Invisalign vs. braces: Which is right for you?
Compare treatments and costs to straighten your teeth
If you want to straighten your teeth, traditional metal braces and Invisalign are two of your options. Both treatments can improve your smile, but which approach is right for you?
As a kid of the ’90s, the only option I had was traditional braces. Now clear aligners (like Invisalign) offer a different approach. Let’s dig into how the two approaches differ in terms of treatment plans, cost, experience and effectiveness.
Compare Invisalign vs. braces
The main difference between dental braces and Invisalign is the technique used to align the teeth. Braces use metal brackets and wires, while Invisalign uses a series of clear aligner trays that are switched out every few weeks.
Invisalign received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 1998. Since then, Invisalign and its competitors have continued to gain popularity — and the technology has advanced to cover more complex dental needs.
Common dental issues that need treatment:
- Overbite: When your top teeth are in front of your lower teeth
- Underbite: When your bottom teeth are in front of your upper teeth (what I had growing up)
- Crossbite: When your upper and lower jaws don’t line up
- Open bite: When your top and bottom teeth don’t touch
- Gaps: When your teeth have extra space between them (common in the upper middle teeth)
- Crowded teeth: When your teeth don’t fit comfortably due to limited space in your jaw
Both traditional braces and invisible liners can help with many of these issues; most invisible liner companies have short online quizzes that can help you determine if you’re a candidate for their approach.
Invisalign vs. braces: cost
As a general rule, Invisalign doesn’t have a cost advantage over regular braces — both start around $3,000 before insurance coverage. Keep in mind that costs vary depending on your age, location, dental health, required level of treatment and the type of correction plan.
Many Invisalign alternatives use similar technology but advertise cheaper rates, like Byte, whose treatment costs $82 per month with a down payment or $1,895 for a one-time payment as of publishing.
Luckily, many dental insurance plans cover both Invisalign and traditional orthodontic treatments. Many people choose to finance the charges through a monthly payment plan. You may also pay using an HSA or FSA account.
Invisalign vs. braces: treatment plan and care
Invisalign is typically a quicker solution if you need minimal correction. If your teeth require significant movement, braces may work better than Invisalign in closing gaps and aligning teeth.
With invisible braces, it’s important to brush your teeth after each meal to lower the risk of cavities and bad breath.
Invisalign treatments average between 12 and 18 months. During this time, you’re meant to wear the aligner at least 20 to 22 hours each day. A doctor’s visit is required about once every four to six weeks.
Braces have a reputation for being challenging in terms of maintenance and oral hygiene. Not without good reason, though; metal brackets and wires can make brushing and flossing difficult. However, aligners come with their own difficulties.
Invisible aligners typically require the following:
Daily cleaning with toothpaste or crystals and warm water
Removal when eating or drinking anything other than water
Brushing after each meal or snack to prevent cavities and bad breath
Invisalign vs. braces: effectiveness
Both Invisalign and traditional braces work toward the same result — straighter teeth and improved oral health — but what does the research say?
A recent review of the clinical effectiveness of Invisalign found “substantial consistency” that Invisalign is a “viable alternative to conventional orthodontic therapy in the correction of mild to moderate malocclusions in non-growing patients that do not require extraction.” The same study also found that Invisalign aligners “can predictably level, tip, and derotate teeth (except for cuspids and premolars).”
Invisalign has improved in overall accuracy over the past 10 years, according to a 2020 study in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, but the general strengths and weaknesses of tooth movement with Invisalign remain.
Which is better for straightening teeth?
Overall, Invisalign treatment is designed more for simple to moderate teeth straightening, while braces are typically a better choice if you have more complex problems. Braces may work more quickly to close gaps and align teeth than Invisalign.
The best choice for you depends on your individual case and the type and extent of correction necessary. Invisalign and traditional braces are both great orthodontic options. Consult your orthodontist to get a professional judgment on which treatment method is better for your needs.
Pros and cons of braces
Braces are an effective treatment for all types of orthodontic cases. The downside: They’re not removable (except for by professionals once treatment is complete).
- Potentially less expensive
- Longer track record of success
- Better for more complicated cases
- Treatment length can be shorter
- More visible
- Not removable
- More maintenance
- Food limitations
Pros and cons of Invisalign
Invisalign aligners have the benefit of being almost unnoticeable, but they come with other things to consider.
- Nearly invisible
- Removable for eating
- Effective for a range of orthodontic issues
- Minimal maintenance
- Can be more expensive
- Teeth need to be brushed after eating
- Not be ideal for all complex orthodontic treatments
- May require add-ons to connect the aligner to your teeth
- Can get lost or damaged
Invisalign is often the first name that comes to mind when people are looking for invisible braces. Like Kleenex and Band-Aid, it's become so popular that some people use the word to refer to any brand of invisible aligners.
However, there are many other companies that provide similar treatment. Be sure to consider price, treatment time, maintenance and aftercare when looking at each brand. Below, compare a few more options. For a more discreet look, you might also consider lingual braces, which are placed behind the teeth.
- No office visits necessary
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Smile guaranteed for life
- Night-only option available
- Payment plan with no credit check
At the time of publishing, SmileDirectClub has in-person locations in 32 states for initial visits, but you can also complete treatment entirely from your home.
SmileDirectClub clients make molds of their teeth at home and send them to the company. The aligners are then mailed back with a treatment plan. Pricing at the time of publishing starts at $89 per month for 24 months with a $250 down payment or $1,950 upfront. For more, compare SmileDirectClub vs. Invisalign.
- Includes HyperByte device and set of retainers
- Lifetime guarantee
- Free tooth whitening
- Military and student discounts
Byte offers all-day and nighttime-only aligners with custom treatment plans designed by board-certified orthodontists. The company’s HyperByte vibrational technology helps accelerate treatment. At the time of publishing, the at-home impression kit costs $95, and aligners start at $82 per month with a $249 down payment, or $1,895 upfront. Byte includes teeth whitener and the first set of retainers at no charge.
- 100% risk-free
- All treatments provided by orthodontists (not dentists)
- CandidApp tracks your teen’s progress
With Candid, you can start by taking impressions and photos at home with a starter kit, or you can visit one of its in-person studios. During treatment, an orthodontist tracks your progress with scans you take using a specialized device provided by the company. Treatment takes an average of six months. Candid’s costs depend on the wearer, but you might expect to spend anywhere from about $1,750 to $5,000 after insurance.
Is Invisalign cheaper than braces?
In many cases, the costs of Invisalign and traditional braces are about the same. However, many Invisalign competitors have started offering more affordable options worth considering.
Can you eat with Invisalign?
You can eat while using Invisalign, but you have to take out your aligners to do so. Because they’re removable, you can eat any type of food while they’re out. However, you’ll want to brush your teeth prior to putting your aligners back in.
Can kids get Invisalign?
Children can get Invisalign aligners. The company advertises special treatment plans for kids, but you should consult your child’s orthodontist to assess their specific straightening needs to ensure they’re a good candidate.
Does Invisalign require that you connect anything to your teeth?
In some cases, it’s necessary to get attachments (small parts bonded to your teeth). These attachments aren’t too noticeable and are made from composite filling material.
Can you kiss with Invisalign?
As with braces, it’s entirely possible to kiss with the liners in. Keeping up proper care will ensure that your aligner and your breath stay smelling good.
Is Invisalign painful?
With both braces and Invisalign, you can expect some moderate discomfort. According to verified reviews on ConsumerAffairs, the story is mixed. It likely depends on your pain tolerance and the severity of your case.
Unlike regular braces, Invisalign and other clear aligners are made of clear plastic and can be removed for eating and drinking. Generally, aligners can treat most types of orthodontic issues, but braces are recommended for the most complex cases.
Both traditional and invisible braces tend to cost about the same amount. Many common issues can be addressed by either; consider the pros and cons of each as you make your decision. The right orthodontic treatment ultimately depends on your individual situation, your goals and your orthodontist’s professional opinion.
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