When we look at clear aligner therapy (Invisalign®) and braces as what they are, tools to move teeth, it becomes easier to compare them against one another. Teeth don’t know the difference between Invisalign® and braces, but there are biomechanical benefits to the way both tools move teeth and why orthodontists select one over the other when working with patients.
In terms of oral hygiene and the ability to move teeth, Invisalign® is often a preferred treatment option for compromised periodontal (gum) tissues, open bites, and minor crowding. Busy patients also benefit from shorter appointments and longer appointment intervals, only having to see your orthodontist for approximately 15 minutes every 2-3 months for a standard adjustment.
Braces are great for patients with extreme deep bites, large spacing, and bites requiring large root movements such as extractions. A standard adjustment with braces takes approximately 30 minutes and occurs approximately every 4-8 weeks. Hygiene is more challenging with braces and patients should work with their orthodontic team to make sure they’re brushing and flossing effectively.
When looking at the technological advancements and the progress that has been made in orthodontists’ understanding of clear aligner therapy, most cases can be treated effectively with the Invisalign® product. The orthodontist often recommends braces or Invisalign® based on which treatment modality will serve each patient the more efficiently, as some tooth movements may take months for Invisalign® and years for braces or vice versa.
A major concern for the orthodontist is patient “burnout”, where the patient becomes exhausted with treatment and stops wearing elastics or Invisalign® trays. This is seen more frequently with patients who have been in treatment for 1.5-2.5 years, whether in braces or Invisalign®. When an Invisalign® patient “burns out” and stop wearing their trays, they effectively stop treatment. But with braces, if a patient stops wearing elastics for a few days, treatment can still be effective with smaller changes to get back on track. Therefore orthodontists often recommend braces in more complex cases.
Compare Invisalign and Braces
|Hygiene: trays are removable, making it much easier to clean.|
Esthetics: Trays are hardly noticeable.
Emergency visits: Rare
Speech: Some patients notice a slight lisp.
Appointment Length: ~15-20 min
Appointment Interval: ~2-3 months
Patient Compliance: Necessary for successful treatment. The patient must wear trays 22 hours per day.
Tooth Movement: Great for minor tooth rotations or tipping movements.
|Hygiene: Brackets are bonded to teeth so cleaning can be challenging.|
Esthetics: Metal in appearance, though clear ceramic options or fun colors are available.
Emergency visits: Possibility for poking wires or braces becoming loose during treatment.
Speech: Speech is usually not affected.
Appointment Length: ~30 min
Appointment Interval: ~4-8 weeks
Patient Compliance: Important, though not as necessary as Invisalign®
Tooth Movement: Great for more complex tooth movements requiring torque or space closure.
As noted, you can continue your oral hygiene routine as you normally would while using Invisalign®, but you are still susceptible to cavities. With braces, your orthodontist will work with you to show you the proper way to clean under wires and…