People are generally familiar with conventional, metal braces, which have dominated the field of orthodontic dentistry for correcting misaligned teeth and improving maxillofacial asymmetry for many years. However, in the past decade, clear aligners have become an acceptable alternative treatment option, being pioneered by Invisalign.
Let us compare the two approaches and discuss their pros and cons in detail.
What are the basic differences between traditional braces and Invisalign?
These braces consist of brackets and an archwire, along with orthodontic bands and ligatures. Brackets are attached to the surface of the teeth using an adhesive cement. A stainless steel or titanium alloy wire runs through specially designed slots in the brackets. In many cases, the archwire is attached to each bracket with the help of a rubber ligature, which is available in different colors. On both sides, the archwire is secured at back with the help of orthodontic bands. (Note that some newer brackets forgo the rubber ligatures, and are “self-ligating.” A popular brand of these brackets is Damon.)
Invisalign is a set of removable, transparent aligners, that look pretty much like mouthguards. To prepare these aligners, we will obtain an accurate digital impression of your teeth by using either an intra-oral camera or taking molds. With the help of a special software, this data is converted to a 3D digital image of the teeth and the oral structures. Based on this, and the desired direction of teeth alignment, a series of plastic aligners is manufactured.
How does Invisalign work, compared to traditional braces?
With traditional braces, the force exerted by the “tightness” of the archwire onto the teeth and the jaw bone is responsible for moving the teeth in the required direction. The diameter as well as the type of the archwire determines the amount of force that is generated for tooth movement. As treatment progresses, your dentist will use different types of archwires to bring your teeth into optimal alignment and angulation.
However, with Invisalign, the clear aligners are designed in such a way (through 3D printing) that they exert controlled forces to the teeth to bring about the desired movement. After about two weeks, you discard your old aligners and continue with new ones, which will continue slightly moving your teeth. This process continues until all your teeth have been aligned.
What are the pros and cons of Invisalign?
Invisalign is a great option, but it’s not for everyone. Let’s go over the pros and cons.
The Pros of Invisalign Over Conventional Braces
- Esthetics – Metallic braces are very conspicuous. Even ceramic brackets are still very noticeable. In contrast, the Invisalign aligners are made of clear plastic and are almost invisible. People who are mindful of their appearance prefer Invisalign for this reason.
- Fewer Visits – While archwires need to be adjusted in the office nearly every month, Invisalign aligners can be removed and worn by the patient. You end up visiting the dental office less frequently.
- No Tissue Injury – Braces are made up of wires, brackets, ligatures etc., which can have sharp edges and corners with the potential to irritate and bruise mouth tissue. The ceramic brackets can also have an abrasive effect on the teeth. In contrast, Invisalign aligners are plastic shells very carefully machined to fit the teeth without damaging gums and other oral tissue.
- Eat Whatever You Like – Patients with dental braces must avoid all hard and sticky foods to prevent their brackets from “popping” off. On the other hand, Invisalign aligners are removed before eating, and hence pose no limitations on the patient in terms of what he or she can eat.
- Easier Oral Hygiene – Braces necessitate extra care in oral hygiene, requiring the use of interdental brushes, special floss, etc. Invisalign aligners are simply removed while eating, and washed and replaced after cleaning the teeth. No extra care is required.
- Minimal Chances of Root Resorption – The movements with traditional braces are often quicker and more extreme, and thus, there is a risk that they may exert excessive forces on teeth leading to root resorption, and possibly, infection of the pulp. In contrast, Invisalign aligners are accurately designed and manufactured using CAD/CAM technology and generate controlled forces that do not have the potential to damage the teeth, gums or the underlying jaw bone.
The Cons of Invisalign
- Requires Patient Commitment – Your aligners are removable, which is a blessing and a curse. It may be tempting to take out your aligners for meetings or going out, but you risk your teeth no longer “tracking” correctly. You must wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, and only remove them for eating, otherwise your treatment will take much longer.
- You May Lose or Forget Them – Invisalign aligners are removed for eating and for cleaning, and you are responsible for moving on to the next set of aligners at the right time. Thus, if you go out to dinner or go on vacation and lose them, it can be a problem.
- Limited Correction – The reality is, Invisalign cannot correct very severe misalignments. In such cases the traditional braces are more appropriate. While Invisalign technology has steadily improved over the years, it’s not the best solution for every situation.
Both the traditional braces and Invisalign have their place. Which one is the optimal choice depends on the individual. If you’re considering Invisalign, get in touch with us and we’ll see you for a consult! Our very own Dr. Hilary Grimm is certified by Invisalign, and up-to-date on all the latest technology.