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June 11th, 2021

What are the differences between clear aligners and braces?

Hi, I’m Dr. Mark Knoefel from Oasis Orthodontics, where smiles come to life.

So I often the question, “Well okay, what about traditional braces? And, what about an Invisalign? And so do both move teeth equally?

Well, what’s going on? So I thought, you know what the best way to explain the differences between Invisalign and braces and even the similarities, was by just showing you some nice demo models. Here I have my buddies, Larry, Harry, and Fred and they’re going to demonstrate the different kinds of braces. So, let’s start with what we call traditional braces. So if you look here, you’re going to see these individual little metal parts and they’re called brackets. And, connecting those brackets is a very fine wire. And, that wire typically at the beginning of treatment is made of a special alloy called a nickel titanium. And that’s really, really cool because it has shape memory. So, what that means it very, very rapidly will take these crowded and bunched up teeth and uncrowd them. In fact, to this day, they are the fastest way to unravel moderate to severe crowding of teeth. And of course, if you want to have fun with these braces, you can put some nice colored donuts on there and have fun with them. I mean, they can be changed at every adjustment visit.

Okay. So much for traditional braces. Well, next in line here, we have clear braces. So, what are the differences? Well, if you look very carefully, we still have those attachments on each tooth and they’re still called brackets, but rather than being made of stainless steel, they’re actually made typically of a ceramic type material, which often makes them very nice and translucent or white. But, certainly you will agree that these metal brackets will show more than these clear brackets do. Bear in mind, there still is a wire connecting those brackets. That same wire that was moving the teeth over here, is still moving the teeth over here as well.

So you might wonder, well, okay, when we want to use these? Typically when people are more conscious about aesthetics and they just don’t like the metal look and would like something that shows less. Do they work the same way? They absolutely do. Bear in mind because sometimes these brackets, while they typically are ceramic based, they can fracture more easily. And so sometimes these little corners which we call the tie wings can break because of course, unlike metal, ceramic is more brittle. And, also bear in mind, you, you want to be as careful as possible to not bite on these brackets, especially on the bottom since this ceramic material is actually harder than natural tooth enamel. So if you bite with a natural tooth enamel against ceramic, you might find that the natural tooth might begin to chip and wear. So you just got to look out for that.
Some people ask me, “Okay, well, if I go with these clear brackets, can I still have the colored donuts?” Absolutely. You still need to tie that wire into the bracket. So, if you want to have fun and you want those colors to really pop, no reason why you can have colors with the clear braces.
All right, so far so good. So what about Invisalign? Okay. Well, first of all how Invisalign works is very different from brackets and wires. And, as you can tell very quickly is Invisalign does not have a wire. All right. But, are there any similarities? Well, the answer is yes. So first of all, what many people don’t realize is when you are moving teeth with Invisalign to really achieve some of the more difficult tooth movements, you still need some sort of a handle on the tooth. So if you look carefully, albeit that they’re clear, they’re still are attachments on these teeth, not unlike the clear brackets over here. Just here, we call them braces here, we call them attachments. It’s semantics. But, at the end of the day, these brackets and these attachments still are handles on the teeth.

So, how does Invisalign or how to clear aligners? Because there are lots of different brands now, how do clear aligners move teeth differently from brackets and wires? Well, as we said, there is no wire. So, rather than having a wire connecting all the teeth together and then moving them that way, there is a series of these, clear translucent aligners that eventually get the teeth aligned. So, it just breaks it down into stages. So with each aligner, the tooth will turn a little bit or move up a little bit or down or in or out, whatever it is that needs to be accomplished. And then gradually over time with each successive aligner, the teeth eventually get straightened out.

So, why would I prefer one over the other? Well, one of the biggest features of clear liners of which Invisalign at this time still is the most common is of course, hey, very aesthetic. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. Bear in mind, there still are attachments on the teeth, but there’s no doubt that they are definitely one of the most aesthetic options out there. All right. But, let’s now start peeling away the layers of the onion a little bit. When you have aligners, as you can see, they are removable. Brackets, whether they’re metal or clear are actually attached to the teeth, they’re bonded on there. If something is removable, it gets removed. So guess what, with any kind of clear aligner of treatment, the doctor is completely, completely done dependent on the patient to wear these aligners. And, to make sure that they’re worn enough hours for the tooth movement to actually occur.

Otherwise, by the time the patient has moved through a few aligners, suddenly you realize, “Oh my goodness, these aligners are not tracking any anymore.” You see a gap between the aligner and the tooth and suddenly, whoops, we’re in trouble and we have to rescan and restart. So, that’s the biggest challenging. If you’re someone who forgets their glasses or leaves things lying around and just tends to be forgetful, maybe clear aligners aren’t the right thing for you. But if you’re diligent, certainly with the developments of the last few years, clear aligners can do a lot of the tooth movements that in the past could only be performed by brackets and wires. Just bear in mind, cooperation, cooperation, cooperation.

And, that’s why when you make these kinds of decisions, you need to figure out the personality of the person, not just what kind of tooth problems they have. Okay, so what else do we have to bear in mind? Well, in today’s world where we’re more conscious about plastics, we also have to ask ourselves, “Okay, is there a difference in terms of impact on the environment?” And as you can imagine, of course, with aligner therapy, if someone has 30, 40, 50, 60 consecutive aligners and one of the top and one of the bottom, so maybe a hundred or so aligners, well, those are going to go to a landfill. And as we know, plastics don’t ever really bio-degrade, they just get smaller, but they don’t bio-degrade. So, that’s something to be bear in mind whereas brackets we’ll eventually rust and disintegrate.

So, for those of you where the environment is important, that might be something to consider. If you have any questions about the differences between the different kinds of appliances by all means, give us a shout here at Oasis Orthodontics, (780) 457 5566. We’d love to meet you and we’d love to address any concerns or questions that you have and until then see you soon.

Be sure to check out our YouTube channel we have lots of other exciting questions that we’re going to answer for you and hopefully check us out soon.

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