Do braces get your teeth straighter than other methods?

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Todd Ehrler

DDS, MS

Table of Contents

  1. Traditional Braces
  2. Clear Aligners
  3. Investigate Options
  4. References

Braces have been the go-to dental appliance for straightening teeth for decades, but today, people have other options. With the growing popularity of doctor-monitored, at-home aligners, more people are interested in using this approach instead of metal-based braces and retainers.

Clear aligners can correct many misalignment issues, including gaps and crowded teeth. However, they may not be the best option for more serious dental misalignments.

Many people get braces in their teenage years, but teeth can still become misaligned in adulthood. Orthodontists report a 34 percent rise in adults pursuing straighter teeth, using a variety of orthodontic devices.

If you have a smile you are less than proud of in adulthood, you may start seeking out more subtle options than traditional braces. For mild to moderate cases, braces won’t get your teeth straighter than aligners, but for severe cases, they might.

Traditional braces work for all misalignment issues.

Dental braces are appliances that use metal wires and either metal or ceramic brackets to push your teeth into alignment. These devices are able to correct most types of misalignment in your teeth, including crowding, crooked teeth, gaps or spacing problems, and malocclusions of your jaw. With advancements in materials like ceramics and stainless steel, current versions of traditional braces are more lightweight, smaller, and more effective than ever before.

Materials used in today’s braces include:

  • Stainless steel brackets and wires.
  • Ceramic brackets with stainless steel wires.
  • Self-ligating elastic and metal bands.

The types of braces that your orthodontist will recommend depend on several factors, including how serious your misalignment is, if you have an overbite or underbite, and how old you are. Adults have teeth that are more firmly rooted in their gums, so you may need a stronger option to make your smile straighter, particularly if you have these more serious issues.

Braces are customized to your mouth, with your orthodontist gluing each metal or ceramic bracket into place and then stringing stainless steel wire and/or rubber bands around the brackets to put a specific amount of pressure on your teeth. You will visit your orthodontist many times over the course of your treatment, so they can tighten the wires as your teeth become more aligned and your jaw reshapes.

Traditional braces are bonded to the external surface of your teeth, on the front. When you smile, people will see that you have braces, even if you have ceramic brackets that match the color of your teeth.

You can ask about having brackets placed on the lingual side of your teeth instead. But this may not work for your specific misalignment issues. Also, lingual braces can affect how you talk and chew, so it takes some time to get used to them.

If you use traditional braces, your treatment plan will be customized to the severity of your misalignment and will include other devices like a retainer after your braces are removed. The entire course may take between one and three years, on average.

If you follow your orthodontist’s instructions, you will wear braces for the least amount of time possible. If you accidentally snap a wire or band, for example, then you may need to wear braces longer.

Although aligners work well for mild to moderate issues, an orthodontist may recommend braces for more severe cases.

Clear aligners for a barely visible smile treatment.

Since Invisalign was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, clear aligners have become the most popular option for adults who want to straighten their teeth. Typically, these aligners are considered invisible braces since they align your teeth by exerting pressure, similarly to traditional braces.

Several companies offer clear aligners through the mail. Some require only one in-person appointment and ongoing virtual sessions with an orthodontist. Others don’t involve any in-person visits. You take your own impressions at home, and your treatment plan is then created and overseen by a doctor.

Aside from Invisalign, options for straightening your teeth with clear aligners include:

  • Candid
  • SmileDirectClub
  • Byte

Aligners are plastic or polyurethane, whereas braces are metal or ceramic with some acrylic or plastic parts. They work more like a retainer, but they exert more pressure to align your bite since they fully surround your teeth.

Rather than having brackets placed into your mouth and tightened, you will receive a series of clear aligners that are adjusted to your current bite. Each new size will push your teeth a little more. You should wear these all day, taking them out only to eat and care for your teeth. Each set of aligners will be replaced about every two weeks.

The number of aligners you receive will depend on how much of an alignment change you need. Mild or moderate cases of crooked or gapped teeth typically require about six months of clear aligners, as long as you wear them exactly as your treatment team instructs. If you do not follow the directions on how long to wear your aligners, or you have a more significant misalignment in your teeth, you may wear more aligners for a year or longer.

One medical study found that people who use clear aligners have better periodontal health than those who have traditional braces. This is because aligners are removable, which makes them easier to clean. It is also easier for you to brush and floss your teeth, and care for your whole mouth. Adults who use invisible aligners also report greater overall satisfaction with their orthodontic treatment.

If you want to straighten your teeth, it is important to get an idea of the severity of your misalignment issues. While doctor-monitored, at-home aligners have advanced greatly and can improve many different types of issues, they won’t work for every case. If you have complex issues, you may still need traditional braces to get the straight teeth you want.

Investigate the best options for your case.

Aligners are a great option for many people who want straighter teeth and an improved smile. These aligners work as well as traditional braces, and they typically require less time to correct minor issues like gaps or crookedness.

They also offer a more discreet teeth-straightening option since they aren’t as obvious as metal or even ceramic braces. If you have an important meeting, you can remove the aligners for this short period of time. You don’t have this option with braces.

In some cases, however, braces can give you straighter teeth than aligners or other options. This is simply because some cases are too severe for aligners to effectively treat them. If you have a severe overbite or underbite, several missing teeth, major jaw misalignment, and some other issues, braces may work best. You may need additional orthodontic appliances, such as headgear, to effectively straighten your smile.

Many people would first like to see if they are a candidate for aligners. You’ll take impressions of your teeth at home, mail them in, and a treatment team will then assess whether aligners will work for you. If they won’t, braces may be your best bet.

References.

Orthodontic Treatments. (January 2020). National Health Service (NHS.uk).

Are Braces Better Than Invisalign? (November 2013). DentistryIQ.

Are You Too Old for Braces? Harvard Medical School.

FAQ. Invisalign.

All About Clear Aligners. Orthodontics Australia.

Braces vs. Invisalign: Gingival Parameters and Patients’ Satisfaction During Treatment: A Cross-Sectional Study. (June 2015). British Medical Journal Oral Health.


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