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Aligners vs Braces - Which is Better for You?

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    aligners vs braces
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    Everybody dreams about straighter teeth but not everyone has the patience, let alone motivation, to undergo conventional braces. That’s why when they hear about translucent aligners, many patients immediately jump at the chance.

    But how do these two treatments compare? What are the differences and are there any similarities to note? Ultimately, which one is better at achieving a beautiful smile?

    We are sorry to tell you this, but there is no straightforward answer to these questions since both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Their function and complexity cannot be summed up in a sentence. If you are curious to know more about aligners vs braces, keep reading.

    Why Conventional Braces?

    Close up photo of woman with metal dental braces.

    No matter whether you like it or not, conventional braces remain one of the most effective straightening treatments to this day and you will see why in the paragraphs that follow. For one, this is the only tool that can fix severe crookedness. Braces have brackets bonded to the teeth (with the help of rubber bands and a metal wire). This allows for moderate force to be put on the teeth, making the final result more sustainable.

    If you’ve checked out previous posts on our site, you already know there are various types such as self-ligating braces and ceramic braces. They all comprise elastic ties (rubber bands), archwires, hooks, and brackets. Most of them are attached to the front side of the teeth by a seasoned dentist or orthodontist and patients are committed to multiple visits throughout the treatment plan.

    The Benefits of Braces Orthodontic Treatment

    • Fill in the gaps and spaces in your mouth
    • Improve your smile
    • Improve comfort during chewing
    • Lower the risk of other dental problems; orthodontic care enhances life quality
    • Prevent tooth decay
    • They are quite sturdy

    The Drawbacks of Braces

    • Certain foods become off-limits because they can stick to the braces
    • Dental hygiene and braces maintenance is more time-consuming; brushing and flossing should happen more frequently
    • The tiny brackets are visible when you smile (does not apply to lingual braces)
    • Metal brackets create discomfort and irritation
    • They cannot be removed at will
    • Patients have to plan follow-up visits to have the braces adjusted
    • Traditional braces will leave a metallic taste

    Comfort During Treatment with Traditional Metal Braces

    girl with metal braces smiling

    We are not going to lie, metal brackets can give you a hard time all throughout your straightening journey. Each time you adjust to the pressure they exert on the teeth, you will find yourself back at the office of the dental professionals for some refining, which will create more pressure. The process will repeat over and over.

    It’s also worth mentioning, you will need to equip yourself with more dental hygiene tools such as a water flosser and an interproximal brush. This is the only way you can get food unstuck from the brackets and reach those awkward spaces.

    Suitability of the Treatment

    Traditional metal braces may be more suitable for younger patients for two reasons. First, kids don’t have jobs that require them to look presentable. And they can turn braces into an accessory by choosing playful colours that suit their personality.

    Second, there is no risk of losing the appliance since it is not removable. With kids being more sporadic and forgetful, removable devices are oftentimes the least recommended solution for orthodontic care.

    That’s not to say adults should not wear braces. On the contrary, more and more people of legal age are wearing metal braces these days. With the evolution of technology, braces have changed a lot throughout the years. There are different treatment options to suit different needs and our orthodontist will be happy to give you more details on that.

    For example, lingual braces have all the perks of conventional braces; the only difference being, they are put on the back of the teeth. In other words, they remain virtually invisible. This renders them perfect for people who don’t want others to know they are attempting to straighten their pearly whites.

    Visibility of Braces and Appearance

    Braces are pretty visible on the teeth but there are still some discrete treatment options such as ceramic braces (which comprise more clear brackets) and lingual braces (which are fastened to the back of the teeth). If you are interested in this kind of treatment, please talk to our orthodontist about it.

    Treatment for complex conditions

    In regard to more complex cases, traditional metal braces have prevalence over invisible options like Clear Smile braces and Invisalign aligners. They are just stronger and more efficient at forcing the teeth in the desired position, even when the gaps between the teeth are gigantic.

    Number of Orthodontist Visits

    Patients who go with metal braces need to be more involved in the process since they require more frequent visits during which the dentist proceeds to tighten the archwires.

    Cost of Getting Braces Treatment

    We already discussed the price of conventional braces in previous posts but just to give you a clue - this orthodontic treatment runs $4,000-$6,500 (self-ligating braces included). Mind you that lingual braces are more costly - up to $11,000.

    Compared to certain aligners, it is a more affordable option. There is no insurance coverage for metal braces unless the case is so severe that it prevents someone from eating and speaking normally.

    Do Aligners Work the Same as Traditional Braces?

    Close up of a young woman adjusting transparent clear teeth aligners

    The invisible aligner treatment came in much later than metal braces but it has already been developed so well that the market is now brimming with available brands. One of the most well-received treatments is Invisalign braces because they revolutionised the system, after which a lot of other manufacturers followed suit.

    Thanks to this, the choice today is limitless and varies depending on where you live. In Singapore, Clear Smile is one of the sought-out brands because of its simplicity and cost.

    What renders clear aligners especially effective is the fact that they apply force on the whole tooth, since they wrap around it, as opposed to traditional braces that exert pressure on a small part of the tooth. And while in the very beginning, they could cause teeth movements to a limited distance, today they are more capable of pushing the teeth in the correct position.

    The Benefits of Clear Aligners

    • They are virtually invisible and pleasant to look at, so a discreet appearance can be achieved
    • They bring more comfort and cause less irritation to the teeth and tongue
    • Patients can remove aligners before meals which makes eating a breeze
    • Good oral hygiene is not impacted during the process; brushing and flossing is likely as easy as before
    • No food limitations are necessary - you can eat all the foods you want
    • Clear aligners don’t require as much “chair time” as metal braces, and follow-up visits with an orthodontist are limited to a few
    • They can straighten teeth for less time (applies to mild malocclusions)
    • Some clear aligner manufacturers offer a lifetime smile guarantee

    The Drawbacks of Clear Aligners

    • Aligners are not able to handle very crooked teeth
    • The treatment can be slowed down if patients don't remember to put the braces on for 20 hours a day
    • Clear aligners can get lost
    • Many brands; products feel like daylight robbery compared to regular braces treatment

    Comfort During Treatment Plan

    woman putting on her clear aligners

    Clearly, when it comes to comfort, invisible appliances are at an advantage over traditional braces. The fact that they are removable means you can take them off to eat. Food debris will not get caught and you can brush your teeth normally post-meal, without getting any special devices involved.

    Moreover, they are easy to clean. You can soak them in a special cleaning solution or brush them with your toothbrush to remove any dirt from the surface.

    While wearing them, you will still feel some kind of pressure. All straightening devices work on this principle, so you can’t really avoid it. Compared to metal braces, the pressure may be less appalling but it will vary as you get to replace each pair of aligners with new ones.

    Suitability of the Treatment

    The best candidates for this braces treatment are adult patients but they can also be worn by teens over the age of 13. The treatment plan is not to be offered to children as their permanent teeth haven't come through yet. An orthodontist will be the judge of that.


    As they are virtually invisible, clear aligners are the obvious winner here, but there are some aspects that may be evading patients. While clear aligners are touted to be see-through, they can be pretty visible when there are stains on them. This will happen if you are reluctant to take good care of them.

    The good news is, each pair of aligners is swapped out every few weeks, which means they won’t get a chance of becoming so dirty as to compromise the aesthetics of your teeth.

    Treatment Plans for Complex Conditions

    Some brands could successfully tackle severe cases of malocclusions but that happens to a limited number of cases and under very specific conditions. Even so, the dentist may still propose further enhancing the outcome with the help of traditional braces as a final step. This prolongs the treatment time and makes it more costly for patients.

    Plus, most clear aligners are strictly employed for mild to moderate crookedness only (and that’s stated on the package). Bite problems where invisible braces fail to work include intrusions and extrusions, rotated teeth (of more than 20 degrees), and midline discrepancy of more than 2 mm.

    Number of Orthodontic Visits

    With clear aligners, you receive a set of aligners at the start of your journey that are meant to be replaced every week. An advanced computer program tracks down the gradual changes in teeth positions over time and creates models of aligners for every week. You don’t have to have them adjusted by a specialist. Of course, you will find yourself making trips to the clinic every so often to mark your progress but that won’t be as often as you’ll do with braces.

    Cost of Invisible Aligners

    As mentioned earlier, the market is saturated with aligner systems, which means the final cost varies from company to company as well as geographical area. The price tag is between $1,749 and $8,000-$10,000.

    So, while Invisalign aligners are exorbitant, you can still get your hands on other clear aligner brands for a fraction of that cost. Insurance provider companies don’t usually pay for any of this, whether it be Invisalign clear aligners, Clear Smile or another brand.

    Aligner Treatment vs Braces: Frequently Asked Questions

    Bottom Line of Aligner vs Braces Treatment

    Both aligners and braces have a place in orthodontics and are useful to patients. One is not necessarily better than the other. It’s simply a matter of what one needs. It can be a matter of preferences too but what many patients forget is that you can’t have treatment only because you want it - it also has to be appropriate for you.

    So, it’s best to seek treatment and professional advice from a dentist or orthodontist to see what can be done for your particular case. It is essential to make an informed decision since you want to move your pearly whites in the desired positions.

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