Braces vs Aligners

aligners vs braces

The question of braces versus aligners is asked frequently. How different are they? Which one is a better option? And how do the costs compare? Both braces and aligners are popular options and offer the same result, but using different techniques. The treatment time, follow up requirements and maintenance are all slightly different for both. The following article deals with the question of braces vs aligners.

Differences Between Braces and Aligners

Let’s take a look at how braces and aligners differ from one another.

How They Work

braces vs alignersBraces and aligners are on two sides of the spectrum when it comes to dental care but the end goal for both is the same. While braces are a more traditional approach to dental care, aligners are a more contemporary, aesthetically pleasing approach. The key difference between how the two work is visibility.

While traditional braces are typically metal brackets placed on individual teeth and connected through a metal wire, aligners tend to be made of clear, flexible plastic and are practically invisible. Your orthodontist will take multiple X-rays and teeth impressions to get the right mold to work with for your braces, whereas with aligners, your doctor will take a scan that presents a 3D image and allows them to create a digital plan for your dental care. The objective of both, however, is to apply pressure on certain areas of your mouth so all your teeth are in perfect alignment and in accordance with the shape of your mouth. Traditional braces may also require you to undergo a few extractions.


There are several different companies that work with aligners. Invisalign and ClearCorrect are two examples of popular companies that manufacture clear aligners. Depending on the company, the duration of your treatment and how much labor the doctor needs to put in, the cost of aligners may differ. According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, the US national average for Invisalign treatment is between $3,000 and $5,000.

Traditional braces may also fall under the same bracket and typically cost between $3,000 and $7,000. Again, the duration of your treatment, how much the initial damage is and how much time the doctor needs to spend will decide your final expenditure. For both these treatments, your out of pocket expenditure will be determined by how much your insurance covers.

Treatment Time

The duration of treatment for both differs drastically, though again, each is determined by the extent of work required. With aligners, irrespective of the brand you wear, you will be expected to wear the aligners for about 22 hours a day. Every one week or so, you will have to change out the aligners for a new pair. The total duration of the treatment time will depend on how much work the teeth need.

With traditional braces, you do not have the flexibility of removing the braces whenever you like. The braces will be set into your teeth and each bracket will be cemented in each tooth individually. If you want to have your braces removed, you will need to go to the doctor and get it professionally removed. The treatment time will differ from case to case — some people may need to wear braces and then retainers only for a few months, others may have to wear it for up to two years.

Checkups and Consultations

With aligners, you will have initial consultations to figure out a set pattern and become comfortable with the aligners. Once you fall into the routine, you may have to go for occasional checkups and if the fresh aligners are not provided to you at one go, you may have to go back to pick up the fresh aligners.

With traditional braces, the visits to the doctor may be higher in frequency. You may have to go back every now and then for checkups and follow-ups and also have your braces tightened so they are completely effective. You will have to visit the doctor for one final appointment to have your braces removed.


Both the devices are not very high maintenance, except the braces may require occasional tightening. The aligners will have to be brushed and rinsed often to keep them clean. Every other week you will either receive a new pair of aligners or will have to arrange for them to be picked up.

Traditional braces will have to be brushed every night (just as you would brush if you did not have any braces on). You will also have to floss in between the metal wires with an interdental brush. This ensures that no particles of food are clogged in the brackets and your mouth is thoroughly cleaned. Though there is no hard and fast rule, there are some foods that you may want to avoid while wearing braces. These include anything sticky, like gum; anything hard, like nuts; chewy foods, like bagels, licorice, etc.


Once the aligners or the traditional braces are removed, you will need to follow up the treatment with wearing retainers for some time. This will allow the dental treatment to set in properly without the aid of the braces or the aligners. It is a light wire or plastic device, custom made to finalize your dental treatment and ensure your teeth do not go back to the original alignment.

Often people go through with their entire dental treatment plan but a lot of the work is undone when they neglect to wear their retainers diligently. Therefore, for both modes of dental treatment, the aftercare is extremely important.

Braces vs Aligners: Final Thoughts


With all those factors addressed, the question of braces vs aligners has hopefully been put to rest. Finally, it is an individual’s choice about the method of dental care you require. Both methods are equally effective, though one is more flexible than the other. Eventually, however, the end result is the same and allows you to rock a great, uniform smile.

Several adults prefer to wear clear aligners because of the stigma that only teenagers wear braces, but always remember that there is no age for braces. Do your best to overcome that initial embarrassment and wear braces if needed, regardless of your age. It’s always worth it.

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