Straight teeth could help you to feel more confident about your appearance, but there can also be practical reasons for straightening your smile.
Teeth that are misaligned or crowded may be harder to clean, more prone to decay, affect eating and speech, or lead to other problems such as teeth grinding and jaw pain. That's why your dentist will recommend orthodontic treatment if they think you could benefit.
Adult orthodontics today doesn't only mean braces, and even modern braces aren't like they used to be. If you want a treatment that won't impact too much on your appearance and lifestyle, your dentist can discuss the pros and cons of discreet braces and Invisalign clear aligners, giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision.
How do braces work?
Braces are an orthodontic appliance consisting of brackets, wires and bands that are attached to the teeth by a qualified dentist or orthodontist. Braces apply gentle force to the teeth to guide them into their new alignment.
Traditional braces are made of metal, but if you want something less noticeable, your dentist may offer options such as tooth-coloured ceramic braces or lingual braces that attach behind the teeth. Your dentist or orthodontist will adjust your brace every few weeks through the duration of your treatment.
How does Invisalign work?
Invisalign treatment uses clear plastic aligners that are custom made to fit comfortably over teeth. The aligners apply gentle force to the teeth, in a similar way to braces, and are replaced every few weeks with a slightly different set to gradually bring the teeth into alignment.
Invisalign aligners are designed to be virtually invisible in the mouth. They can also be removed when you need to eat, brush and floss or at other times, but it's important that you wear your aligners as much as possible for the treatment to be successful.
Braces vs veneers
Choosing the right teeth straightening treatment isn't always straightforward and comes down to your individual needs and preferences. Here are 10 points you might want to consider when choosing between braces and Invisalign clear aligners, covering:
- Treatment time
Some people are put off orthodontic treatment because they don't like the look of metal braces. Even though modern braces are a lot smaller and less intrusive than those of the past, they can still be off putting, especially to older teens and adults who are self-conscious about their appearance.
One of the advantages of Invisalign over braces is that the clear plastic aligners are virtually invisible in the mouth, so most people won't even know you're having treatment and you won't have to worry about your smile in photos.
You don't have to rule out braces entirely either, with options such as 'clear' ceramic braces being less noticeable when they're matched to your natural tooth colour and lingual braces attaching behind the teeth out of sight. However, these types of braces may not be suitable for treating all orthodontic issues.
Your dentist may offer both braces and Invisalign to treat common orthodontic issues, such as overbite, crowding or gaps. However, Invisalign may not be an option if you need to treat a more complex problem, such as underbite, crossbite or protruding teeth.
Braces can apply more force to teeth than aligners, making them the best option for more severe misalignment, moving the back teeth or rotating teeth. Metal braces are the strongest option, as ceramic and lingual braces also have limitations.
Your dentist will need to carry out a full orthodontic assessment before they can let you know what options are suitable for you.
It's possible to see great results from either Invisalign or braces, as this largely depends on the skill of your dentist and how well you follow their instructions when using and caring for your appliance. However, there are some differences.
Results from braces can be more predictable than Invisalign, especially for more complex cases, as your dentist or orthodontist has more control over the outcome. Invisalign aligners are more limited in their ability to move teeth, but results are generally comparable for minor and moderate orthodontic issues.
Both braces and aligners exert force on the teeth, and this can cause minor discomfort whichever option you choose. However, Invisalign is generally the more comfortable treatment, as the aligners are made from soft plastic that shouldn't irritate the inside of the lips or gums. There's also no risk of wires coming loose and injuring the mouth, as can be the case with braces.
Modern braces are more comfortable to wear than those of previous generations, but it can still take several weeks to get used to how they feel. They may also cause discomfort if you have sensitive gums, lips or cheeks. If your braces feel painful, you should see your dentist for an adjustment or to discuss other options.
One of the main differences between Invisalign and braces is that the former doesn't affect what you eat. That's because Invisalign aligners can be removed when you eat, so you're free to enjoy your favourite foods and won't have to give anything up – though it's recommended that you follow a healthy diet and don't consume too much sugar so you can avoid dental problems that could interrupt your treatment.
Braces are fixed in place, so it can take some adjustment to get used to the feeling of eating with braces. You will also be advised to avoid hard, crunchy and sticky foods, as these can risk damaging or dislodging the appliance or make cleaning more difficult.
Like eating with braces, brushing and flossing are made a little more difficult and time-consuming when you have to clean around the appliance. It's also important to clean the braces themselves, which can trap food or bacteria and lead to dental problems.
With removable aligners, you can brush and floss your teeth as normal. You also need to clean your aligners every day by rinsing them in lukewarm water.
If your dentist thinks you need help to improve your oral hygiene during your orthodontic treatment, they may recommend adding an antibacterial mouthwash to your daily routine.
7. Treatment time
Straightening teeth takes a long-term commitment, whichever option you choose. As metal braces can exert more force on teeth, it can take less time to correct the same misalignment with traditional braces compared to Invisalign, but this isn't always the case.
How long your treatment takes also depends on the expertise of your dentist or orthodontist, your compliance with wearing aligners and whether your treatment is interrupted by an oral health issue. Your dentist may offer additional treatments such as AcceleDent® that can help to speed up ongoing orthodontic treatments.
Any orthodontic treatment requires regular appointments with your dentist or orthodontist. These are a chance to monitor your progress and check for any problems, as well as adjusting your braces or providing your next few sets of aligners.
How often you need to see your dentist will be based on your individual needs, but braces generally require more frequent consultations than Invisalign treatment. This is because braces need to be adjusted in person by a dentist, while Invisalign aligners can be changed by the patient at home.
As braces can sometimes break, come loose or cause injuries, there's also a higher chance of needing to see an emergency dentist when you have braces.
One difference that can make Invisalign treatment unsuitable for some people is the high level of discipline required. Because the aligners are removable, it's your responsibility to wear them for the recommended amount of time every day – at least 20 to 22 hours – or this can affect your results.
As braces are fixed in place for the whole treatment, compliance is less of an issue. This can make braces better suited to teenagers and more impulsive adults who may not trust themselves to follow their dentist's instructions.
For teenagers who prefer Invisalign over braces, Invisalign Teen features coloured compliance indicators that show their dentist whether they've been wearing the aligners for the recommended time.
The cost of Invisalign or braces varies depending on the individual case. Traditional braces are generally cheaper than Invisalign to treat the same issue, but more customised options such as lingual braces can be comparable in price.
Neither treatment is generally covered by standard health insurance, unless you have extra cover, but your dentist may offer discounts or flexible payment plans to help make your treatment more affordable.
What are the alternatives?
Invisalign and braces aren't the only options for straightening teeth. Depending on what you want to achieve, your dentist may also discuss:
- Dental veneers – a cosmetic treatment that involves changing the appearance of teeth.
- Dental crowns – placed over one or more teeth to change their alignment or appearance.
- Kids' orthodontics involves the use of fixed or removable appliances to address orthodontic issues early or reduce the need for braces later.
Braces and Invisalign Gold Coast
If you want to know more about braces, Invisalign and other teeth straightening options on the Gold Coast, book a consultation with our dentists at Robina Town Dental. Call 07 5575 9100 or book online to find out how you can transform your smile.
Healthdirect. Orthodontic treatments [Online] 2019 [Accessed April 2021] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/orthodontic-treatments
Invisalign Australia: https://www.invisalign.com.au/