand that braces have evolved significantly over the years and are now more streamlined, comfortable and discreet.
Braces correct out-of-place teeth both individually and simultaneously and can assist with various bite problems (malocclusions) ranging from mild to complex cases.
To gradually shift teeth according to a preset plan, porcelain or metal brackets are attached to the front of the teeth and joined by an archwire. The archwire is regularly tightened manually by your dentist to achieve correct tooth manipulation.
Follow-up appointments are required regularly (6 – 8 weeks on average) (3) to allow dental experts to monitor the treatment.
There are many braces types and brands of clear aligners, so the pricing will vary. However, if you follow the rule that branded aligners are generally more expensive than at-home (direct-to-consumer) aligners and regular metal braces, you won’t go far wrong.
Here’s a quick cost comparison table
|Fixed Braces Type
|Ceramic (tooth-colored) braces
|Self-litigating (Damon) braces
|Lingual (behind the teeth) braces
|Clear Teeth aligners
|At-home teeth aligners
|In-clinic teeth aligners
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1200 and $2500 for At-Home (direct-to-consumer) aligners.
Whereas clinic-led, branded aligners like Invisalign will cost you somewhere between $3000 and $8000.
Conversely, fixed metal braces typically cost around $4900, while ceramic tooth-colored braces will set you back between $5000 and $8,500. Lingual (behind the teeth) braces cost somewhere between $5000 and $13,000.
Benefits Of Clear Teeth Aligners
If you’re considering a minimally invasive, almost invisible way to straighten teeth, you should consider clear teeth aligners.
They are specifically designed to fix irregularly gapped and crooked teeth discreetly. Also, they treat underbites.
Although there are many pros to them, there are certain factors one needs to know before selecting this treatment method:
Flexibility of wear (within reason)
While fixed braces are attached to the teeth for the duration of the treatment, they can become uncomfortable. Conversely, clear teeth aligners are designed to be removed every time you eat or drink, allowing for flexibility in when and where you wear them. However, they need to be worn for between 20 and 22 hours a day to work, so you will need to remain compliant for the duration of your treatment.
Comfortable to wear
Because clear aligners are fashioned from medical grade soft plastic, they are comfortable to wear – unlike dental braces, which contain brackets and wiring that can catch on the cheek, lips and tongue.
Shorter treatment time
Clear teeth aligners can reduce treatment time because they rely on the (4) natural movement that occurs within the mouth rather than forcing movement like tensioning braces. However, and this is a big caveat, clear aligners work best on mild to moderate cases where treatment time may be quicker anyway. If cases are more complex, then treatment will cost more and take longer.
If you’re looking for an average time, then we can say that clear aligners typically take 6-12 months to complete treatment, whereas metal braces typically take (5) 18-24 months or more.
However, only your dentist can give you a more accurate treatment time, which depends entirely on your alignment issues.
Besides being convenient, one of the most popular reasons people opt for clear aligners is their invisibility. Because they’re made from clear-medical-grade plastic, aligner trays are practically undetectable when placed in the mouth. This allows you to go about your daily life with some sense of normality.
Easier to maintain dental hygiene
Because teeth aligners are designed to be removed every time you eat and drink, it’s far easier to maintain good oral hygiene.
Challenges That Come With Clear Aligners
Where there are undoubtedly many benefits to clear teeth aligners, there are also disadvantages. They include:
While the flexibility to take your aligners in and out as you see fit is a definite plus, it’s also essential to follow the treatment plan. This means wearing them for 20-22 hours a day. Failure to do so on a regular basis will result in setting your treatment back. Therefore, treatment won’t suit those people who won’t or can’t be compliant.
Not ideal for severely misaligned or crooked teeth
Aligners are not suitable for severe cases. While clear teeth aligners are suitable for fixing mild to moderate malocclusions, they cannot treat more severe cases. In these instances, traditional dental braces are best.
Get used to eating meals quickly
If you do the math, you’ll see that you have around two hours a day when you don’t need to wear your aligners. That’s two hours to eat all your meals, clean your teeth and aligners, and pop them back in again. Speed eating or clock-watching may become a bit of a habit.
So that’s clear aligners, now let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of dental braces
Benefits Of Dental Braces
Even though fixed dental braces are significantly ‘old school’, they have several advantages over clear aligners.
As already stated, because of the way that dental braces move teeth, they can fix many bite (malocclusion) problems, including complex cases. So if you have a more severe bite problem, you should know that dental braces are well-equipped to deal with your dental issues.
No compliance necessary
When clear teeth aligners aren’t in the mouth, they aren’t working to straighten teeth. Patients, therefore, need to ensure that they comply with treatment plans. On the other hand, dental braces don’t have such compliancy problems because they are always in the mouth. This means they’re working 24/7 to help you achieve your smile goals.
Take longer over meals
Another advantage of dental braces is that you can take as long as you like over mealtimes. There’s no clock-watching needed, being concerned that you need to get your appliance back in your mouth. Instead, you can take your time and enjoy your food without a rush.
Guaranteed dentist/orthodontist-led treatment
While some clear aligner treatments are dentist led, many (especially direct-to-consumer) aligner brands are not. While this may not be a concern for some people, others may prefer to be under the guidance of a dental professional they can check in with regularly. Fixed dental braces allow you to do exactly that. This way, any problems can be highlighted and dealt with early.
Challenges Faced With Dental Braces
It wouldn’t be right to talk about the advantages of fixed braces without talking about the disadvantages. So let’s dive straight in.
Unless you opt for costly lingual or ceramic braces, metal braces remain visible when you smile. If this doesn’t bother you, then metal braces remain an effective and cheap way to straighten teeth. However, if a metal smile gives you nightmares, then you may want to consider other, more discreet options.
Canker sores and soft tissue injuries
Gums, inner cheeks, and lips may feel sore when wearing braces as they come in contact with the metal wires and brackets. As a result, there is a possibility that you develop canker sores where sensitive inner mouth tissues continually rub against the metal components of the braces.
Shortening of the roots during braces treatment is known as root resorption. (6) Usually, this is nothing more than a minor blunting of the root tips, and it doesn’t cause any long-term damage. The exact reason behind it is unknown, but wearing braces beyond 2-3 years can increase the probability of it happening.
The Key Takeaway
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to clear teeth aligners vs dental braces. Instead, many factors can and should dictate which direction you follow. So, weigh up all the pros and cons, including braces costs, and talk it through with a dental professional if necessary. At the end of the day, it’s your smile, so the process needs to work for you in every way.
Best of luck with your smile journey!