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Braces vs. Clear Aligners

Traditional Braces vs. Clear Aligners: Which one is best?

We’re judged by our smiles. Not only by those around us but by ourselves. The strength of the pearly-whites should not be underestimated; people use our smiles as an indicator of who we are, what we make time for, where we’ve been, and where we want to end up. 


This simple truth has driven many to their local orthodontist’s office, imploring impeccably-trained orthodontic professionals to move something here, close up a gap there, or correct an overbite on the side. 


For those looking to improve their smile, two primary options are available from your ortho: the traditional route of braces or the relatively-new practice of clear aligners. 


Wait, I have two options?! That’s right - improving your smile is no longer a monochromatic game, instead bursting with the color of possibility. Well… two possibilities. Knowing what each option affords, as well as what it costs, will empower you to confidently move forward in the journey to your brightest smile.

Braces? Aligners?

According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, approximately 4 million people are wearing braces in the United States at any time. Further, they are a staple of adolescent, geek, or nerdy characters in film and television. 


If you somehow evaded these 4 million people, plus managed to avoid a large swath of entertainment and pop culture, STILL we venture you’re familiar with braces through your own experience with them. They’ve become a rite of passage for American youth, in a way, as family trips to the orthodontist have become more commonplace. 


They haven’t changed much in the intervening years; usually consisting of individual ceramic, metal, or plastic brackets attached to each tooth, connected by a wire made of the same material. Together, the brackets and wire make up the “braces” we recognize and allow for the repositioning of teeth according to the orthodontist’s treatment. 


Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that employ the same strategy for repositioning teeth; however, instead of utilizing brackets and wires, aligners are uniquely designed for each patient. 


The orthodontist, through tools like digital scans, impressions, and x-rays, will craft a replica of the patient’s teeth. This replica slips over the teeth (similar to a retainer) and places pressure in the appropriate spots to encourage repositioning. 

In broader terms: braces pull the teeth to the appropriate positions using brackets and wires, whereas aligners push using the replica.

Which One Is Right For Me?

Taking care of our teeth is vital; there’s no sugarcoating (pun alert!) that. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, 50-75% of people could benefit from orthodontist treatment. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 57% of adolescents (aged 12-19) have had a cavity as of 2019; that number skyrockets to 90% in adults 20 and older. 


Okay, so it’s healthy to see an orthodontist but besides teeth that don’t ache, what else is it good for? Turns out, our smiles are SUPER important not only to our peers but our careers. A survey by SWNS Media Group found that most people (76%) base their first impression of a person on their smile. 


And remember, your friends, co-workers, bosses, peers, rivals, overseers, whatever they may be… more than likely, they fall within that 76%. So having a smile that communicates cleanliness AND confidence is key. 

So which is right for you: braces or aligners? While both may empower you to grin your best grin, subtle differences exist that are important when considering which is best. Primarily, the four areas to consider involve your comfort, your convenience, your compliance, and finally, your cost.

Am I comfortable with this?

Braces aren’t a walk in the park. They are devices used by orthodontists to reposition teeth and, therefore, are not exactly built with comfort in mind. The various metallic trappings of braces lead to sores inside the mouth, particularly on the cheeks, lips, and tongue. 


While items like dental wax allow the wearer to essentially pad sharper areas of the braces, the discomfort that braces invite is not just physical. One of the most identifiable traits of braces is the colorful bands that adorn them, chosen by the wearer. 


While this adds an expressive element to the braces experience, it also unmistakably telegraphs that you (or your child) are working to improve their smile. This may not sound like an issue, but for families who tend to keep their business to themselves or have a timid child, the showmanship of the braces may bring unnecessary anxiety.


With clear aligners, the name distinguishes one of the most appealing things about the device: they’re clear. You can wear your aligner for the recommended 18-22 hours a day and not a single person will notice. 


Besides their subtlety of them, aligners don’t incur a lot of physical discomforts, either. The dull ache that comes with the repositioning of teeth is only natural - this comes with braces, as well. But there are no extraneous attachments that poke or prod at the interior of your mouth. 


With both, consider not only the physical discomfort but also the anxiety you or your child may feel when wearing something that naturally draws attention, like braces.

Is this convenient for me?

So you’ve decided to improve your smile. It’s a big endeavor, but besides the actual discomfort that braces or aligners may cause, there’s also the factor of visits to the orthodontist. With braces, you can expect to be visiting the office every few weeks. 


On your first visit, the orthodontist will attach the braces and introduce you to the necessities of the braces life, i.e. foods to avoid eating, maintaining cleanliness, the prospective length of time the patient will be wearing them, etc. 


Then, there is a final visit to remove the braces after 1-2 years (on average) of sporting them. In between these two visits (known respectively as bonding and debonding) will be intermittent check-in visits that allow the orthodontist to check progress and make adjustments. 


How do office visits compare with aligners? Well, with braces, the decisive need for said visits is for the orthodontist to quality-test the dental device being used to improve your smile. 


Aligners utilize a replica of your teeth, with new aligners being delivered roughly every two weeks. These new aligners will have subtle adjustments that encourage the repositioning of teeth but will otherwise be pretty standard. No tightening of wires or adjusting of equipment is needed - simply take one aligner off and slide the new one on.

How reliable am I as a patient?

Very reliable. The most reliable. Why do you ask? 


Well, think about the length of time your braces or aligners will be a part of your life: 1-2 years. With braces, that means keeping up with the visits, avoiding problematic foods, cleaning and maintaining the equipment, and speaking with this apparatus in your mouth. 


Aligners bring with them their own host of issues: these are meant to be worn 18-22 hours a day, every day for that 1-2 year period. Plus, the ever-present paradigm of cleanliness is more essential with aligners. 


As these fit your teeth, any food or liquid that manages to get within the casing can sit against your teeth for an extended period of time.


So, each option has its own set of benefits. Aligners give you a bit more flexibility, such as being able to remove them to eat or fit a floss pick between your teeth without having to maneuver around wires, while traditional braces give you a safety blanket in that you won’t forget to put them back on or where you left them. They’re not going anywhere!


But the one thing that is consistent between the two is that the responsibility of straightening your teeth is shared amongst you and your orthodontist. You have a part to play in the process, and the results you see in your bright smile are a direct reflection of whether you did it or not!

So... What's it gonna cost me?

The cost of either traditional braces or aligners varies with each individual smile. Fortunately, we offer flexible payment options here at Bright Orthodontics, making it easier to attain the smile you’ve always wanted.


In fact, our Bright Smile Journey promotion is available right now for traditional braces, giving you a fixed rate of $169 per month for 24 months after a $199 down payment.


Clear aligners have a much more fluid cost structure, as the number of aligner trays necessary is fully dependent on the amount of movement your smile needs. However, similar flexible payment plans are available for your aligners with brands we carry, including Invisalign and Spark.


It may be news to many that, in the foreboding realm of the orthodontist’s waiting room, more than one option was available to you. To improve your smile, it is crucial to be as informed as possible regarding braces, aligners, and which is right for you. 


This is an indicator of who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced, and where you want to end up. A smile communicates more than a pleasant greeting ever could and, as a result, people discern a hefty amount of meaning from this simple gesture. Empowering yourself by casting aside all apprehension and moving forward with improving your smile should be celebrated. It certainly brings a smile to our faces.

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