CLEAR ALIGNERS VS BRACES. WHICH ONE IS MOST SUITABLE FOR YOU?
There is a growing demand for orthodontic treatment to fix smiles. An orthodontic treatment improves the smile by pushing the misaligned teeth into correct and desirable positions by applying steady, continuous pressure. Straightening of misaligned teeth also improves chewing efficiency and reduces the risk of decay and gum diseases.
Traditionally, metal or tooth-colored braces have been used to realign teeth. Clear aligners have recently gained popularity due to their nearly-invisible appearance. People considering orthodontic treatment are often confused about which method to choose-braces or clear aligners. In this article, we discuss the working and benefits of these two treatment options to help you choose the best option.
What are traditional braces and how do they work?
Braces comprise small brackets which are attached to the surface of teeth. A wire is passed through all the brackets placed on teeth. The wire is tightened by an orthodontist every 4-6 weeks. This creates pressure on teeth and jaw which brings them to the correct position. The brackets attached to the teeth are made up of metal (gold or stainless steel) or tooth-colored materials (ceramics). These brackets are usually placed on the front surfaces of teeth. However, brackets can also be placed on the inner surface of teeth (called lingual braces). Patients can even opt for ceramic or lingual braces if they are looking for aesthetically-pleasing alternatives.
What are clear aligners and how do they work?
Clear aligners are customized, transparent trays that tightly fit into the teeth. Clear aligners are made up of thermoplastic material which gives them a transparent (or clear) appearance. These plastic aligners are fabricated based on the patient’s impression of teeth or digital scans. A series of plastic aligners is fabricated (20-30 or more trays) based on the patient’s treatment requirements. Every set of aligners is designed to move a set of teeth at a time into the desired position. Each set of aligner trays is to be worn for 1-2 weeks. The aligner trays, when placed across teeth, exert pressure and cause the teeth to move to the desired position. Unlike traditional braces, aligners can be removed while eating and drinking.
What are the benefits of braces over aligners?
Some of the benefits of braces include:
- Effective in complex orthodontic cases: Fixed braces are more effective in complex orthodontic cases. Meanwhile, clear aligners are unable to accomplish certain tooth movements, and are recommended for less complex cases.
- Higher patient compliance: Braces are cemented onto teeth surfaces. So, patients are more likely to continue using braces for the treatment period. On the other hand, some patients with clear aligners stop wearing them as soon as they experience discomfort. Such patients may need counseling and motivation from a dentist or orthodontist for better compliance.
- Low cost: The treatment cost with fixed braces is less compared to aligners. For instance, the cost of fixed braces in the US is ~3,000 -7,000 USD, compared to ~4,000-8,000 USD for clear aligners.
What are the benefits of aligners over braces?
Some of the benefits of aligners over braces include:
- Superior aesthetics: Clear aligners are nearly invisible in the mouth, imparting a natural and aesthetic appearance.
- Removable: Aligners can be easily removed before eating and while having beverages. However, the patient should wear them for 22 hours a day throughout the treatment.
- Easy to maintain oral hygiene: It is easy to maintain oral hygiene with clear aligners as they can be removed before brushing. This helps maintain the health of the gums. With fixed braces, it’s difficult to clean the food debris present between the teeth and gums. This increases the risk of decay and gum inflammation.
- No dietary restrictions: There are no dietary restrictions with clear aligners. With fixed braces, certain foods such as popcorn, candies, chewing gums, and pizza crust should be avoided as they can damage the wire or brackets.
- Better comfort: Clear aligners cause slight discomfort which can be easily managed. On the contrary, wires in the braces may impinge the cheeks and cause more discomfort.
- Fewer visits to the dentist: In case of clear aligners, fewer visits to the orthodontist are required as patients can change aligners on their own after a few weeks (per the dentist’s recommendation).
Which one is more suitable for you - Clear aligners or braces?
It's difficult to declare one method to be better than the other. Each method has its own set of benefits that can be used to correct malocclusions (abnormal relation between upper and lower teeth) based on treatment goals and the patient’s needs.
Clear aligners provide superior aesthetics, comfort, oral hygiene maintenance, and require fewer dental visits. Meanwhile, fixed braces are less expensive and more effective in treating complex orthodontic cases. That said, innovations in clear aligner technology are increasingly introducing newer means to treat complex orthodontic cases. Patients should always consult a board-certified orthodontist to understand the method suitable for their case, and use their discretion to choose between clear aligners and braces.
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- Ke Y, Zhu Y, Zhu M. A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies. BMC Oral Health. 2019 Jan 23;19(1):24
- Azaripour, A., Weusmann, J., Mahmoodi, B., Peppas, D., Gerhold-Ay, A., Van Noorden, C. J. F., & Willershausen, B. (2015). Braces versus Invisalign®: gingival parameters and satisfaction during treatment: a cross-sectional study. BMC Oral Health, 15(1).
- Galan-Lopez L, Barcia-Gonzalez J, Plasencia E. A systematic review of the accuracy and efficiency of dental movements with Invisalign®. Korean J Orthod. 2019 May;49(3):140-149
- Thukral R, Gupta A. Invisalign: invisible orthodontic treatment-a review. Journal of Advanced Medical and Dental Sciences Research. 2015 Nov 1;3(5):S42.
- Pereira D, Machado V, Botelho J, Mendes JJ, Delgado AS. Comparison of InvisalignⓇ Aligners versus Fixed Appliance Treatment in pain perception: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
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