For those facing dental problems like crooked teeth and bite issues, many find themselves struggling between conventional braces and Invisalign treatment. But which is more effective and more affordable? Why are so many people choosing Invisalign nowadays? Are there pros and cons that I should consider before making a decision? We’re here to guide you through orthodontic systems before you or your child goes on the way to a brighter, more confident smile.
What are conventional braces?
Conventional braces are a set of metal or ceramic brackets (the metal attachments in the middle of each tooth iconic to those wearing conventional braces) which are permanently attached to the front of every tooth during the treatment. These brackets are connected with a special orthodontic wire, tightened such that it allows each tooth to be gradually eased into its desired position in line with the treatment plan.
There are 4 different types of conventional braces – metal, ceramic, self-ligating and lingual braces. The orthodontist will suggest the most suitable type of braces for each individual, depending on what they need for the best aesthetic outcome.
Metal braces are usually stainless steel, and are the most common type of braces. They are relatively cheaper with shorter treatment duration. The highly conspicuous braces are often thought to be a downside of this treatment, although some people consider it fashionable too.
This is pretty much the same as metal braces, except that the brackets use a tooth-coloured material to hold the wire for a better overall appearance that is more discrete. They also don’t become discoloured so patients can eat or drink dark-coloured foods without the worry that it might stain their braces. However, this is more expensive than stainless steel braces since the specialised ceramic material costs more.
These are the same as the regular braces except that they have no elastic bands to help move the teeth. The elastic bands, or ligatures, are used to secure the orthodontic archwire into each bracket. Because the ligatures can get stained and need to be changed regularly, self-ligating braces reduce the need to visit the dentist and provide greater comfort for the patient.
These are invisible braces which have brackets installed at the inside of the teeth rather than at the front as with regular braces. This is also the most expensive type of braces as it is custom-made, and is also the most uncomfortable due to the location of the brackets. Lingual braces could also interfere with speech, causing patients to speak with a lisp.
Not sure if you should remove your wisdom teeth before getting braces? This article might help.
What is the duration of the conventional braces treatment?
For conventional braces, the average treatment period ranges from 12 - 18 months, but it also depends on the individual and the amount of movements of the teeth needed for the desired effect.
Patients are required to go for regular dental checkups every 4 weeks to tighten the braces. The dentist will check and clean the teeth, and adjust or change the archwire to further tighten the braces.
What is Invisalign?
As the name suggests, Invisalign uses a set of virtually invisible braces that serve as an alternative to conventional braces. They do not use any wires or brackets. Instead, they use a 3D modelling technology to produce a series of customised plastic aligners that are removable, BPA-free, and practically invisible for a highly discrete treatment.
The computerised technology ensures that the Invisalign aligners are made to fit your teeth perfectly. Align Technologies was the first to develop the Invisalign technology in 1999 and is a strong competitor against the conventional braces due to its unobtrusive and hassle-free nature, besides being effective at getting the job done.
What is the duration of the Invisalign treatment?
For Invisalign, the average treatment period ranges from 12 - 18 months, but this can vary depending on the complexity of each individual situation and the amount of movement needed for the teeth to be aligned. Patients on the Invisalign treatment are required to visit the dentist every 4 - 6 weeks for a consultation to check in on their progress with the treatment. Patients will also need to change the aligners every 7 - 10 days as the teeth gradually shift positions during the treatment process.
It is important that patients do not miss appointments or forget to change out their aligners, so that the duration of the treatment will not be extended.
What are the benefits of conventional braces?
Metal is stronger compared to other forms of orthodontic treatments. Plastic and ceramic brackets have the downside of breaking easily, so they might need replacement every now and then.
Traditional braces are among the most affordable treatment options out there.
Metal braces can be used for a wide variety of mild to severe cases of malalignment, crooked teeth, spaced out teeth or crowded teeth. Conventional braces are more powerful in the sense that they are able to correct highly complex orthodontic problems due to the constant pressure that they apply on the teeth. Meanwhile, other options like Invisalign are limited in their ability to move each tooth, making them unsuitable for complicated cases.
There are now a wide range of designs and colours available for metal braces, making them more fun to wear than ever before.
Treatment using metal bracestypically ends sooner than other brace treatments.
What are the benefits of Invisalign?
Aesthetic and Removable
The clear, plastic Invisalign aligners are practically invisible, and this acts as a unique selling point for Invisalign. They are an efficient way of correcting orthodontic problems without anyone noticing. These aligners are also removable, enabling patients to eat, brush and floss more easily than conventional braces.
They are also known to be hassle-free and do not interfere with sports or other daily activities that you may engage in. With Invisalign, you won’t have to worry about destroying your dental bracket or wires. You can also eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
Invisalign has a patented thermoplastic material known as SmartTrack which does not hurt the gums for a more comfortable treatment. This is unlike traditional braces with their metal braces and wires that may rub against the cheek and gums to cause irritation.
Saves you time
Invisalign requires less maintenance and less frequent visits to the dentist.
What are the disadvantages of conventional braces?
The most obvious downside would be it’s less than aesthetic appearance of the brackets at the front of each tooth. Many people with conventional braces become very conscious about themselves, especially when they smile, laugh or talk. This could diminish their confidence and self-esteem, which are important in a child’s development.
Food and drink restrictions
Another downside of conventional braces is that you would have to avoid food and drinks that could damage the braces. Sweets and soda are off limits, which is a true bummer, especially for kids.
Regular dental visits
Conventional braces require dental visits every 4 weeks, a little more often than the Invisalign treatment which states every 4 - 6 weeks.
What are the disadvantages of Invisalign?
Lack of patient compliance leading to delays
Patients using Invisalign must comply with the rule of wearing their aligners for at least 22 hours a day every day throughout the treatment process. A lack of discipline could mean that you will need a longer treatment time to get your teeth in place. The clear aligners should only be removed during meals or when brushing. They’re easily removable, which may tempt you to take them off, but keep in mind the purpose of having them – so you can get that stunning smile in the shortest amount of time. So keep your Invisalign aligners on for 22-24 hours a day and you’re good to go!
The cost of Invisalign in Singapore is typically higher than conventional braces. This is because of the 3D modelling technology involved in making the fully customised set of aligners.
Invisalign can easily cost about $4500 - $9500, as compared to conventional braces which are cheaper at about $3500 - $6500. However, lingual braces cost way more because of their customisation and complexity, at about $5000 - $13000.
Are conventional braces or Invisalign better for my kid?
Here’s a summary for the two types of braces in case you still can’t decide which would be better for your kid.
|Invisalign||Conventional braces (metal)|
|Appearance||Clear and virtually invisible.||Highly visible metal brackets on the front of the teeth with archwire (poor appearance).|
|Ease of maintenance||Easily removable for cleaning and brushing.||More difficult to maintain as food will be stuck and it is harder to brush and floss.|
|Food and drinks||No need to avoid any food or drinks.||Need to avoid eating hard or sticky foods.|
|Breakage||Can occur when wearing or removing the aligners.||Can occur when eating.|
|Pain level||Less pain as the force is gradual (more comfortable).||More pain.|
|Frequency of checkup||Every 4 - 6 weeks.||Every 4 weeks.|
|Complex cases||Difficult to handle complex cases.||Can handle all cases from mild to complex.|
|Patient compliance||Requires high patient compliance to wear aligners for 22 hours a day. They must also remember to clean their aligners.||Compliance required is minimal but good oral hygiene is necessary.|
|Wearing of retainers after treatment||Yes.||Yes.|
|Cost of treatment||$4500 - $9500||$3500 - $6500|
It seems clear to us that Invisalign is a top choice, not just for the appearances, but also for their convenience and functionality. Your kid will be able to eat and drink whatever they want, play sports, and go to the dentist less often. Sure you might pay more, but you get every cent’s worth.
The only factor that you may want to consider is how serious your kid’s malocclusion is. Invisalign may not be able to treat severe cases of malocclusion, so your safest choice would be conventional braces.
What’s not to love with all the benefits that Invisalign can bring? Whether you choose conventional braces or Invisalign, it is important to seek advice from your orthodontologist or dentist so as to ascertain that you are making the best decision for your child. After all, it is a heavy investment and you want to make sure your child gets that stellar smile you’ve been wanting to see.
- Tamer, İ., Öztaş, E., & Marşan, G. (2019). Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners and The Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review. Turkish Journal of Orthodontics, 32(4), 241. https://doi.org/10.5152/TURKJORTHOD.2019.18083
- Weir, T. (2017). Clear aligners in orthodontic treatment. Australian Dental Journal, 62, 58–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/ADJ.12480