You need an orthodontic treatment and have to choose between wearing regular dental braces and clear Invisalign teeth aligners. So where do you start, and how do you decide which is better for you?

Dental braces help align the teeth and jaw properly to produce an even bite and correct rotated or misaligned teeth and gaps between teeth. Invisalign clear aligners are a special type of orthodontic appliance. They are a viable alternative to traditional wire braces for achieving corrections within a limited range.

You can read more about braces and Invisalign, learn about what type of corrections they are suitable for, their benefits, risks and potential complications in our articles on both Dental Braces and Invisalign. Despite these detailed articles, we decided to write on the Braces versus Invisalign topic because it is a frequently asked question.

We’ve divided our answer into two parts. The answer will be different depending on whether or not you have already seen an orthodontist or dentist.

If you haven’t seen an orthodontist

If you have not yet seen an orthodontist, you many need to do so before you can actually make the braces or Invisalign choice. Here’s why:

Orthodontic treatments are individually tailored for each person. Treatment requires taking into consideration all the changes that will occur in the mouth over the treatment period.

Braces can treat and achieve a wider range of corrections to the teeth and jaw than Invisalign can. Many more people are advised to have braces every year than are typically recommended an Invisalign treatment. So unless your orthodontist thinks you can benefit equally from Invisalign or regular braces, you may not need to make the choice right now.

For example, you are considered a good candidate for Invisalign if you have minimal teeth overcrowding, a mild to moderate overbite, your teeth are tipped by less than 45 degrees or rotated less than 20 degrees, and the gaps between your teeth are not too large. Braces can also treat all of these issues, as well as a wide range of potential corrections that Invisalign cannot achieve.

Braces are worn permanently on the teeth. Invisalign requires a commitment to wearing them at least 22 hours per day. The remaining two hours are for eating and cleaning them after meals. Not all patients can make this commitment. If you are short on commitment, regular braces, which do not require as much maintenance, will work better for you. Bear in mind, however, that braces have their fair share of other issues, such as possible problems brushing and flossing.

The choice between braces and Invisalign isn’t just about how you look while wearing them. There are many other things to consider. That’s why you’re better off scheduling a consultation before trying to make this decision.

If you’ve already seen an orthodontist

If you’ve already seen an orthodontist who has talked about braces and Invisalign here are the factors you must consider:

  • Aesthetics is a key factor in your choice. How will you look wearing Invisalign as opposed to wearing braces? Most people who are conscious about this, especially adults who have jobs in which personal appearance makes a big difference, like to choose Invisalign clear aligners because they are far less prominent than braces and more or less invisible. The person you are talking to can see them, but they are usually less obvious than wire braces.On the other hand, new materials and technologies have made braces less visible and more pleasing to the eye. There are many choices of type, colour and design of wire braces. With some corrections, you can opt for lingual braces, worn behind the teeth rather than in front of them.
  • Cost is another factor. Depending on the extent and type of correction, the cost of braces over the treatment period can be between $4,500 and $8,000 (AUD). An Invisalign treatment can cost between $6,000 and $8,500. If your corrections are minor and cost a major consideration, dental braces will probably save you money. For the same correction, at current rates, Invisalign is likely to cost more than wire braces.
  • Medical cover. Most private medical policies with orthodontic coverage will usually cover Invisalign to the same extent that they cover braces. However, because medical benefits differ from policy to policy, it is better to check coverage with your health fund before embarking on a treatment. Also, Invisalign is a relatively new therapy in Australia, and not all insurance firms cover it in their policies. Consult your orthodontist or dentist about the type of treatment you will receive and about their policies regarding billing for private medical insurance.
  • Length of treatment. This will vary with both braces and Invisalign according to the corrections needed. Braces can usually move teeth faster than Invisalign clear aligners. The time it takes to produce results is considered one of the key disadvantages of Invisalign. Braces, by their nature, can put more force on the teeth and jaw than the clear aligners can.The average treatment period with braces is about two years, with the length of time depending on the extent of correction. Invisalign treatments typically last between one and three years. Invisalign Express allows treatments lasting six months for people requiring only limited corrections.There are also some orthodontic treatments—referred to as accelerated orthodontics—that can bring limited results within a period of six months. You can read more about the pros and cons in our article on Accelerated Orthodontics.
  • Commitment is key in the success of an Invisalign treatment. Those whose commitment is in short supply might be better off with braces, which require little beyond keeping the teeth and braces clean.
  • Age. Anyone from the age of 6 can wear braces. Invisalign is only suitable for adults and most teenagers over 14, if their second molars have fully developed—usually around 12 years of age. Molars provide the support for the invisible aligners. Invisalign is not recommended for younger kids, because their teeth are not yet fully grown. There is no upper age limit for either type.
  • Likelihood of accidents, lifestyle considerations. If you play competitive sports or engage in activities that make you prone to accidents affecting the face or mouth, you might consider Invisalign because you can simply remove them during these events. This is not possible with braces.Also, in case of an accident, Invisalign is less likely to damage soft tissue in your mouth than braces, which come with wires and attachments. You can always wear mouth guards for protection.
  • Other factors. Multiple missing teeth, gum problems, tooth attachments and bridges linking two or more teeth may pose problems for those who opt for Invisalign. They are not usually a problem for wearing braces. Some people with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) may have trouble wearing Invisalign aligners. Your orthodontist is better placed to make the call on whether or not you should be wearing Invisalign in any of the above instances.

Finally, anyone whose premolars have been removed recently or will be extracted soon is not a suitable candidate for Invisalign.  These teeth are necessary to support the appliance.

After the preliminary testing and fitting, both types require scheduled visits to the orthodontic office.

Orthodontics is not the only way to enhance your smile and improve your oral health. You may find the following articles interesting:

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