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Invisalign vs. Braces: Which Is Right For Your Smile?

Written by Dr. Laura Edwards
Medically reviewed by Dr. Oleg Drut, Orthodontist, on June 1, 2020.

Invisalign vs. Braces: Your Ultimate Guide

Thinking about straightening your teeth? Great choice!

You might be wondering: should I get braces or Invisalign?

Luckily, that's what this guide is for! We've got answers to all your questions about the difference between these two forms of orthodontic treatment. We've stacked up these two side by side so you can make an informed choice for your smile. And we've compared Invisalign to other clear aligners so you can get the whole picture when it comes to treatment options.

Remember, no matter which treatment you choose, the most important part of your smile transformation is your orthodontist! An experienced doctor will carefully supervise your treatment to ensure the best results and a long-lasting smile.

Cost, comfort, effectiveness: we've got it covered. Read on to find out whether braces or Invisalign is right for you!

Table of Contents:

The Breakdown Chart | Braces: Pros and Cons | Invisalign: Pros and Cons | Costs Compared | A Note on Mail-Order Aligners | Conclusion

Braces v. Invisalign: The Breakdown Chart

 

Braces

Invisalign

Treatment Length

1-3 years, depending on individual case

6 months to 2 years, depending on individual case

Removable?

No

Yes

Cleaning

Regular brushing and flossing with specialized floss threader, routine dentist visits 

Regular brushing and flossing, brushing and soaking aligners, routine dental visits. 

Maintenance 

Regular cleaning and orthodontic visits, avoid certain foods.

Wear 22 hours a day, remove for meals, clean thoroughly before putting back in. Soak aligners regularly. 

Orthodontist Visits 

Every month - every other month

Every 3 months; begin new set of aligners every 2 weeks. 

Cost

$1,700-$6,000

$2,400-$9,000

Expedited Option?

No

Yes

Benefits of Treatment Type

  • Effective for very severe or complex cases
  • Less expensive
  • Permanent bonding means consistent progress
  • Colorful rubber bands 
  • Multiple braces types 
  • Time-tested reliability
  • Discreet, nearly-invisible look 
  • Removable aligners easy to care for 
  • No food restrictions 
  • Professional look for working adults 
  • Comfortable and easy to wear
  • Whiten teeth during treatment

Downsides of Treatment

  • Noticeable metal appliance 
  • Food restrictions 
  • Can trap bacteria 
  • Can be uncomfortable/cause irritation in mouth
  • May be difficult to clean 
  • Must remember to wear aligners 22 hours a day
  • More expensive
  • Must remove before eating/drinking anything but water 
  • Aligners can stain or discolor
  • More easily broken, damaged, or lost 
  • May require supplemental braces treatment for complex cases

Ideal Treatment For

Kids and teenagers; budget consumers

Adults or responsible teenagers, working professionals 

Braces: Time-Tested Orthodontic Care for Lifelong Smiles

Braces

Braces are the original form of orthodontic treatment. The basic design of braces has been around for centuries: researchers have even found primitive braces on ancient Egyptian mummies!

Luckily, braces have developed a lot over the years, and research has helped make braces a reliable, effective, and comfortable treatment method to achieve straight teeth, a healthy bite, and a beautiful smile for millions of people across the globe.

Braces shift your teeth safely and effectively, using brackets bonded to each tooth, connected by a metal wire. Each bracket is affixed to carefully move each tooth into its correct position, monitored closely by the orthodontist.

There are a few types of braces: metal, ceramic, and lingual braces all straighten teeth using a variety of methods. But they all can effectively help you achieve a great smile and a healthy bite!

Are braces right for you? There are a lot of reasons people choose braces.

Braces are Effective for Even Severe Dental Cases

Due to the sturdy, effective design of braces, they can create beautiful, long-lasting results for even the most severe cases of dental misalignment.

While Invisalign may be less effective for particular conditions, such as impacted teeth or severe crowding, braces use lots of specialized methods to bring problem teeth into alignment.

While Invisalign aligners may not have sufficient grip to draw out teeth that have grown into the wrong place, the tension on the brackets when pulled by the braces wire is extremely effective at moving those teeth. Braces offer maximal grip that can re-align even severely misaligned teeth. This makes them an obvious choice for serious complex cases, where Invisalign may require supplemental braces intervention to be fully effective.

Braces Are Bonded to Your Teeth, For Consistent Movement

There is a big benefit in having braces permanently bonded to your teeth: they are moving your teeth all the time.

Invisalign is removable, but must be worn at least 22 hours a day to be effective. It is possible to fall out of a good routine with Invisalign, by neglecting to put them back in after meals, for instance, or forgetting to sleep with them in.

For that reason, some patients prefer braces, because they don't require you to keep track of the aligners when they are not in your mouth. Compliance is still important; brushing and flossing regularly, visits to the dentist, etc; but you don't need to worry about losing the appliance.

Braces Are Less Expensive, and Insurance May Cover in Full for Younger Patients

Cost is a significant factor for families seeking orthodontic treatment, and the lower cost of braces is an attractive feature of this treatment. Braces cost between $1,700 and $3,500, depending on factors such as severity of the condition and the region where you live. Invisalign, on the other hand, begins at $2,400, up to $9,000.

Insurance can make a difference in cost as well. While some insurance plans cover both braces and Invisalign treatments, many state-subsidized plans offer coverage only for braces. Each state’s insurance plan varies in its coverage options, but in certain states, younger patients may be able to get their braces treatment covered in full. Check your state's insurance options for more information.

Monthly payment plans, seasonal promotions, and family-pack discounts can all lower the costs of both braces and Invisalign, but if cost is a primary concern, braces may prove to be the better option for you!

Colorful Rubber Bands Are a Fun Accessorizing Opportunity with Braces!

Braces have grown up out of the old “metal-mouth” stereotype: braces are actually a total fashion statement, and many celebrities have made wearing braces trendy again, for a cool look while you achieve a beautiful smile.

Braces offer a personalized customizable option with colorful rubber bands, which come in nearly every color under the sun! Kids and adults alike love matching their rubber bands to their style – whether it’s seasonal colors, favorite sports team, or just a color to go with every outfit!

Years of Research and Development + Experienced Orthodontist = Results You Can Trust

Because braces have been around a long time, so researchers and engineers have dedicated a great deal of time, resources, and expertise on perfecting their use.

A licensed, experienced orthodontist will have been treating patients with braces since they first began training, so you’re sure to be getting treatment from a true expert.

That means that, when your orthodontist uses braces to straighten your teeth, they can predict with maximum precision where each tooth will need to be moved for the best results, the straightest teeth, and the healthiest smile.

Using state-of-the-art technology and biocompatible, medical-grade materials, orthodontists use braces to achieve safe, effective, long-lasting results for patients young and old.

Metal, Ceramic, and Lingual Braces Offer Options for Your Smile

Braces offer a variety of treatment forms for you to choose from! The basic design is the same, but each is formulated to straighten teeth with specific benefits.

Metal Braces

Metal braces are the original form of braces: they use metal brackets, connected by a metal wire. They are extremely effective and reliable, convenient and comfortable, and popular for patients of all ages.

They may also be the most cost-effective treatment option, and for qualifying cases, may be fully covered by insurance. Be sure to check with your insurance provider about getting braces covered.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces use a similar technology as metal braces, but instead of the metal brackets, they use a much subtler clear or tooth-colored resin for the brackets, so they blend seamlessly with the teeth and provide a barely-there appearance.

Ceramic braces offer all the effectiveness of metal braces, but with a less noticeable look that many patients prefer, especially older teens and adults. Because the brackets are clear or tooth-colored, they are more prone to staining from dark-colored foods of drinks (like dark soda, red wine, or coffee), so they may not be the best choice for younger patients or those who don’t want to give up those items.

Lingual or Incognito® Braces

Lingual braces -also known as Incognito® braces- use a similar technology as metal and ceramic braces, but instead of being bonded to the outside of the teeth, they sit on the inside of the teeth, where the tongue sits.

This provides a treatment that is much less visible from the outside, while still moving the teeth into their correct positions.

Because of their placement, lingual braces may be less effective at treating certain conditions, or more severe cases. Your orthodontist will assess your diagnosis and determine whether lingual braces are right for your treatment.

Due to their less common usage and the expertise required, lingual braces may be considerably more expensive than metal braces.

Downsides of Braces

Braces aren't for everyone. While they are safe and effective, there are various features of braces that some might prefer to avoid.

For instance, because they are permanent, braces can be a trap for bacteria, causing plaque build-up, leading to dental or gum decay and/or discoloration. It's important when wearing braces that you maintain diligent oral hygiene, brushing and flossing every day, keeping the braces free of any trapped food or other debris, and going to the dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups.

You’ll have to avoid certain foods, especially anything hard or sticky that can get break your braces or get stuck under the wire: hard candy, sticky gum and chewable sweets, and hard nuts are all best to avoid during braces, or you risk causing damage to the appliance.

Compliance throughout your braces treatment is critically important: neglecting to care for your braces properly can have serious consequences for the effectiveness of your treatment and the health of your teeth and mouth.

When not cleaned properly, the brackets can permanently damage the enamel on your teeth, causing white spots. These are actually lesions on your teeth that can cause further decay.

Another disadvantage of braces is potential discomfort, especially at the start of the treatment, when the teeth are sensitive from the pressure of the brackets. During treatment, wires of brackets may poke or irritate your mouth.

Braces may require more office visits than Invisalign, since adjustments are needed throughout the treatment, and emergencies like a poking wire are more common.

Finally, braces are also quite noticeable; while ceramic braces provide a more discreet look than metal braces, they are not entirely invisible. While younger patients may not mind the appearance of braces – and many patients love the style accessory of having braces – some patients may prefer the discreet look of clear aligners, which don’t require any permanent fixtures in your mouth.

If you have more questions about braces, ask your orthodontist – they have lots of experience with all forms of braces.

Invisalign: Discreet, Comfortable, and Effective!

Invisalign Aligners

For those looking for a subtle treatment with a nearly invisible appearance, Invisalign clear aligners can be the ideal solution.

Since their introduction on the market over 20 years ago, Invisalign has revolutionized the possibilities of orthodontic care. Using patented technology, Invisalign clear aligners use state-of-the-art methods to straighten teeth and achieve healthy bites and beautiful smiles.

A large appeal of Invisalign aligners is, of course, that they are nearly invisible: clear plastic aligners fit comfortably over your teeth, slowly moving them into their correct positions, without requiring any metal or wires.

While worn, Invisalign aligners are subtle and barely noticeable, but they still provide effective treatment with predictable, long-lasting results. In fact, in certain cases Invisalign may be even more effective than braces, due to the all-around force of the aligners across the whole tooth.

There are other benefits of Invisalign aligners, too: read on to find out!

Removable Aligners Are Easy to Clean – And Let You Eat Anything!

You need to wear Invisalign 22 hours a day to be effective – but being able to take out the aligners definitely has its benefits!

While your aligners are removed during mealtimes, you can eat whatever you want: you don’t need to avoid any particular food or drink. You can eat candy, drink coffee, or chew gum without any consequences – as long as you promptly brush your teeth, rinse your aligners, and put them back in afterwards.

Taking the Invisalign aligners out also makes them easy to clean: you can soak them in cleaning solution, or scrub them gently with a toothbrush.

While they’re out of your mouth, you can thoroughly brush and scrub your teeth, as well as using mouthwash, to keep them clean throughout your treatment. Just make sure to put them in promptly afterwards so the treatment is effective!

The easy home care of Invisalign decreases the chances of gum infection and/or dental decay, resulting in better oral health and better overall health. This is an appealing aspect of Invisalign for patients of all ages.

Comfort is a Key Feature of Invisalign Aligners

Invisalign aligners are made of patented, state-of-the-art SmartTrack™ material, a multilayer polyurethane plastic resin specifically designed to align teeth. It is safe to use, extremely effective for precision tooth movements, and very comfortable!

They aligners are custom designed by your orthodontist for your unique diagnosis, to fit snugly around your teeth. Each set is carefully created to further your treatment, while fitting comfortably around your teeth.

While braces may poke or pinch or push against your lips or gums, Invisalign aligners fit seamlessly against your teeth, without anything to catch or cause discomfort. Patients love the comfort factor of Invisalign aligners: many patients find that they actually miss the feeling of the aligners over their teeth when they are done with treatment!

Subtle and Discreet Invisalign Aligners Maintain Professionalism

Before Invisalign, many adults settled for smiles that made them unhappy, because they didn’t feel they could get braces and maintain their professional look at work.

Invisalign changed all that: the discreet appearance of Invisalign aligners has made orthodontic care possible for all kinds of career professionals. Clear, subtle, and nearly invisible when worn, Invisalign does not interfere with your smile, even while it’s helping you achieve a better one.

The subtle look of Invisalign aligners makes them an appealing choice for older teenagers, as well as adults of all ages who don’t want the look of braces. Invisalign Teen™ is a specialized Invisalign program designed for growing mouths, which uses a similar design and achieves the same effective results as traditional Invisalign.

Invisalign is a Powerful Orthodontic Tool with Excellent, Proven Results

Invisalign has devoted years of research, and millions of dollars in development, to create the most effective tools for clear aligner therapy.

With patented, exclusive technology like SmartTrack™ plastic, and SmartForce™ attachments, Invisalign is clinically proven to move teeth faster and with better predictability than other clear aligner brands.

While braces are also effective at treating a variety of conditions, in certain cases, the comprehensive pressure exerted by Invisalign aligners can be even more effective than braces. For instance, Invisalign may be a better tool for correcting open bites.

Like other medical devices, Invisalign is only as effective as the experience of the doctor treating you. Make sure to find an experienced Invisalign orthodontist, in a dedicated orthodontic practice, not a general dentist.

Look for a highly-ranked Invisalign provider: Diamond or Diamond Plus Invisalign Providers have the most experience treating patients with these patented clear aligners, and they will be able to precisely and effectively design your treatment for maximum results.

Invisalign Requires Fewer Office Visits

Invisalign treatment consists of a series of custom-made aligners; each set is worn for two weeks, and then exchanged for the next set in the series.

Generally, your orthodontist will provide you with several sets in advance, so you can maintain your treatment at home, going in only every 3 months or so for the doctor to examine your progress and collect the next sets of aligners.

In contracts, braces patients visit the office every month or every two months, for regular adjustments, where the wire is tightened to keep treatment progressing.

Bleach Your Teeth During Treatment Using Your Aligners

Many patients love this perk of Invisalign aligners: the aligners themselves can double as whitening trays.

You can apply special whitening gel to the insides of your aligners and wear them at night for an easy whitening treatment.

Downsides of Invisalign

There are certain aspects of Invisalign treatment that may not work for all patients.

Some complex conditions may require a combination of braces and Invisalign to be properly corrected. Drawing out impacted teeth, for instance, or aligning high canines, can be difficult to do with Invisalign alone and may require supplemental braces treatment.

When you visit the orthodontist, they will do a thorough examination to determine your exact diagnosis and assess whether Invisalign will work for you. An experienced Invisalign orthodontic provider is key to achieving results with clear aligners.

Invisalign also requires careful, dedicated compliance. Invisalign aligners need to be worn for at least 22 hours a day, removed only for eating meals or drinking anything other than water, and cleaning teeth and the aligners themselves.

Because they can be removed, there is the potential for the aligners to get lost or damaged. They need to be stored properly in their case when not worn, so they don’t get stepped on, thrown away in a napkin, or – a surprisingly common problem – chewed up by a curious dog!

As you will see below, Invisalign may also be more expensive than traditional braces, although insurance often covers a significant portion of Invisalign when used by a licensed orthodontist.

Talk to your orthodontist if you have more questions about Invisalign treatment.

Costs Compared: Invisalign vs. Braces

One big question future orthodontic patients ask: how much does it cost?

The price of care, of course, can make a big difference in the treatment a patient ends up selecting. Many factors can affect the final cost of treatment, such as:

  • The severity of your condition
  • The office you go to for treatment
  • The experience of your orthodontist
  • Insurance coverage
  • Promotional savings, such as family discounts or seasonal price-cuts
  • Monthly payment plans/financing 

Understanding that the above-mentioned factors can greatly influence the cost of your treatment, here is a general cost breakdown.

Braces Cost

Traditional braces generally cost between $1,700 and $6,000. As notes, this price varies depending on factors such as the severity of your treatment and how much is covered by insurance.

Depending on the qualifying conditions in certain states, state-sponsored insurance plans may cover the full cost of traditional braces for some patients.

Invisalign Cost

Invisalign treatment costs between $2,400 and $9,000. Like braces, Invisalign prices vary depending on factors like the severity of your condition and where you seek treatment.

Some orthodontists offer expedited Invisalign treatment for mild conditions, which cost less than traditional Invisalign, anywhere between $2,400 and $3,200. But generally, moderate or more severe cases will cost more than this, and include unlimited aligners to make sure the results are truly effective and long-lasting.

Don’t Be Afraid to Compare Prices

As noted, prices may vary considerably between offices. It’s perfectly acceptable to visit a few different offices to compare prices and learn whether your condition can be treated by braces or Invisalign.

You’ll also want to consider the experience of your orthodontist. Braces and Invisalign are both tools for correcting teeththe skilled doctor who uses the tool is your best asset for achieving a great grin.

For lower cost, more effective treatment, seek a dedicated orthodontist in a free-standing orthodontist’s facility, rather than a general dentist: orthodontists have the most experience with the methods and instruments used in aligning teeth, and lower costs with a higher volume of patients.

Many offices offer a complimentary initial consultation at no charge, to simply consult with an orthodontist. The doctor can give you a quote for treatment costs for braces and Invisalign, and you can discuss payment options with the staff.

Always ask about savings, offers, and seasonal promotions, as well as payment plans and whether the office offers 0% financing. There are many opportunities to save money, even while achieving a healthy, happy, long-lasting smile and proper bite.

Invisalign vs. Braces: Which is Faster?

Treatment lengths depend on your specific case, but Invisalign tends to be faster for most types of orthodontic diagnoses. The Invisalign aligners provide all-around force on the teeth, rather than the individual tooth movement achieved with braces. This all-around force can provide speedier movement, resulting in a faster treatment to correct your smile. Most Invisalign cases can be completed between 12-18 months, and some milder cases require only 6 months of treatment.

Each case is unique: your orthodontist will be able to determine the precise length of your specific treatment, whether it's braces or Invisalign. And whichever treatment you select, your compliance will help keep you on track, with regular brushing and flossing and proper food and drinking habits. If you wear Invisalign clear aligners, be sure to wear them 22 hours a day to ensure their effectiveness. 

What About Non-Invisalign Clear Aligners?

Invisalign was the first company to introduce clear aligners, and they’ve continued to lead the industry in technical innovation and clinically proven results for straightening teeth.

In recent years, however, many brands have cropped up offering non-Invisalign clear aligners. Some of these offer DIY at-home plastic aligners, which are not Invisalign but use generic plastics technology. This treatment is offered as a “tele-dentistry” service, so customers never visit an actual orthodontist in-office.

At first glance, these mail-order aligners may have a lower price-tag, but look again: many critical aspects of treatment are missing from these services.

What’s missing with mail-order aligner brands:

  • X-Rays (necessary for proper diagnosis)
  • Experienced orthodontist with personalized service
  • Attachments for aligner grip
  • Unlimited aligners for effective treatment
  • In-office consultation with the doctor
  • Retainers
  • Follow-up visits

When these added costs are included – fees you will accrue out of pocket, by purchasing your retainers separately and visiting the dentist for X-rays – the final cost of mail-order aligners is actually hundreds or even thousands of dollars higher.

In addition, treatment results are much less predictable with mail-order aligners rather than Invisalign. Invisalign is a patented orthodontic therapy, available only in partnership with licensed, in-office orthodontists. The medical-grade, precision engineered materials used in Invisalign are clinically proven to move teeth faster and with better predictability than generic brands.

Thousands of unhappy customers have filed complaints against these DIY aligner brands, for ineffective treatment or, in many cases, permanent damage to their teeth, gums, and mouth. Due to rising concerns over the risk of mail-order tele-dentistry, the American Association of Orthodontists has issued a consumer advisory warning the public about the use of these unreliable devices.

In this article, we’ve compared braces only to Invisalign clear aligner therapy, not mail-order aligner brands. Many orthodontists caution against the use of at-home treatments, since there are genuine risks of permanent harm without the supervision of a licensed orthodontist.

Invisalign is used only in exclusive partnership with experienced doctors: the treatment is effective and reliable because it is supervised in-office by a licensed orthodontist. If you are interested in mail-order aligner treatment, think hard about the risk you are taking for the health of your smile.

Want more info? Get the full breakdown on Invisalign vs. Mail-Order Aligners.

Orthodontic therapy is an investment in your health: don’t sacrifice your health and the future of your smile to an ineffective, risky treatment!

Whether Braces and Invisalign, A Great Orthodontist Helps You Win Your Grin

Braces and Invisalign are both excellent choices to achieve a healthy, happy smile. While each offer specific advantages, they both offer reliable, precision movement of your teeth, to improve your bite, your smile, and your confidence!

Whichever treatment you choose, remember that both braces & Invisalign are tools used by your experienced doctor. The orthodontist you work with for your smile will be in charge of using either appliance to align your teeth and achieve the most optimal results.

During consultation, your orthodontist will discuss your diagnosis with you and recommend a treatment option that is best suited for your needs. Together, you will embark on a partnership that will keep you smiling for years to come.