Invisible braces (commonly known as clear aligners, if you don’t attach a brand name to them) have exploded in popularity in recent years. Although the product has been on the market for close to 20 years now, more and more people are opting to use invisible braces instead of traditional wire ones. The most popular brand is Invisalign (although there are others), and this article will give you a quick run down of the pros and cons of using clear aligners to fix your smile, versus opting for traditional wire braces.
Pros of Invisalign Braces
Invisalign liners are molded specifically to fit your teeth, and are made of smooth plastic that won’t snag on your gums or insides of your cheeks. Anyone who has accidentally poked or cut themselves with traditional wire braces can attest to the fact that Invisalign is a huge step up in comfort. This is especially true if you play sports, as taking a soccer ball or a body check to the jaw while using wire braces can cause serious discomfort.
2. They Are Invisible
This part should be obvious, because it’s right there in the name. Invisalign products are clear, and you can hardly tell that people are wearing them unless they specifically tell you or you are staring disturbingly too hard at their teeth. Many people still associate traditional wire braces as something that teenagers get in high school, so a less obvious option is quite attractive to adults — and even adolescents.
This is one of the best attractive features of Invisalign — that you can simply take them out. Although the liners are supposed to be in place for 22 hours a day to work properly, at least Invisalign provides the option to take a break from wearing them. Maybe you have a basketball game to play or a special date night planned. While it’s not recommended to take extended breaks from wearing the aligners, at least the option is available.
4. Easy Maintenance
Wire braces are a pain when it comes to keeping your teeth clean. Flossing is a legitimate chore, as you have to thread between all the wires in order to do it properly. And if you lapse on your oral hygiene regimen, you could end up with strange two-tone teeth when the wire braces eventually come off and the glue holding them on is removed. Yuck! On the other hand, Invisalign liners make for easy cleaning. Just pop the liner out, and brush and floss like normal. Give the liner itself a cleaning, and pop it back in. Nice and easy!
5. No Diet Restrictions
This is another fantastic advantage for Invisalign users. People who get wire braces are normally told to avoid certain foods — crunchy apples or corn on the cob are common no-nos, because they could damage the braces themselves. When you use Invisalign, you simply remove the liner at meal time, scarf down whatever deliciousness you choose, and then put the liner back in. Nothing is off the menu!
6. Faster Results Are Possible
This can be a double-edged sword (as you’ll read later), but depending on how much correcting your teeth need, it’s possible that Invisalign can get job the done in a shorter amount of time than wire braces. A treatment option called Invisalign Express is available to patients who qualify, which can result in the entire program being completed in approximately 12 months. Compare that to wire braces, which are typically worn for somewhere in the 18-to-24 month range (sometimes even longer).
7. Easier To Play Sports
We mentioned this briefly above, but it’s worth its own section. Whether you’re a teenager playing rep sports, or an adult weekend warrior struggling to stay fit on a co-ed softball team, Invisalign is an excellent option if you’re actively competing. Most sports have an element of contact, plus there’s always the chance of an accidental knock to the face from a ball. When those unfortunate incidents happen, you don’t have to worry about your braces getting snagged or even worse — damaged, because you will have popped yours out, tucked them away in their case and left them safely on the sidelines.
Cons of Invisalign Braces
8. Takes Serious Commitment
While the ability to take your aligners out whenever you want can be seen as an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage for people without a strong desire to stick with the program. Invisalign states the liners must be worn for 22 hours a day, but it could be easy to slowly start slipping on your commitments — especially for teenagers. If you don’t follow the program, you could prolong the treatment and incur extra costs. Say what you will about the inconveniences of wire braces, but at least you can’t get lazy and opt out at anytime.
In some cases, Invisalign includes more than just a clear liner. Some treatment options include attachments, which are basically ridges that are stuck to your teeth, making sure the liners themselves fit in exactly the right place to correct the placement of our teeth. These attachments are much more noticeable, which defeats the purpose of opting for invisible braces in the first place.
There no way around this, whether you want invisible or wire braces. You are reshaping the placement of your teeth, which can sometimes include a slight alteration of your entire jaw. Bottom line, is that you’re asking bones to move and that doesn’t come without some soreness. The first few days with a new set of liners are going to create some soreness, as your mouth adjusts (a similar feeling can be felt after orthodontists make an adjustment to wire braces). It shouldn’t be unbearable, depending on your pain tolerance, but maybe keep some Advil or Tylenol nearby, just in case.
In most cases, Invisalign braces are roughly the same cost as traditional braces. The downside, though, is that very few health insurance plans cover braces of any kind, meaning you’re probably still paying for Invisalign out of your own pocket. Costs can range from around $2,500 up to $8,000, depending how much work needs to be done, and how long the treatment will last. If you’re not diligent in wearing your liners, that cost could continue to creep up while you wait patiently to get the desired results.
12. Can Be Embarrassing
If you’re self-conscious about having a straight smile and willing to spend the time and money to fix it, there’s a good chance wearing braces will make you self conscious. As mentioned above, most people still consider braces as something you get as a teenager. If you’re a teenager, then this isn’t a big problem — a bunch of your friends probably already have braces. If you’re an adult though, it may feel a bit embarrassing to suddenly have braces, even if they are invisible. Some patients with Invisalign end up with a noticeable lisp in their speech while wearing them (which gets better with practice). Plus you might feel weird about pulling your liners out in the office lunch room before you eat. Our suggestion, though, is to just own your self improvement and remember that the liners are temporary, but your flashy new smile will last for decades.
13. Not Suitable For Everyone
Not every orthodontic situation is the same. While Invisalign is great for teeth that are mildly crowded, those with severely crooked teeth may have no choice but to opt for wire braces. If those patients insist on an invisible solution, they should be aware that treatment (and the costs) could stretch longer than with traditional wire braces.
14. Can Actually Be Slower
Invisalign is a great option for people who don’t want to make it obvious they have braces. However, there’s still no faster way to fix a crooked smile than gluing some wires on your teeth and pulling them all into place. Don’t get us wrong, Invisalign will do the same thing. And if you’re diligent about constantly wearing your liners, the treatment shouldn’t take much longer than wire braces. But remember, it’s still a marathon and not a sprint. You won’t fix your smile in time for your friend’s wedding in a couple months. It’s a lengthy process.