September 30, 2022 Tri Le Most people are familiar with braces, but Invisalign and other clear aligners are still relatively new to the world of dentistry. Some patients may be wondering which is right for them and what kind of experience they can expect from both. While you might also want to consider the cost, the length of treatment, the ease (or difficulty) of maintenance, or other factors of braces and Invisalign, today we’re asking one simple question: which one is more effective? Although the two treatments have many differences, we’ll show that how well they perform isn’t one of them. Comparing Braces to Invisalign isn’t Apples to Apples Just as it wouldn’t be fair to criticize a handheld vacuum for not being as powerful as an upright model, we need to delineate between the jobs braces and Invisalign are designed for before we gauge their ability to do them. Invisalign is intended for mild to moderate cases of misalignment such as gaps between teeth, crooked teeth, underbite, overbite, and crossbite. Braces, on the other hand, can be used to treat severe and/or complex misalignment issues, as well as deal with teeth that are too short or round for Invisalign aligners to get a good grip on them. Invisalign is also unable to rotate a tooth beyond 45 degrees, to raise or lower the position of teeth in the jawbone, or to close more than 6 mm of gap space collectively across a row of teeth (upper or lower). Invisalign’s average treatment time is 12-18 months, although they can be completed in as little as six months, whereas traditional metal braces are usually worn for 18-24 months. But again, treatment time isn’t a one-to-one measure of effectiveness either because Invisalign issues are bound to be less severe and thus easier to treat to begin with. What the Studies Say There are only a limited number of studies that have been published to date about the effectiveness of Invisalign. However, a 2019 study that considered eight papers published on the subject found “both clear aligners and braces were effective in treating malocclusion” (or abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth). This confirmed a 2018 study that had similarly found that Invisalign is effective for mild to moderate malocclusions in adult patients. Likewise, a 2021 study found there were no statistically significant differences in the OSG scores (a grading system used to judge results in orthodontics) between Invisalign aligners using the company’s new SmartForce technology and traditional fixed appliances. Interestingly, though, the trial found aligners took nearly five months longer than braces to resolve simple malocclusions. What You Can Do To Make Each Method More Effective The biggest determining factor to Invisalign effectiveness that’s under your control is how much you wear the aligners. Dentists will tell you that even 20 hours a day is not good enough. To maximize their ability to work, you need them in your mouth every moment possible, removing them only to eat, to drink beverages other than water, or to clean the aligners. And speaking of cleaning, you must be careful not to use hot water in the cleaning process, which could warp them and hinder their effectiveness. Invisalign crystals are a good, fast method for cleaning the trays, or a brief soak in diluted distilled white vinegar followed by a gentle scrub with a toothbrush and rinse. Learn more about caring for Invisalign aligners. As for braces, you can ensure you don’t need to wear them any longer than necessary by… Keeping your dental appointments: Adjustment sessions simply go with the territory of having braces. If you put off going to them, or skip them, you may be getting all of the inconvenience of wearing them with little of the benefit. If the ligatures have slackened due to your teeth moving, your teeth won’t move any more in the right direction until they’re replaced with new, tight ones, and they may even shift back to their original position if you wait long enough. Following the doctor’s instructions: If you’re told to use removable rubber bands with your braces, it’s vital to do so and to do it consistently, because they’re a part of your prescribed treatment plan. Avoiding no-no foods and behaviors: Hard or sticky foods can damage your braces, as can bad habits such as chewing on pencils or using your mouth to open packages. Treat your braces well and they will reward you with a great-looking smile in the end. Summary A recent blog post on the American Association of Orthodontics website put it well: “One appliance is not inherently better than another. What is used for an individual’s correction will be based on the goals of treatment and the patient’s lifestyle needs… The type of appliance used in orthodontic treatment is far less important than the skill in the hands of the person who is providing the treatment.” Assuming you qualify for either modality, you can be comfortable knowing your treatment, either Invisalign or braces, will be effective and leave you with the smile you’ve been dreaming of. Orthodontic Treatment at Bunker Hill Dentistry At our modern dental office in Memorial, Houston, TX, we offer both Invisalign aligners as well as clear and ceramic braces so we can cater to the needs of all patients. We may also recommend a hybrid solution to orthodontics – utilizing braces and Invisalign at different stages of treatment. Learn more about orthodontic treatment at Bunker Hill Dentistry. Tri LeA practicing dentist since 1987, Dr. Le has been running successful dental practices in Texas with his wife Ann since 1990. A member of the ADA, AACD and AADSM, Dr. Le has also contributed to several leading dental journals.