Aligners versus Braces
We get a lot of questions about which treatment technique is better – aligners or braces. Our answer – it depends! We are here to give you a general overview as you think through what will be best for you!
First, the mechanics of aligners and braces are different. Aligners move teeth by pushing while braces have the ability to pull since they are glued to the tooth. Additionally, cases in aligners create two layers of plastic between the back teeth, while back teeth may occlude as normal in braces. As a result, treatment plans are often staged differently. Additionally, certain tooth movements may be more effectively performed with one system than the other. Certain bites are more effectively treated with one system than the other. For example, with braces, the alignment of your front teeth happens very quickly. Most people come back after 1-2 appointments and are floored at how much better their teeth look. With aligners, it can be the opposite. Often we need to focus on bite correction first, and derotating teeth takes more time with aligners.
The invisibility of aligners and clear braces are significant compared to metal braces. Clear brackets fortunately have improved significantly over the last few decades, and assuming you keep your brackets clean, stay clear throughout treatment. Although the wire is silver, clear brackets are still an aesthetic option. In fact, patients with clear brackets are often surprised at how few of their friends and family notice the braces have been removed. Aligners are also a very esthetic option! The aligners are a clear material and contour to your teeth. However, we often need to place tooth-colored buttons on the teeth to achieve the desired movement with aligners. Some patients are disappointed these are a necessary part of aligner treatment although they are hardly noticeable.
The compliance required with aligners and braces are also different – both with their pros and cons. If you choose aligners, you will need to wear your trays 20-22 hours each day. We recommend that you take them out when you eat or drink anything other than water, and then brush or rinse before you place them back in your mouth. The trays won’t move your teeth if they aren’t in your mouth! However, unlike with braces, it is very easy to brush and floss since you can remove the trays when it is time to pull out your toothbrush. With braces, it will take much more time to clean your teeth, and after every meal, you will want to check the mirror. However, those braces are glued to your teeth so we don’t have to worry about forgetting trays somewhere! We have patients who love their braces or aligners, and others who find they are better suited for the other system.
As you can see, asking if braces or aligners are better is a loaded question. For many cases, we give patients both options or we explain if one system would be more effective with your case. We also explain the pros and cons of each system. We always recommend really thinking through what is best for you or your child. It’s an exciting decision!