Clear Braces Vs. Metal – Which Is Right for You?

clear braces or metal braces which is better?

Metal and clear braces are two popular orthodontic treatment options if you want straight teeth. Both offer unique benefits and disadvantages, so it’s essential to explore all of the information available to make an informed decision about what is best for your smile.

Are Braces a Cosmetic Treatment?

Although straightening the teeth can be considered an esthetic (cosmetic) treatment, it is also necessary for some patients to maintain oral health and function. Orthodontics (1) is the dental specialty that addresses the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of misaligned bites, jaws, and teeth. Traditionally, metal braces have been the preferred treatment for moving teeth to new positions to create an improved, straighter smile. Thus, orthodontics are used to treat conditions including:

  • cleft lip and palate
  • an incorrect bite to improve jaw position that may alleviate snoring, tooth grinding, and TMJ problems
  • teeth and gum problems that may occur as a result of improper cleaning, which is an issue for people with crooked teeth

Patients who have orthodontic treatment for health reasons will, of course, benefit from an esthetic improvement with straighter teeth. Having a straighter, healthier smile will positively impact other areas of their lives, giving them an improved self-image and affecting how others perceive them.

The braces we are familiar with today—metal brackets affixed to the front of the teeth anchored with a metal wire (archwire) have been around since the beginning of the last century. However, there is evidence that even the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians concerned themselves with straightening teeth. (2)

These days, there are several different methods to straighten teeth (3). While metal braces have their place—particularly for patients with severe orthodontic issues and teenagers—they may not always be the right option for patients (typically adults) who want a more discreet option.

Clear braces are one of the latest innovations that address this issue. Using a clear, plastic appliance that fits over the teeth—similar to the dental trays used for at-home teeth whitening—the appliance is invisible. It offers an alternative solution to wearing metal braces.

So, what is the right treatment for you? Let’s take a look at some of the differences and what advantages one treatment may have over the other so that you can make an informed choice.

What are the key differences between metal braces and clear braces?

Permanent vs. Removable

Metal braces use metal brackets that are permanently attached to each tooth. A wire connects the brackets, which are secured with a plastic band. Your dentist will adjust the placement of your teeth by tightening or loosening the wire in small increments until they fit snugly into place.

Patients must wear invisible aligners for up to 22 hours a day to ensure the success of the treatment, but they are removable. Thus, you can take them out during mealtimes or when playing contact sports to ensure they don’t get damaged.

Visible vs. Invisible

As metal braces are visible, some people may feel self-conscious about their appearance. Although there is an option to personalize them with colored bands—which is popular with kids—or clear brackets that are less visible, they are still very noticeable.

Invisible aligners are nearly invisible, and it is improbable that anyone else will notice them. It also means that you can still smile with confidence and not worry about covering your mouth in photos, which you may well do if you are wearing metal braces.

Metal vs. Plastic

Metal braces are durable and hard-wearing, but they can also cause lacerations to the soft tissues in the mouth. The snug fit and smooth surface of plastic aligners are gentle on the mouth. Although there is always a little discomfort while our mouth becomes used to each new aligner, they are not as uncomfortable as metal braces.

Furthermore, metal braces can cause a metallic taste in the mouth, which can be unpleasant in both the short and long term.

Metal Braces Clear Braces
Removable û
Invisible û  ü
Easy to clean û
Least expensive û
No diet restrictions û
Treat most cases ü û


How Do Orthodontic Treatments Move the Teeth?

The movement of your teeth is the body’s natural response to the light pressure applied by an orthodontic appliance. The bone and connective tissue surrounding teeth remodels and adapts to the new position of the teeth when sustained gentle force is applied.

In children, the body is still growing, so straightening teeth happens more quickly than in adults. Therefore, orthodontic treatment is carried out in teenagers when all the adult teeth are through, and the body is still developing. Orthodontics in adults tends to be more complex and generally takes longer but is successful with the proper treatment.

How do metal braces work?

Braces are custom-created for each patient. Traditional braces consist of a series of metal brackets that are glued individually to your teeth. An archwire is threaded through each bracket and connected to each bracket with elastic O rings.

The archwire is adjusted at regular intervals as your teeth move, and the elastic bands are typically changed at each of your appointments when you have your braces tightened.

By using different forces, individual teeth or groups of teeth are moved, and so it offers a flexible, bespoke solution.

Metal braces are permanently fixed and not removable and must be adjusted regularly by a dentist or orthodontist. Typically, this is every month.

How do clear braces (aligners) work?

Straighter teeth can also be achieved with clear braces (aligners). They work on the same basis as metal braces using controlled force to move the teeth to new positions.

Again, the appliances are tailor-made to fit your mouth. As they are worn over the teeth (like a mouthguard), each aligner exerts a small amount of force on specific teeth to move them incrementally – usually somewhere between 0.1 and 0.3 mm.

Once the aligner has done its job – it’s removed, and the next one in the series takes over. The process of swapping out the old aligner for the new continues until your teeth are in perfect alignment.

Unlike metal braces, instead of going to the dentist each month to have them adjusted (which is the case with metal braces), the treatment involves changing your aligner for the next in the series.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Clear Braces over Metal Braces?

Clear aligners may not be suitable for everyone, but they do offer several advantages over metal braces. As well as being invisible and removable, clear aligners may offer:

  • Shorter treatment times in some instances
  • Greater comfort
  • Fewer dental visits
  • Easy to maintain oral hygiene
  • No dietary restrictions
  • Discreet treatment

Shorter treatment times (4)

Treatment timing depends on how complex your treatment is. For people with mild to moderately crooked teeth, clear aligners could be the better option.


Metal braces are often uncomfortable to wear as the wires and brackets can irritate the mouth’s soft tissues throughout treatment. As clear braces are made from a smooth plastic that fits over the teeth, the risk from abrasions and cuts to the soft tissues is minimized.

Fewer visits to the dentist

While metal braces must be adjusted once every four weeks, clear braces are provided in batches, so it’s typical only to see the dentist once every six-eight weeks. This visit is purely to check on progress and to receive the next set of aligners.

Easy to maintain oral hygiene

As the clear braces are removable, you can brush and floss your teeth as usual. Wearing metal braces requires additional care and equipment, such as interdental brushes, to clean the teeth thoroughly and prevent damaging plaque from taking hold.

No need to alter diet

As clear braces are removable, you do not have to avoid certain foods that can harm your braces or make it difficult to clean your teeth.

Discreet treatment

Perhaps the most significant advantage of clear aligners over metal braces is that they’re virtually invisible. So unlike metal braces, you can go about your everyday life without anyone knowing that you are having orthodontic treatment.

What about the disadvantages?

  • Not suitable for every case
  • Not ideal if you don’t or won’t conform
  • Some aligners are more expensive than metal braces.

Not suitable for complex cases

Complex cases and those with severely misaligned teeth are unlikely to be suitable candidates for clear braces.

Unsuitable if you are likely not to wear them for 22 hours a day

If you are non-compliant with the treatment plan and are likely not to wear them for the required time, then a fixed appliance may be a better option for you.

Clear braces can be more expensive in some cases.

Some clear aligners can be more expensive than metal braces, depending upon brand and case complexity.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Metal Braces over Clear Braces?

Although braces are not esthetically pleasing, metal braces do offer some advantages over clear braces.

  • Suitable for all cases
  • Personalized options
  • Cost-effective

Suitable for All

Even the most complex of cases can benefit from wearing traditional metal braces. Therefore, metal braces can offer a better result than clear braces, which are limited in how much they can achieve.

Personalized Options

Metal braces can be personalized with colored brackets and elastics. Clear aligners come as they are.


Metal braces tend to be the most cost-effective treatment option for straight teeth.

The disadvantages of metal braces include:

  • Dietary restrictions
  • Discomfort (sometimes)
  • Changing Oral Hygiene routine

Altering your diet

You may have to avoid some foods that damage the braces or cause problems by getting stuck. food types may include hard foods, such as nuts, and sticky, chewy foods, including candies and sweets

Discomfort or pain

Most appliances to straighten teeth cause some discomfort, particularly when new or when they have recently been adjusted. However, traditional braces’ metal brackets and wires can rub on the lip and cheek tissues, causing some discomfort.

Adjusting your oral hygiene routine

Cleaning the teeth behind metal wires requires some persistence, and you may find that additional equipment, such as interdental appliances or a Waterpik, may be necessary to keep the mouth clean.

What is the Cost of Clear Braces Compared to Metal Braces

The cost of clear braces by the leading manufacturers is typically more expensive than metal braces (5). However, there is a new market in at-home braces where you receive tailor-made clear aligners direct to your home that cost around 50% of the price of the brand leaders that you obtain through a dentist or orthodontist.

  • While the average cost of braces is $5,000-$6,000. Individuals can pay as little as $2,500 and as much as $10,000
  • Clear braces cost vary greatly too. You can pay as little as $1,000, but you can also pay up to $8,000, depending upon brand and case complexity.

The Bottom Line

Whether you opt for clear braces or metal braces is a decision that should be taken after a great deal of consideration. After weighing up all the options and what is important to you, you can make that informed choice. Of course, in some circumstances, if your case is complex, you may only have limited options available. If you are in any doubt, you should always seek specialist advice from a dentist or orthodontist.


Q: How long does treatment with braces last?

That depends on how complex your treatment is. If, for example, you need to close a gap in your front teeth (diastema), the treatment with clear braces can be as quick as 4-6 months. Generally, orthodontic treatment takes between one and two years. (6)

Q: Can adults get a good result from braces?

No matter what your age, a straight smile is always desirable. Adult braces can be just as effective as children’s, but it may take a little longer to achieve the required results simply because the body has stopped growing.

Q: Do you have to wear a retainer after clear braces?

Yes. Once the teeth have been moved to their correct positions, wearing a retainer for some time afterward will ensure teeth stay in place until the bone and connective tissues surrounding the tooth have stabilized.


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