How to Decide Between Invisalign® and Traditional Braces
The popularity of clear aligner systems, like Invisalign®, and improvements to traditional braces have more adults than ever jumping on the teeth-straightening bandwagon. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) estimates today nearly one in five orthodontic patients in this country is an adult. The barely noticeable aligners appeal to adults who are eager to have straight teeth without the hassle of braces, but not everyone is a candidate for Invisalign. Learning all you can about both Invisalign and traditional braces can help you make a more informed decision.
What Is Invisalign?
The Invisalign system uses a series of clear aligners to straighten teeth in stages. Dental impressions taken by a dentist or orthodontist are sent on to a lab where the aligners are custom made for a precise fit. Unlike metal braces, which require brackets and wires, the Invisalign appliance is a clear, tray-like product that fits over teeth and is virtually undetectable.
"The main advantage of Invisalign is that it is visually clear, and oral hygiene is easier than with traditional braces," says William W. Roberts III, DMD, a Philadelphia-area orthodontist at Roberts & de Marsche Orthodontics. The trays can be removed for brushing and eating, so patients aren’t required to alter their diets or avoid certain foods. But, Invisalign may not meet the needs of every patient.
Is Invisalign Right For Me?
"Invisalign is mainly for adults and older adolescents, and the system only works on teeth that are fully exposed. It is not appropriate for mixed dentition, when baby and adult teeth are both present," Dr. Roberts says. Patient compliance is another important component since the trays are removable. "The Invisalign trays should be worn 22 hours a day. If a patient can’t commit or can’t remember, they’re better off with traditional braces," he says.
Roberts describes today's Invisalign as being "a very different product than it was 10 years ago." And he credits technological advances and improved engineering for the changes. Invisalign appliances are custom fit and computer generated, but since proper fit is vital to treatment success, Roberts estimates he typically sends the appliance back for two to three factory modifications before it goes home with the patient. Invisalign usually requires less chair time because patients receive several sets of aligners at once, then periodically switch them out with new aligner trays at home, as the teeth shift.
Although not every patient is a candidate for Invisalign, it's possible to correct a number of orthodontic conditions with the system. A report that appeared in the August 2008 issue of the Journal of Dental Education evaluated Invisalign patients treated for moderate-to-difficult orthodontic malocclusions and found the appliance was effective in correcting deep overbite and moderate crowding.
What About Traditional Braces?
Your dentist can help you determine which treatment is right for you. Although Invisalign has been found to be very effective in patients requiring teeth straightening or the closing of mild-to-extreme front bites, the system does have limitations. Results are not as impressive when it comes to moving upper teeth down toward the lower jaw or lower teeth up toward the upper jaw to improve contact. Extensive crown and bridge treatment can also affect the use of Invisalign. In addition, Roberts lists patients who are candidates for jaw surgery, young children, non-compliant adults and those requiring tooth extraction treatments as being more likely to benefit from traditional braces.
"There’s still a big market for regular braces," says Roberts. "And clear braces offer a viable alternative to Invisalign." Fixed braces are smaller and more comfortable than in the past, and they can also tackle some of the more challenging jobs that Invisalign can’t handle. Because they’re attached to the back of the teeth, lingual braces are another option for those who want straight teeth but don’t want their braces to be visible.
Comparing Costs of Invisalign and Traditional Braces
The cost of Invisalign is based on the number of aligner trays required – more correction equals more trays. The price of traditional braces is also determined by the amount of correction needed, but when you compare the two, the price tag for traditional braces and Invisalign may not be so far apart. "There’s really not too much of a difference in cost," says Roberts. "In some cases, braces can actually be more expensive because there’s more doctor time involved."
Invisalign Provider Experience Counts
Invisalign providers are awarded certification levels based on completion of an Align Technology training course and the number of cases done on a yearly basis. Certification begins with the Provider level, followed by the Premium Provider status and, finally, the Premium Provider Elite designation. The certification designation allows patients to identify the most experienced Invisalign providers.
This article was created by the Top Dentists editorial team.