There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to straightening or aligning your teeth and your bite. Before you make a decision on just what you want to use to help align your teeth, you’ve got to know the options and just which one is better for your needs.
When it comes to teeth alignment and straightening, you have both aligners and braces to choose from. The primary difference between the two is that aligners are clear while braces are metal. However, they do a lot of similar things and they also both have unique properties and abilities as well.
So which one do you need? Today we are going to focus on comparing aligners and braces so you can fully understand how each works, what each one does, and just what the differences are.
The best place to start is to just review what each of these are and how they work. We’re going to start with aligners and just cover some of the basics about them. Once we cover aligners, we will switch over and do the same with braces. This should help you get a clear understanding of each.
What are Aligners?
We are using the term aligners here as a general term but when we say aligners, we are referring to clear alignment pieces. These clear pieces are made to replicate your teeth with a small adjustment for repositioning and re-aligning your teeth.
The thing most people like about aligners is that they are almost invisible. They are clear and less noticeable than a mouth full of metal-like braces. Invisalign was probably one of the first major brands for aligners but now there are many different options out there – including brands that just mail you new aligners every so often for a treatment process.
Aligners really only work to straighten your teeth and will most likely do very little to adjust your bite or jaw alignment, although some of that may adjust with your teeth straightening and alignment. These are most popular with adults and some teenagers who like the invisibility aspect.
Treatment with aligners may extend from as little as 3 months clear up to 24 months but the general time frame is around a year. The cost can also vary and we will talk about that a bit more later in this guide.
Visibility of Aligners
One of the reasons aligners have been popular is because they are clear. This makes them nearly invisible. Probably the only visible aspect would be near your gum line or if your aligners happen to not fit well for some reason and don’t line up with your teeth.
In general, aligners are made with plastic material. They are made to be thin and they are always clear. They are a small plastic tray that is created to mold to your teeth. Most people that use aligners are concerned about the visibility so they choose to use these in order to work on their teeth without making it obvious.
Versatility of Aligners
Aligners are pretty simple to use and they are versatile because you just remove them when needed or to eat. They don’t get in the way. Of course, in order for them to work like they are supposed to, you will need to make sure you are wearing them properly and only removing them as needed.
Aligners are removed to eat and they are also removed so you can brush your teeth and brush the aligners. One thing you will find is that you have to brush your teeth and the aligners separately because most brands recommend using something besides toothpaste for cleaning the aligners.
When you wear aligners “as prescribed”, you wear them at least 22 hours out of your day, every single day. They are easily removable as needed and easy to put back in, almost like a mouth guard but much less visible. It might be awkward to remove them in public so that is something to consider as well.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that if you are going to remove them, you need to be sure to case them and put them somewhere safe. They have an unusual ability to get lost and they can be damaged more easily as well. Some people have even accidentally thrown them away in a napkin.
Cleaning and Care
You have to be very careful with your aligners as they can stain more easily. If you drink a lot of soft drinks or any type of drink with color in it, this can cause your aligners to stain or change colors, in which case they are no longer clear.
The other thing to note is that things like soda or flavored waters have acids in them and those can actually seep into the teeth around the aligners. Then, your aligners hold it in. So if you are going to drink a soda, remove the aligner and then be sure to rinse your mouth before placing it back in. You should always make sure your teeth are clean and clear when you put your aligners back in.
And as we mentioned earlier, cleaning and caring for your aligners may require specific steps and actions. You will want to keep them properly cleaned and follow all of the instructions for care as well.
Comfort of Aligners
Next, let’s talk about how comfortable or uncomfortable aligners might be. In general, you shouldn’t really notice them in your mouth if you use a talented orthodontist that makes sure they fit properly and everything.
You may experience a little bit of discomfort any time you get a new aligner or your aligner is adjusted and that is because it is working or it fits more tightly. You need to work through and learn how to manage the discomfort until your mouth adjusts to the changes.
It is very important that you wear the aligners, even if you are feeling some slight discomfort for a few days. They will not work how they are designed to work if you avoid wearing them as recommended.
The final piece to discuss is the cost of aligners. The cost of the treatment will vary depending on the length needed and the company being used for aligners. There are a lot of mail company aligners that offer low rates but you don’t get a local provider for reviews and exams.
For aligners, you can expect the prices to range from $2,500 to $7,000 depending on the treatment and your provider.
Now, let’s transition and talk about all of these same details with braces.
Visibility of Braces
The visibility options with braces actually vary but they will always be at least partially visible. Your orthodontist may offer different options when it comes to braces. Some will offer braces that actually fit behind your teeth and are less visible. Others offer brackets that are clear or the color of your teeth so they are less visible – although these will still have the wires.
The most common braces are metal braces and metal wires with bands that may or may not be colored. They go on the front of the teeth and are highly visible. Of course, there is nothing wrong with visibility unless you simply prefer to be discreet.
Versatility of Braces
Braces are capable of doing a little bit more than just aligning your teeth, which is probably one of the things that set them apart the most from aligners. While aligners are primarily for teeth straightening, braces can do this and can also be used to help correct things like overbites and underbites as well.
Braces overall do have more functionality of what they are capable of helping with. There is more customization to make sure they meet your specific needs. Braces stay in place and are not removable until the orthodontics office uses their tools to remove them.
Aligners obviously can be removed and replaced with your hands but that is not the case for braces. With that in mind, you won’t lose your braces or misplace them. You can’t accidentally throw them away in a napkin and you don’t have to figure out how to modestly remove them to eat dinner out with friends.
They are cemented onto your teeth and while brackets can sometimes come loose, they stay right there until your treatment is done. You will have regular exams and adjustments in the office to flow with your treatment plan.
Cleaning and Care of Braces
Probably the hardest part of cleaning your braces is going to be getting food out of the brackets and wires. It’s typically recommended that you brush after every meal so nothing gets stuck in the metal work of the braces and leads to other issues in the process.
You will also need to be cautious to make sure you are brushing all around the braces and still brushing your gums and teeth as well to prevent inflamed gums and plaque build-up. There are flossing tools for braces as well and flossing is still necessary.
You can also use a waterpik to help clean around the braces as well.
For keeping your braces clean and cared for, it’s recommended to avoid sugary drinks or drinks with color as these can lead to staining and be hard on your teeth. You also may have to adjust how you eat some foods or avoid some foods.
For example, you should cut up an apple rather than bite into it. You should remove corn from the cob prior to eating it. It’s best to avoid sticky and hard candies and gum is not recommended. All of these things could cause a bracket to break or pop loose. Your office should provide you with this information as well as the cost should they have to repair a bracket for you.
Comfort of Braces
Comfort is a downfall when it comes to braces but your mouth can adjust to them. Really, any discomfort should be fairly minimal once your mouth adjusts. You may experience some discomfort after adjustments as well.
Once your mouth adjusts, even after changes, you will probably not really notice the braces or experience extreme discomfort. There are times where people experience rubbing or perhaps the shifting of teeth has caused the wire to poke out the back. Most offices give you wax to help ease any discomfort in these cases.
While it seems like they might be uncomfortable, they really aren’t bad once your mouth adjusts to them but there could be random things that cause discomfort here and there.
Cost of Braces
The cost of braces could vary depending on the treatment plan as well as your office and even where you are located. Traditional metal braces cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 on average. Other varieties of braces, like ceramic braces, might cost more because they are a specialty piece.
Most of the time, the cost will be related to the anticipated treatment plan and those details are something you will work out with your orthodontics office. The cost includes the braces, adjustments, and treatment and visits throughout the course of the braces doing their job.
Remember that this is just an estimate so you will need to check with your office to see what their costs are and the options that they have available.
When you consider the differences between aligners vs. braces, the most notable difference is that aligners are meant to be inconspicuous or invisible to most people. They are simple and convenient. They are also slightly more limited. Braces can help with alignment of the teeth but also can help with alignment of the jaw.
When it comes to choosing which is best, it is really going to depend on your needs and your preferences so be sure to take a look at all of the details and see how these things will affect you. From there, you can make an informed decision.