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Invisalign vs. braces: Which is right for you?

Compare treatments and costs to straighten your teeth

Profile picture of Danni White
by Danni White ConsumerAffairs Research Team
SmileDirectClub and Byte
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If you want better teeth, traditional metal braces and Invisalign are two of your options. Both treatments can improve your smile by gradually shifting teeth into better alignment over time.

The main difference between dental braces and Invisalign is the technique used to shift teeth. Braces use metal brackets and wires, while Invisalign uses a series of clear aligner trays that are switched out every one to two weeks. Keep reading to compare the pros and cons of both options.

Compare Invisalign vs. braces

Costs for both start around $3,000 to fix crooked or misaligned teeth. Treatment times for traditional braces are usually longer, but they're also a more common solution for severe crowding and bite issues. Overall, one of the biggest advantages of Invisalign over braces is that the aligners are more discreet than metal brackets and wiring.

InvisalignTraditional braces
Price range$3,000 to $8,000$3,000 to $7,000
Average treatment time12 to 18 monthsTwo years
ColorClearSilver, gold, multicolored
MaterialFlexible plasticMetal, ceramic, plastic, rubber band
Follow-up visitsEvery four to six weeksEvery four to eight weeks
Maintenance/cleaningWarm water, cleaning crystals, toothpasteBrushing and flossing
Good forSimple to complex correctionsComplex orthodontic issues

Invisalign vs. braces: cost

Invisalign doesn’t have a cost advantage over regular braces. The price of both starts around $3,000. With both options, keep in mind that costs vary depending on your age, location, dental health, required level of treatment and the correction plan.

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, if you have one.

Invisalign vs. braces: maintenance

Braces can be more challenging in terms of maintenance and oral hygiene than Invisalign. Metal brackets and wires can make brushing and flossing difficult. Still, both are necessary to maintain dental health throughout the duration of treatment. Aligners typically require cleaning with toothpaste or crystals and warm water each day.

Starting costs for Invisalign and braces are comparable.

Invisalign aligner trays are removable — you should remove your aligners every time you eat or drink anything other than water. You also need to brush your teeth after every meal to prevent particles of food from getting lodged inside your aligners.

For example, if you go out to eat at a restaurant, you could either take the tray out when you sit down at the table or in the car before you go in. Some people are comfortable brushing their teeth in public restrooms; others would rather wait until they get home.

Invisalign vs. braces: treatment length

Many factors affect the duration of orthodontic treatment, including the patient’s age and the severity of the case. Traditional braces generally require between one and three years of wear.

Invisalign treatments average between 12 and 18 months. During this time, you’re required 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.

If you need minimal correction to your teeth, Invisalign is typically a quicker solution. If your teeth require a significant correction, braces may work better than Invisalign in closing gaps and aligning teeth.

Invisalign vs. braces: effectiveness

Both Invisalign and traditional braces work toward the same result — straighter teeth and improved oral health — but they use different methods to reach this goal. Invisalign works well for many, but those with significant dental issues often see better results with metal braces.

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 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 of which treatment method is better for your needs.

Pros and cons of braces

Braces are an effective treatment for all types of orthodontic cases. They help close gaps and align teeth quickly. Current wires are less noticeable than the braces of the past, and colorful elastics add some fun.

It's important to keep your teeth clean when wearing metal braces, and certain foods and drinks must be avoided. If you're not a frequent flosser or brusher, you might find it difficult to keep up these habits. If you play sports, you’ll probably need to use a mouthguard to protect your teeth while you play.

Pros

  • Potentially less expensive
  • Longer track record of success
  • Better for more complicated cases
  • Shorter treatment length in some cases

Cons

  • More visible
  • Not removable
  • More maintenance
  • Food limitations

Pros and cons of Invisalign

Invisalign aligners are almost unnoticeable to others. They're also removable, which makes eating and flossing more convenient.

Invisalign trays may stain if not removed before eating, and there's an increased risk of cavities when drinking sugary drinks while wearing aligners. Aligners must typically be changed weekly or biweekly; it can be easy to forget to change them out if you don't create a schedule.

Pros

  • Discreet
  • Removable
  • Effective for a range of orthodontic issues
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons

  • Can be more expensive
  • Can get lost or damaged
  • Teeth must be brushed each time you eat
  • May not be ideal for some complex orthodontic treatments

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    Invisalign alternatives

    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.

    Our pick for value
    SmileDirectClub

    smiledirectclub logo
    Logo
    • No office visits necessary
    • 30-day money-back guarantee
    • Smile guaranteed for life
    • Night-only option available
    • Payment plan with no credit check

    Read reviews

    SmileDirectClub has in-person locations 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 $59 for the impression kit (for at-home versus in-person impressions), and treatment is $89 per month for 24 months with a $250 down payment or $1,950 upfront. Next, compare SmileDirectClub vs. Invisalign.

    Our pick for fast treatment plans
    Byte

    byte logo
    Logo
    • Includes HyperByte device and set of retainers
    • Lifetime guarantee
    • Free teeth whitening
    • Military and student discounts

    Read reviews

    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 $83 per month with a $349 down payment, or $1,895 upfront. Byte includes teeth whitener and the first set of retainers at no charge.

    Our pick for customer service
    Candid

    candid logo
    Logo
    • 100% risk-free
    • All treatments provided by orthodontists (not dentists)
    • No office visits required
    • CandidApp tracks your teen’s progress

    Read reviews

    Candid offers treatments with 100% online service. Start by taking impressions and photos at home with a starter kit, or you can visit one of Candid’s studios if you prefer to do so in person. During treatment, an orthodontist tracks your progress with scans you take using a specialized device Candid provides. Treatment takes an average of six months. Candid clear aligners cost $2,400, or $99 per month with $399 down at the time of publishing.

    Bottom line

    Unlike regular braces, Invisalign and other clear aligners are made of clear plastic and can be removed for eating and drinking. Both cost about the same amount. Generally, aligners can treat most types of orthodontic issues, but braces are recommended for the most complex cases. The right orthodontic treatment ultimately depends on your individual situation, your goals and your orthodontist’s professional opinion.

    Depending on your circumstances and individual preferences, you may be able to choose between Invisalign and braces for your orthodontic treatment. Consider the pros and cons of each as you make your decision.

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    Profile picture of Danni White
    by Danni White ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Danni White is committed to providing valuable resources designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions. Danni specializes in content strategy and development, with over a decade of professional writing and research experience.