Deciding between Clear Aligners and Metal Braces? Read an Orthodontist’s opinion.

As a classically-trained orthodontist, writing this feels weird. The reality is that teeth do not carry opinions about what is moving them. But if they did, I think they may prefer clear aligners. Hear me out...

Aligners are removable. Braces are not. Parents constantly tell me that their kid will lose their aligners. I tell parents that if the child is likely to lose their aligners, then they likely won’t brush their braces well enough either. Responsibility in this sense is a double-edged sword! What’s worse… a lost aligner here and there, or plaque-laden teeth?

One of the worst feelings in my career is when braces are removed and white spots remain, while advances in technology have created an environment where we can 3-D scan your teeth and replace aligners within days. Advantage aligners.

Moving teeth can create discomfort. I explain to patients that this process is like having a bruise. Walking around you may not feel anything, but if you press on it (or bite on something hard like an ice cube), you feel discomfort. This is why gentle, consistent forces are the healthiest, most effective way of moving teeth. Plain and simple, aligners (if worn as prescribed) provide a more consistent application of force. This is why we can change aligners every 1-2 weeks, but have to wait 6-8 weeks to adjust braces. Advantage aligners.

Now to be fair, it’s not all puppies and ice cream in Alignerland. Did you notice the “if worn as prescribed” disclaimer? That’s 22 hours per day, and its no joke: you don’t really eat or drink anything other than water (until the trays come out and then its feast time!).

You’ll also have to keep them clean, which means a lot of brushing your teeth in public bathrooms. Of course it’s no picnic eating with metal wires on your teeth, but all you’ll need to do is keep them clean enough and your orthodontist will do the rest. With aligners you need to be responsible and motivated. You’ll need sticktoitiveness (what a great word)!

Clear aligner and invisible braces need a schedule, a routine. Brush regularly (and in public places). Floss, then use a whitening or charcoal-based toothpaste like Smile Natural Toothpaste. Invest in a good tray cleaner (we like EverSmile WhiteFoam) and soak your aligners overnight. You’ll also need to do chewing exercises. They help ease the pain and tighten trays so they can be maximally effective. And for goodness sake, no coffee or red wine with your trays in. Pop them out for the indulgence, but just get them back in quickly!

Do all of this and aligners will provide the same excellent result as metal braces. Just remember that when it comes to braces or aligners, your teeth won’t care. It’s up to you!


Photo Credit Mali Maeder on