Invisalign® vs. Braces: Commonly Asked Questions

There are two main options when you are considering a way to move your teeth to straighten them: Invisalign® and traditional metal braces. Both treatments shift the position of the teeth by exerting pressure on them. There are other ways of achieving straight teeth without moving them, and that is through cosmetic treatments, such as crowns and veneers. Cosmetic dentistry is a whole different discussion. Below, we are going to discuss some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to these orthodontic treatments that move teeth to straighten them. 

Young adult comparing invisalign vs metal braces

What Is Invisalign®? 

Invisalign® is an innovative and technologically advanced treatment to resolve most teeth and bite concerns. This approach utilizes 3D computer-imaging technology to customize a treatment plan. Images are taken of your current teeth along with impressions of your teeth that are converted into digital images. In this 3D rendition of your dentition, each tooth is separately moved into a final position virtually, per recommendations and prescriptions by your dentist. The desired results are presented digitally to your dentist for approval. Your dentist may ask for more modifications before they are satisfied with the end result.

Once your dentist approves the final result, a series of clear alignment trays are made to gently move the teeth over a period of time. Each set is worn for about two weeks and then replaced by the next set in the series. The patient’s specific dentition will determine how many sets are needed to achieve the desired outcome. 

Am I an Ideal Candidate?

Braces and Invisalign® treatments can be great solutions for any adult or teen who desires an improvement in their smile and bite. It is always a good idea to have or achieve healthy gums and teeth before starting orthodontic treatment. You want to move teeth in a healthy environment so the healing is optimal in the bone as the teeth shift. It is always advisable to consult your general dentist before starting your orthodontic treatment. 

If you don’t have one, feel free to call our office at (813) 879-9000 or fill out our online contact form today for a totally free consult!

What Is the Difference Between Braces and Invisalign®?

Both options have an adjustment period and may cause initial issues with speaking clearly, but this is usually temporary.

Braces are a traditional method of straightening teeth and are made of highly visible, semi-permanent metal that remains attached to the teeth until the treatment plan is completed. This option is typically cheaper and can handle more complex dental issues. These wires are constantly putting pressure on your teeth. These are good for patients who are otherwise non-compliant. You can get more ideal results with metal braces. On the downside, it is usually more difficult to floss and to keep your teeth and gums clean. You might need additional aids like a water flosser to maintain good oral hygiene. The treatment may also take a little longer to complete.

Invisalign® aligners are designed to be clear and inconspicuous and can easily be removed to eat, drink, brush, and floss. There are no irritating wires or metal brackets to deal with. People around you might not notice that you are wearing orthodontic aligners, as they are almost invisible. If you wear them regularly, as recommended by your dentist, you have a better idea about when you will complete your treatment. The downside of Invisalign® is that severely rotated teeth are more difficult to move. Very short and intruded teeth are also difficult to move. If you keep the aligners off your teeth for longer periods, your teeth might shift and the next set may not fit. If this occurs, you may have to get a whole new set of aligners based on new impressions and photos.

Go to a dentist or orthodontist that you trust and let them help you choose the best orthodontic treatment for you. Every case is different.

How Do They Both Work?

Braces are designed to move all the teeth by applying pressure to slowly achieve the desired outcome. Invisalign® uses the same technique but comes with additional control over the amount of pressure, timing, and which teeth are being moved.

How Often Are They Both Adjusted?

Traditional braces require an adjustment every 4 to 6 weeks, whereas Invisalign® visits may be six weeks apart. The only difference is that your adjustment visits can take longer with wires and brackets as they are being tightened, whereas, with Invisalign®, your dentist verifies your teeth movements and dispenses about three new sets of aligners, making the visit a short one.

What Materials Are Used?

Metal braces are typically made of stainless steel, titanium, and other combinations of metal. Invisalign® uses medical-grade thermoplastic for a nearly invisible appearance.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Every patient has different dental concerns, so the duration of treatment can vary. Braces are usually worn for one to three years, while Invisalign® can take between nine and 18 months. During your consultation, your orthodontist can provide a more accurate estimate for your treatment.

How Much Pain Is Involved?

Both braces and Invisalign® can cause discomfort for the first few days after an adjustment, which can be controlled with mild pain relievers.

Can My Tooth Gaps Be Resolved?

Yes, both treatment options can gradually address teeth gaps and other common concerns.

Will I Need to Wear a Retainer?

The teeth can naturally return to their old position over time, so after any orthodontic procedure or treatment it is best to regularly wear a retainer to prevent a relapse.

Can I Switch From Braces to Invisalign®?

Yes. You can switch from braces to Invisalign® or vice versa, though it might cost you more. Many patients can benefit from both treatments. Schedule a consultation with your orthodontist, or dentist offering both treatments to discuss your options for switching.

What Are My Food Options?

With traditional braces, you will need to restrict your diet for the duration of your treatment. Patients are advised to avoid chewy, crunchy, sticky, hard, and sugary foods that can stick to or break your brackets. Some foods are difficult to eat, such as full apples or corn on the cob, and should also be avoided. 

Invisalign® allows removal of the adjusters, so you can consume anything you wish or chew gum while they are out. You do not want to consume sodas or juices while wearing Invisalign® aligners, as sugary residue can remain underneath your aligners and may cause more damage to your teeth.

How Do I Clean My Aligners?

With braces, you will clean your teeth as usual. Invisalign® aligners can be removed to allow brushing and rinsing of the trays in warm water. Cleaning crystals or special cleaning tablets can also be used. Brush your teeth prior to inserting your aligners to ensure proper hygiene. 

Does Insurance Cover the Cost?

Many dental insurance plans cover orthodontic treatments, which means you could qualify for both braces and Invisalign®. Speak with your insurance provider or have your orthodontist’s or dentist’s office contact them to determine the extent of your coverage.

What if I’m Pregnant?

Patients who are pregnant can get braces or Invisalign® as long as all x-rays and scans are completed prior to conception. Patients should note that hormonal changes can increase the risk of swelling and tenderness in the gums. Braces can irritate the gums and cause additional soreness. It is recommended that you begin treatment before becoming pregnant to adjust to your treatment first.

Young couple with beautiful straight teeth

Which Treatment Is Best for Me?

Your orthodontist or Invisalign® certified dentist completes a consultation to examine the condition of your teeth and provide recommendations. The amount of correction being made, your budget, and your preferences will all play a role in which treatment can benefit you the most.

To learn more about orthodontic treatment plans, call our office at 813-879-9000 or fill out our online contact form today for a totally free consultation!

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