Invisalign® treatment vs. braces: Which is best for your smile?

So, you’ve decided to get yourself a straighter smile—great choice! The perks are obvious: You'll feel more confident, improve your dental and oral health, and you'll love the way you look in photos.

But there's one big question left to answer: Should you get Invisalign® treatment or traditional braces? There are benefits to both options, so the best way to decide is to consult your dentist or orthodontist about your unique case.

But before you head to the dentist, we’ll explain what each treatment is, what they entail, and the considerations you need to make before choosing either option, so you’ll have everything you need to take the best possible path on your smile journey.

What are traditional braces?

Traditional dental braces are the classic way to straighten your teeth, consisting of metal brackets and wires secured onto the surface of the tooth with a resin cement. Since braces were first popularized in the medical field in the late 1800s,1 orthodontists have refined the teeth-straightening method, but the overall practice and appliances have largely remained unchanged.

As you might expect from such an enduring technique, metal braces certainly have their benefits:

  • Braces can treat a wide range of dental misalignments.

  • Braces are provided by a dentist or orthodontist.

  • Sometimes, braces can be more affordable than other orthodontic treatments.

Another important note: Depending on the case, braces generally take between 12 to 36 months2 to effectively straighten teeth.

What is Invisalign treatment?

Invisalign treatment is a modern orthodontic alternative to braces. The full treatment consists of a series of clear, custom-fit aligners, which gently reposition teeth into a straighter smile over time. Invisalign aligners are made with SmartTrack™ material, a strong but flexible plastic that results in a host of benefits:

  • Invisalign aligners provide a more comfortable3 experience than braces for the wearer.

  • Invisalign treatment is often completed faster than braces4 in many cases.

  • Invisalign aligners provide predictable results,5 so the wearer knows what to expect every step of the way.

So here’s how it works: Before you begin wearing Invisalign aligners, your dentist or orthodontist will digitally scan your teeth (don’t worry—it’s painless!). A few minutes later, the scan creates a digital image of what your teeth look like now and a simulation of what they could look like when you finish treatment. Then, you’ll begin wearing your first set of Invisalign aligners, and progress through your remaining sets of aligners based on a schedule set by your doctor.

For adults, Invisalign treatment usually takes around 12 to 18 months6 on average—but depending on your case, it could even be faster. The main takeaway here: Invisalign treatment is faster than braces.4

Brushing and flossing

Straightening your teeth is one thing, but no matter what route you choose to take, you have to keep them clean too—so which treatment makes brushing and flossing easiest?

With braces, you must be extra careful when cleaning around the metal appliances, which can be a pain—literally and figuratively. If you're not consistent with cleaning your teeth while you have braces, you're more likely to develop cavities and other problems.7

With Invisalign treatment, on the other hand, you can easily remove your clear aligners to brush and floss like normal, which makes it a lot easier to keep your teeth clean and healthy.

How each treatment looks

Well, we're not going to lie, braces are pretty noticeable. If you're not into the look of metal wires strapped to your teeth—or if you don’t want to advertise that you’re in orthodontic treatment every time you open your mouth—then braces might not be for you.

As the name suggests, Invisalign aligners are practically invisible, which is one of the main draws of the treatment. Not only are they less noticeable to other people, but you’ll be also able to see how your smile is shaping up at every step of the process.

Eating, comfort, and ease of use

With the delicate brackets and wires of braces, you’ll probably have to avoid eating crunchy or sticky foods like popcorn, apples, gummy candy, nuts, and corn on the cob for the entirety of your treatment. Also, if you aren’t careful to floss out any food stuck in your braces, you run the risk of running into some oral health issues.

What’s more, if those brackets and wires do break, they can poke or scratch the inside of your mouth, causing discomfort and inconvenience, since you might need to make an emergency trip to the dentist’s office to fix them. Unfortunately, even during a routine check-up for braces, the tightening process can be a bit uncomfortable too, as the dentist needs to poke around in your mouth quite a bit.

Because Invisalign aligners are removeable, you can essentially eat any food you want—just pop out your aligners before you eat and put them back in after you're done.

While teeth straightening is always a little uncomfortable as your facial bone structure adjusts to a healthier tooth alignment, Invisalign aligners don’t have any metal features, which means no pokey brackets and wires, and a lot more comfort overall.

Cost and payment

Let’s start with the easy answer: In general, braces cost anywhere from $5,000 to $6,0008, but it can be lower or higher based on where you live and how severe your case is.

Because of the advanced technology behind Invisalign treatment, Invisalign treatment is often a little more expensive than braces. The cost of Invisalign treatment is determined by the provider, how severe the case is, and a variety of other factors that the provider takes into consideration. That said, several payment options are available to make Invisalign treatment affordable for many patients.

How often will I need to see the dentist?

With traditional braces, you'll typically have to see your dentist or orthodontist every eight to ten weeks9 for adjustments. If you damage your braces in any way—which is not uncommon—you’ll find yourself in the dentist’s chair even more often.

Invisalign treatment, on the other hand, uses ClinCheck® treatment planning software, a powerful and sophisticated tool that takes your initial scan and generates the models for each aligner you’ll need throughout treatment. Once you receive those aligners, the only time you need to spend with the dentist is a periodic check-up to see if the aligners fit correctly.

With the My Invisalign™ app, you can also upload a photo of your treatment progress and check in with your provider through Invisalign® Virtual Care. That may save you a trip or two.

Fewer visits to the dentist means more time to enjoy the things you love. Invisalign treatment is way more convenient and less intrusive than traditional braces, so we’re going to give the win to Invisalign treatment here.

So, who’s the winner: Braces or Invisalign treatment?

While it can be more expensive, Invisalign treatment offers a range of benefits that traditional metal braces just can’t match. Is Invisalign treatment worth the extra investment? We say yes, but it’s always up to you and your dentist or orthodontist to decide.

If you want to consult with an Invisalign provider directly, use our Find a Doctor page to locate a provider near you.

Ready to start your Invisalign journey?

Discover if smile treatment is right for you.

Ready to start your Invisalign journey?

Discover if smile treatment is right for you.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website are for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your health care provider with any questions you may have regarding any dental or medical-related condition and never disregard or delay seeking such advice because of something you have read on this website.

Wonder if Invisalign treatment is right for you?

  1. Wahl N (February 2005). "Orthodontics in 3 millennia. Chapter 1: Antiquity to the mid-19th century". American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 127 (2): 255–9.
  3. Study sponsored by Align Technology and based on adult Class I, nonextraction, mild to moderate crowding cases with SmartTrack material. David W. White, Katie C. Julien, Helder Jacob, Phillip M. Campbell and Peter H. Buschang, Discomfort associated with Invisalign and traditional brackets: A randomized, prospective trial. The Angle Orthodontist Nov 2017, Vol. 87, No. 6 pp. 801-808
  4. Gu, J et al. Evaluation of Invisalign treatment effectiveness and efficiency compared with conventional fixed appliances using the Peer Assessment Rating index. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop February 2017;151:259-66Buschang, P et al. Comparative time efficiency of aligner therapy and conventional edgewise braces. Angle Orthodontist, Vol 84, No 3, 2014
  5. Compared to Invisalign aligners previously made from single-layer (EX30) material.
  6. Based on two-week wear.