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New Year, New Smile: Braces Vs. Invisalign

There’s just something about the beginning of a brand new year that inspires us to reset our habits and make a fresh start. But if orthodontic treatment is in the cards for you in 2018, you may be reluctant to welcome it warmly. In fact, you most likely have a lot of questions and concerns running through your mind, such as

  • What treatment options are available to me?
  • Which treatment option would be most effective for my particular case?
  • Which treatment option is the most affordable?
  • What is the difference between popular treatments like traditional metal braces and the newer clear aligner therapy, like Invisalign?

Here at Bee Cave Orthodontics, we’re big believers in keeping our patients educated and informed as an important part of the treatment process. This allows you to play a much more active role in the process, and also helps you look forward to your journey towards a straighter smile, rather than dread it. Since our two most popular orthodontic treatments are traditional metal braces and Invisalign, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of each in order to give you all the information needed to help you decide which one could be the best fit for you, your smile, and your lifestyle. Start the new year off right with a resolution to take the first step towards a brighter, straighter, and more functional smile!

Braces basics 

Braces and Invisalign are both designed to straighten teeth over time while improving your smile and your overall oral health. Traditional metal braces have been around for a very long time, and are probably the most instantly recognizable orthodontic appliance. These braces also have a well-established history of treatment. The Invisalign system is a newer treatment option, with the most widespread use occurring in the last fifteen years or so, but it continues to increase in popularity all the time.

Beautiful young woman with teeth braces on gray

Different methods yield similar results

Traditional braces are composed of tiny metal brackets that have been attached to your teeth, and then tied together by wires and rubber bands. Modern orthodontics have greatly improved both the appearance and the comfort level of braces over the years, making today’s offerings less obvious and more comfortable than they’ve ever been before. There are also ways to personalize them, with different colored brackets and bands, or even brackets that more closely match your tooth enamel for a more subtle look.

On the other end of that spectrum, you have Invisalign, which is designed to be nearly invisible. Digital impressions are taken to create a precise 3D image of your teeth, and this is then used to create a custom-made aligner. The clear aligner trays are made from a comfortable, smooth plastic and worn over the teeth. These aligners will be switched out every week for the next one in the series as your teeth gradually move into the desired positions.

Comparing braces and Invisalign


The biggest difference between these two options is that braces are a fixed orthodontic appliance, while Invisalign’s clear aligners are considered removable appliances. Traditionally made of metal, braces could be accused of emphasizing function over style, but they are incredibly efficient at what they do. Braces are especially good at fixing complex tooth issues, and they often work faster at closing gaps and aligning teeth than Invisalign does, shortening the overall treatment time.

Speaking of treatment time, this will always vary from patient to patient, with the average amount of time spent in braces anywhere from 18 months to 3 years. But with metal braces, you’ll often begin to see some signs of improvement in just a short period of time. Even the slightest improvement in your smile can give your self-confidence a boost, and encourage you in your orthodontic journey!

Maintenance with metal braces tends to be a little bit more involved than it is with Invisalign. Although the brackets and wires can make cleaning tricky, good dental hygiene is a must for oral health. Fortunately, there are a number of accessories available that are designed to make cleaning easier, like water piks to help rinse those hard to reach places, or orthopicks for braces-specific flossing. As part of your routine, you’ll need to avoid several types of food while you’re in braces, namely anything too hard or too sticky. That means foods like apples, popcorn, gum, and other chewy, gooey favorites will need to take a back burner until you finish up your treatment.

Follow up visits for traditional braces are scheduled for about every 6-10 weeks. During these adjustment appointments, Dr. D will change the bands that are attached to the brackets, and the wire may be replaced as well. You’ll usually be in and out in a fairly short amount of time, and it’s really important to not skip these visits. They’re an important part of your treatment plan, and will help you get the very best results in the least amount of time. There may be some slight residual soreness after an adjustment, but it should be temporary.


The biggest selling points for Invisalign are also the reason for their popularity – the aligners are almost completely invisible, and they’re removable. Because the smooth plastic is easy on the mouth, it won’t irritate the gums or cheeks the way some brackets and wires might. And although the aligners aren’t quite the workhouse metal braces are, Invisalign is still an extremely efficient method for gently moving teeth, particularly in cases that aren’t very complicated.

Invisalign works in a different, less invasive way than braces to straighten teeth, so it can be hard to say just how long a patient will need to wear them. The average tends to be somewhere between 6 and 18 months, but this can vary widely from case to case. This average is calculated based on the patient following the recommended guidelines for wearing the aligners at least 20-22 hours every single day, throughout the entire treatment process. Deviating from this can add time to the overall process. The Invisalign system will only work if you stick to the program as directed.

Invisalign aligners are super simple to maintain. They are meant to be removed before eating or drinking anything other than water, so you don’t have to worry about food getting stuck in between your brackets and wires. You also remove them before brushing and flossing, allowing for easier access to your teeth which makes dental hygiene a much simpler process.

Because of this removability, there are no food restrictions with Invisalign! You will need to remove your aligners before all meals in order to avoid staining, and you’ll also need to clean and rinse them out with warm water whenever you perform your daily dental hygiene routine.

Invisalign wearers will have follow-up visits every 8-12 weeks or so, and you’ll be responsible for keeping up with changing your aligner out every week. This is an important part of the straightening process. The trays are custom designed to fit each patient’s unique dental needs, and need to be changed frequently in order to keep up with the shifting of the teeth as they straighten out. Skipping appointments or not changing your aligners when you’re scheduled to can quickly undo any progress you’ve made.

woman putting in invisalign

Bee Cave Orthodontics can help you decide

As you can see, it can be hard to pick a clear winner when comparing traditional braces and Invisalign! Adult and teen patients are often drawn to the discrete look of Invisalign, and its removability is an attractive feature, too. However, the success of the system depends almost entirely on the patient. If you don’t wear the aligners as directed, they just won’t work.

It’s also worth noting that for some complex dental issues, Invisalign may not even be an option. This is exactly why it’s important to work with an experienced practice like Bee Cave Orthodontics! Dr. D, along with our team, are familiar with treating challenging cases. As a skilled orthodontist and respected teacher and researcher, Dr. D stays on top of the latest developments in treatment, technology, and care. We encourage our patients to be engaged, informed, and an active partner in any treatment plan we design, whether it features traditional braces, Invisalign, or anything in between.

Why not start the new year with a plan in place for your best Bee Happy smile? If you’re in the Austin area and are interested in what braces or Invisalign with Bee Cave Orthodontics could offer you, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation at our conveniently located office. We look forward to seeing you smile!

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