You might be thinking it’s finally time to get that perfect smile you’ve always wanted. Or maybe you’ve decided to get back to that perfect smile you had, before life, college, or kids got in the way of wearing your retainers.
Whatever the reason, the decision to straighten your teeth isn’t as straightforward as it used to be (pardon the pun). Now you have a choice: between traditional metal braces or clear aligners from Invisalign, at home providers, or a number of other providers of clear orthodontics. The decision comes down to the pros and cons of Invisalign vs braces, a topic we are going to tackle in this blog by covering everything you need to know about clear aligner treatment.
Pros of Clear Aligners
What are the benefits of wearing invisible braces? From the ability to remove them to the reduced need for emergency (and routine) visits to your orthodontist, clear aligners have definite advantages over their metal counterparts.
Removable and Convenient
Unlike metal braces which are cemented on to your teeth, you can remove your aligner trays anytime you need to eat, drink, and practice oral hygiene. Anyone who has ever worn metal braces can appreciate this advantage, and if you’re someone who cares a lot about your oral hygiene then clear aligners are definitely a great option for you.
And because aligners are removable, they’re much easier to clean. You can soak them, gently brush them, and spray them with cleansers to keep them fresh and clear. The ability to completely brush the entire surface area of your teeth, floss without special contraptions, and eat with relative comfort gives Invisalign a clear edge over the alternative. But understand that many of these advantages also have associated disadvantages of Invisalign, which we’ll get to in the next section.
Read More: Six Tips for Cleaning Clear Aligners
Invisalign has been around since 1979, and in the early days it was regarded as less effective than metal braces. And that criticism was probably fair...40 years ago. Since then, advances in orthodontics and 3D printing technologies, along with the introduction of attachments and buttons to assist the overall effectiveness of clear braces, has brought Invisalign’s results up to par.
These days, for mild and moderate cases, clear aligners are every bit as effective as metal braces, provided that a patient complies with his or her treatment plan. They’re also a great choice for anyone with a nickel allergy, or patients that need routine MRIs, where the metals in fixed orthodontics can create issues.
And, in 2008, Align Technologies (the makers of Invisalign) introduced Invisalign Teen, a custom treatment plan specifically for young adults. Invisalign Teen uses the same mechanics and instruments as regular Invisalign, but with added features like a blue “button” on the braces that helps parents track their teen’s compliance with the 21 hour recommended wear time window.
Read More: Back to School Tips for Your Invisalign Teen
Comfortable and Attractive
It’s not like you’ll forget you’re wearing them, but clear aligners are physically more comfortable than having metal braces in your mouth. Invisalign trays are smooth and cause less irritation because you’ll be subject to fewer nicks and cuts from poking wires and brackets. You may still experience some rough spots from your hard plastic trays, but you can use dental wax to protect yourself or have your orthodontist file down those rough edges.
Most patient’s mouth’s grow accustomed to their plastic trays faster than they become accustomed to metal braces, so pound for pound, Invisalign definitely has the advantage when it comes to comfort. And because you wear your trays overnight, they’re a great option if you grind your teeth.
Fewer Trips to the Orthodontist
With clear aligners, you won’t find yourself calling your Orthodontist in a panic because you (or your child) has a broken wire causing major pain in your mouth. There’s also less treatment time in general because an Invisalign plan just involves keeping track of when it’s time to move to the next series of trays. Unless you fail to comply with your treatment (and the 22 hours of daily recommended wear time), or experience unexpected treatment issues, you won’t really need much oversight from your provider.
This is also why clear aligners are more accessible for people who want to straighten their teeth, but don’t live close to an Orthodontist. At home providers help patients benefit from telehealth advancements making teeth straightening more affordable and accessible for individuals, regardless of their location or mobility. With an at-home provider, you can essentially do everything from home, from taking your impressions to changing to new trays. Some even have networks of scanning centers where you can be seen in person.
More Affordable than Traditional Braces
Because clear aligners require less active treatment from an Orthodontist, they can actually be more affordable than fixed braces. Thanks to new entrants and at-home providers, competition in the field is driving costs down while enhancing the benefits that all providers are offering to make their packages more attractive to price-conscious consumers.
Depending on which route you choose, you can straighten your teeth with clear aligners from as little as $3,500 to $6,500. While the total price tag may be more expensive than metal braces (read this blog from Dental Health Society for some tips on covering the cost Invisalign), competition in the field has also resulted in more financing options that make the overall treatment possible for patients at all income levels. And with fewer visits to the Orthodontist, you can save your gas money and vacation time for other, more entertaining purposes!
So that’s our list of the advantages of Invisalign, what are some of the Invisalign cons?
Cons of Clear Aligners
Invisalign treatment is no walk in the park; after all, you’re still using orthodontic force to move stubborn teeth into new positions. Clear aligners only work if you allow them to, and since they’re removable you’ll be tempted to cheat. Let’s take a closer look at some of the Invisalign side effects and problems you may experience during treatment.
Inconvenient (and Removable)
Careful readers will note that we cited convenience and removability as advantages of Invisalign in the earlier section, and that’s true. But with this convenience comes greater responsibility for your treatment. Clear aligners can’t move your teeth if they aren’t in your mouth, and the daily recommended wear time of 22 hours per day doesn’t permit much flexibility. While you can eat with metal braces in, you should never eat food (or drink anything other than water) while wearing your trays.
Since they’re removable, you’ll also be at greater risk of losing or damaging an aligner. Because of the sophisticated precision that goes into producing each aligner, replacements are not free. It’s why we recommend keeping extra retainer cases on hand so you’ll always have a safe place to store them. Don’t risk wrapping them up in a napkin or chucking them into a glass of water; because they’re practically invisible, it will be easy for an well-intentioned bystander (or waiter) to mistake them for trash and toss them into the rubbish bin!
Invisalign Requires Personal Discipline
Sure, you’ll take them out to eat your meals and drink anything other than water, but if you don’t put them back in promptly then you’re only cheating yourself and your results. It will be easy to rationalize the cheating behaviors, but with fixed braces you simply can’t cheat.
If you’re worried about your discipline (or that of your child), then seriously think about whether Invisalign is right for you. There are plenty of apps that help you track wear time (TrayMinder is our favorite), and we offer an incredible starter kit filled with Invisalign accessories that can help you resist temptation, but ultimately you’ll get out what you put in. If you don’t have the willpower to stick to a rigorous treatment plan, then metal braces might be a better option for you.
Unexpected Side Effects
As in life and Invisalign, you should always expect the unexpected. Clear aligner treatment affects people in different ways. Some patients complain of a change in speech, due to the edges of their aligner trays putting pressure on the lips and tongue and causing a noticeable “lisp” or difficulty in pronouncing certain words and syllables.
And thin though the aligners may be, they’re still thicker than your teeth alone. Your mouth will be used to your former bite, which will change after the introduction of Invisalign, and will increase the chances that you’ll bite your cheeks, tongue, and lips. This is why many Orthodontists will recommend their patients buy a peroxide-based mouthwash. Anytime you have sores in your mouth, it will be necessary to rinse with an antibacterial wash to prevent further infection and irritation.
Bad Breath & Dry Mouth
Because you’re wearing Invisalign for 22 hours a day, you’re going to experience bad breath and dry mouth. The bad breath can be enhanced if you don’t stay on top of your hygiene; failing to brush and floss regularly causes more food to get trapped inside your teeth. Once you put those aligners on top, you’re creating a veritable biodome of moisture and sugar upon which odor-causing bacteria can feast and flourish. The dry mouth is caused by the trays obstructing your mouth’s natural salivary flow, which is your body’s cleansing agent.
We created Movemints precisely to help patients deal with their bad breath and dry mouth. Our mints are made for clear aligners because they are sugar free and sweetened with xylitol, a naturally occuring substance that is clinically proven to fight dry mouth.
Unanticipated Treatment Intervention
In theory, all you should need to straighten your teeth with clear aligners are the succession of trays sent to you by your provider. However, theories don’t always play out that way in reality. Sometimes, if you’re clear aligners aren’t sufficient to produce the results you want, your provider may decide to apply attachments to your teeth.
Attachments are essentially brackets for Invisalign; they are attached to your teeth and give your trays an extra grip against which to exert the orthodontic force necessary to straighten them. They’re different from buttons, which are affixed to your aligners and used to anchor rubber bands that provide additional force for tooth movement. Finally, your provider may recommend bite ramps or “bumps” that are built into the tray to help open your bite when necessary.
Attachments, buttons, and bite ramps are inconvenient, but they’re a primary reason why Invisalign is now capable of treating more complex cases. You may not need them, especially if you comply with your treatment plan, but teeth aren’t as predictable as computer simulations so you’ll want to prepare yourself for these possible interventions.
Now you know the pros and cons of Invisalign. Hopefully this information will help you make a decision that’s right for you, based on your personal preferences and ideal treatment journey. Ultimately, achieving your ideal smile requires commitment, discipline, and sacrifice, but nothing in life is easy! The results you’ll get will make it all worth it (provided you keep in mind that wearing retainers after treatment is necessary to maintain your results).