In this feature, we look at traditional wire and bracket dental braces vs Invisalign clear aligners.
Dental Braces FAQ
Q. What do braces do?
A. Dental braces correct teeth that are crowded, crooked, protruding, out of alignment or have irregular spacing. By moving the teeth into the ideal position, dental braces help to create a more attractive and healthier smile for both children and adults.
Q. What are braces made of?
A. Dental brace wires are made of materials that reposition the teeth and underlying roots more readily and with less discomfort than in the past. Titanium implants may be anchored in the bone on the side of the mouth or palate to help shift teeth back and allow for more room if necessary.
Q. Are there different types of braces?
A. Yes. There are invisible braces that are clear aligners (such as Invisalign and ClearCorrect) that gradually move your teeth to correct spacing and crowding issues. There also are tooth-colored brackets and wires that are less noticeable, as well as braces that can be placed on the lingual (back side) of the teeth. In addition, some braces can be worn for shorter periods of time.
(Read more about invisible braces)
Q. What is the cost for braces?
A. The cost of orthodontic treatment with dental braces is approximately $3,000 to $8,000. The cost of invisible braces is approximately the same or higher than traditional orthodontic treatment, which ranges from $2,500 to $8,000. Products such as Invisalign Full may cost more than traditional braces, but they typically range from $3,500 to $8,000. The national average cost is approximately $5,000.
Costs vary due to the severity of the orthodontic problem, as well as regional differences in fees. The cost for Invisalign Teen treatment is approximately $5,000, which is about the same as the cost for traditional braces. Invisalign Express treatment requires fewer aligners than the full treatment, so the cost is less and ranges between $1,800 and $3,500, with $2,500 being the average. The average cost of ClearCorrect Limited treatment is approximately $2,500 to $3,500. The average cost of ClearCorrect Full treatment is approximately $4,000 to $5,500. The cost for such treatments as Six Months Smiles is typically less than the overall cost of traditional braces, averaging as little as $3,900 for treatment that includes the upper and lower arches. This fee usually includes the cost for any retainers required after treatment.
Q. What is a retainer?
A. A retainer is a small, custom-fit removable appliance made of plastic and metal most often used after wearing dental braces to hold teeth in position. Upper retainers fit in the roof of the mouth and lower retainers can be removed or permanently fixed to lower teeth. Removable retainers also can be worn to close gaps or spaces between teeth, or to move a single tooth when full braces aren't necessary.
Q. How much do retainers cost?
A. A retainer usually is included in the overall fee for braces. When retainers are recommended to correct a minor overbite without the need for braces, retainer costs may range from $500 to $1,000. This cost incorporates office visits, X-rays and fittings.
(Read more about dental retainers)
Q. How long do you keep braces on for?
A. The standard treatment phase is two years. The duration of treatment varies based on age, the extensiveness of the procedure (some people require more work than others) and how closely the treatment plan is followed. Some orthodontic options, such as Six Month Smiles, provide teeth straightening of the front teeth only in approximately six months if certain criteria are met.
Q. What causes crooked teeth?
A. There are several factors that may contribute to misalignment, crooked teeth, and crowded teeth, including supernumerary teeth (extra teeth; also called hyperdontia), missing teeth, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking and jaw function problems.
Q. Why are braces necessary?
A. When teeth are crooked and crowded, it's very difficult to keep them clean by brushing and flossing properly, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss. An improper bite interferes with chewing and speaking, and causes abnormal wear on tooth enamel. If your teeth protrude and/or your upper and lower teeth don't come together comfortably (called malocclusion, or a bad bite), jaw problems also may arise.
Q. What's the right age to have braces?
A. Orthodontic treatment with dental braces should usually begin between the ages of eight and 14 in order to achieve the best results. It is ideal to have an orthodontic evaluation no later than the age of seven, since this is when there is a good mix of primary (baby) and adult teeth in the mouth. Dentists are better able to spot developing teeth and jaw growth at this time in a child's life, which enables them to anticipate problems that may arise and plan braces treatment accordingly.
Q. Do braces work for adults?
A. Yes. Adults also can benefit from orthodontic treatment with dental braces to correct alignment, spacing, crowding and malocclusion problems. The process for moving teeth is basically the same at any age, but the treatment may take longer for adults because their facial bones are no longer growing, and certain corrections may not be possible utilizing braces alone. Tooth extraction or maxillofacial surgery may be required.
Q. Are braces painful?
A. When dental braces are first placed and later adjusted, there may be some tightness, which typically progresses to soreness, for approximately four to six hours after the appointment. This soreness directly results from the dentist tightening the arch wires so the teeth continue to move into the correct position. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are recommended to help relieve this pain. The soreness will decrease in about three to five days.
Q. Who provides braces?
A. Orthodontists are the dentists specializing in the practice of orthodontics, which involves tooth movement and facial development, and the dental professionals who most often perform braces treatments. Non-orthodontists, such as those who undergo manufacturer-sponsored training programs in the use of braces alternatives such as Invisalign and Clear Correct aligners, as well as Six Month Smiles rapid braces treatment, also may provide types of limited orthodontic services.
(Read more about choosing an orthodontist)