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Comparison of the week: Braces vs Invisalign

Posted: 1 April 2019 9:56 am

Model of teeth with braces on. Image: Getty ImagesBraces and Invisalign are both popular options when it comes to getting the perfect smile. Is one better than the other?

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put braces and Invisalign to the test.

We all know that a trip to the dentist is in our best interests, but what happens if you actually need (or want) your teeth straightened? You might get offered a choice between braces and Invisalign. So, how should you decide? Should you take the cheapest option, or the one that maintains your aesthetic? This comparison will break down the differences between braces and Invisalign to help you make the right decision.

The essentials

Braces are the traditional option when it comes to teeth straightening. They rely on brackets that are glued to your teeth, tied together by wires and rubber bands. Brackets can be made from metal, ceramic, resin or composite material and cannot be removed. Braces are seen as a safe option, as they guarantee patient compliance and can tackle difficult dental issues.

Invisalign, on the other hand, is a much newer product, considered a breakthrough in the teeth straightening game. As the name suggests, Invisalign is designed to be invisible. Aligner trays made of plastic are worn over your teeth, and can be removed. They are made through a process that includes the taking of x-rays and impression casts of your teeth. Invisalign can be a smooth and painless process, but is not an option for all dental issues.

The comparison

CostBraces tend to be a cheaper option. The price of braces will depend on the specifics of the procedure, and the manner in which your teeth need straightening. Prices can range from $1,800 to $6,000.Invisalign is often a more expensive product. Prices will vary from dentist to dentist, depending on the number of steps in the design process. Prices average around $5,000 but can range from $3,500 to $8,000.
Procedure timeThe process of applying braces can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. This will depend on whether you need braces on both the top and bottom rows of teeth and the speed of your dentist.Once you decide on Invisalign, you'll need to go for x-rays and have a cast of your teeth taken. When your Invisalign is ready, you'll only need to pop into the dentist to pick it up.
Treatment lengthThe average length someone wears braces for is around two years, but this can vary depending on how much straightening is required.Most patients need Invisalign for 6 - 18 months. This can change if a certain condition requires less or more time to correct.
LookWhile technology has improved, people still find braces to be overly visible, if not an eyesore. You may be able to choose the colour of your braces, and some dentists can attempt to find brackets that match the colour of your enamel.Invisalign is a clear, transparent product. This is one of the most attractive features of Invisalign over braces.
Removable?No. Once braces are put on, you can't take them off. You'll have to wait until the end of the treatment period for your dentist to remove them.Yes. You'll have to take your Invisalign off for eating, drinking and teeth brushing. Most dentists advise that you should have Invisalign in for at least 20 hours a day.
ComfortIt can take time to get used to the brackets and wires brushing against the inside of your mouth.Wearing Invisalign will also take some getting used to. This period can be shorter than braces as Invisalign trays are less intrusive.
MaintenanceYou'll need to clean the spaces behind wires and tidy your brackets with a pick, along with regular teeth brushing. These actions can be a fiddly undertaking. Most dentists will also require you to come in for a checkup every four to six weeks.Invisalign can be rinsed in warm water, and requires far less maintenance than braces do. Invisalign trays need to be changed every couple of weeks, but you should receive the entire set of trays for your treatment upfront. You'll still need to see your dentist, but only once every six to eight weeks.
Eating and drinkingYou can't bite into things like apples when you've got braces, as it'll increase the chances of snapping one of the braces off.

You'll also find that certain foods have a habit of getting caught in the wire which can be embarrassing (spinach is a common offender). However, after some time you'll become better at avoiding these foods.

You'll need to take your Invisalign off when you eat, which can be annoying and a bit inconvenient (especially at events or when dining out).

Also, coffee and tea will start to stain your Invisalign if you drink these a lot.

Follow upWhat happens after your braces come off is assessed on a case by case basis. Most people will usually need a retainer for at least a short period of time afterwards.Again you will be assessed following your treatment period. You may just need to wear your Invisalign when you sleep, so that any progress is not lost.
Can everyone use them?Yes. If you need your teeth straightened, braces will most likely be an option. In fact, braces are often the only option for complex dental issues.No. Invisalign may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly those in need of bridgework, those that need teeth moved vertically and those with back bite issues.
Health insurance rebateYou are able to get cover for braces with private health insurance under a policy that includes orthodontics. Sometimes this may be included if you have major dental as an extra. If you're joining the policy as a new member you'll usually have to serve the 12 month waiting period before claiming braces.Yes, Invisalign is claimable under your health insurance policy if you have cover that includes orthodontics. It's not covered under Medicare as it's not considered essential essential for a patients wellbeing. You can compare health insurance policies that include cover for Invisalign here.

The lowdown

You should always discuss your decision with your dentist, and take heed of any advice. You may face a particular dental issue that demands the use of braces. There's not much point in fighting for Invisalign if braces are your only route to a straight smile.

If your dentist offers you the choice between braces and Invisalign, and assures you that both options will be effective solutions, then you can weigh your options. The best choice will ultimately come down to what's most important to you: the cheaper option, the fastest option, the prettiest option or the most comfortable option. Ask your dentist to lay out the specifics of both treatment plans, so that you can make an educated decision with all the facts at hand.

We're all about helping you make better decisions. Do your own comparison by heading to the Finder home page to compare credit cards, savings accounts, shopping deals and much, much more. Go on, be a Finder.

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