This is a great question but it does not have a simple answer. Braces and aligners are very different and used for different reasons, and to solve different orthodontic problems.
What are aligners?
Aligners are very similar to the clear gum guard often worn by athletes who compete in contact sports. An aligner is a clear flexible device that fits snugly over your teeth. It applies gentle pressure to your teeth to get them to move subtly and correct minor orthodontic issues.
Aligners are a popular choice as they can be removed in a few seconds and being clear, they are less obvious.
How do I decide between aligners and braces
It is very important that you consult with a specialist orthodontist when making any decisions about straightening your teeth. Click here to find an orthodontist in your area.
Once your orthodontist has done a thorough evaluation he or she will recommend a course of treatment for you and present you with different treatment options. Aligners are only effective for certain simple cases, and it may well be that aligners will not be appropriate for the type of treatment required.
The pros of aligners
The biggest pro of aligners is the ability for them to be removed quickly and easily for meal times and special occasions. Most people cite this as their biggest reason for going with aligners. Being clear they are also not very noticeable when compared with traditional braces.
Aligners are also simpler with less components. This means they are simpler to take care of with no risk of a broken wire or a detached bracket. Less components also mean less chance of experiencing cuts and mouth ulcers.
Aligners can be removed which helps with brushing your teeth as well, making the aligners themselves easy to keep clean.
The cons of aligners
Aligners are quite limited in the range of orthodontic conditions they can be used for, so they are not an option for everyone.
The biggest con of aligners is linked to its biggest pro, and that is the flexibility they offer. As they are so simple to remove it is easy to lose your aligner. Aligners also need to be worn 22 hours per day, and if you don’t have the discipline to wear them consistently for this amount of time, they may be a poor choice of treatment method. If you do not wear them enough they may well extend the period of time needed to complete your treatment.
Are aligners more expensive than braces?
This is not a simple question to answer as every person who requires orthodontics has a different need, and prices vary, often being more expensive for more complex cases.
As aligners are often used for simple orthodontic treatment, they are sometimes thought to be cheaper when compared with the treatment cost for someone else with normal braces. This is usually misleading though, as more complex cases are more expensive to treat and won’t suit the use of aligners making a price comparison inappropriate.
On a like-for-like comparison, aligners are usually more expensive than traditional braces. This is related to the fact that aligners are custom-made to suit each patient, so manufacturing costs are higher than for braces.
Aligners can also be more expensive if you don’t have the discipline to wear your aligners consistently. This can slow down treatment resulting in higher costs due to the extended treatment time.
Which works faster braces or aligners?
In a like-for-like comparison, braces will be faster than aligners. That is because braces are at work 24hrs a day. Aligners can be removed, and, even if only for a few hours per day, over time this can significantly slow treatment.
There is a misconception that aligners can be faster than braces. This comes from the fact that aligners are most often used to treat simple orthodontic cases which do not take as long to resolve as more complex cases, usually treated with braces.
So which should I choose, aligners or braces?
In most cases, this decision should be left to your orthodontist who will recommend the best treatment method for your needs.
If you are eligible for either aligners or braces, you will need to understand the pros and cons of both and weigh them against your particular needs and habits.
Braces are simpler as the orthodontist will maintain them for you. They are usually quicker and more cost effective. They can be more uncomfortable initially and they cannot be removed.
Aligners offer flexibility with the option to take them out any time you want, being a big draw card. But they can be more expensive and extend your treatment period.
Need More Information?
The best place to start is by getting in touch with your local orthodontist using our finder. They’ll be happy to give personalised advice on any of the above topics.
For more on braces, read about how to care for them, how to survive special occasions wearing them, and our five life hacks for living with them.