Let’s get things straight: The difference between Invisalign and braces

16 December 2019

If you’re considering a treatment to straighten your teeth, there are two main options: a clear, mouth guard-like aligner known as Invisalign, and braces. Deciding which option to go with can cause a bit of a toothache.

You may be asking yourself, what’s the difference, is there a better option, how much will each cost, and ultimately which one should I go for? To help you get things straight, we’ve broken down some of the ins and outs of each procedure.

What’s the difference between Invisalign and braces?

Invisalign and braces are both treatments a dentist might recommend in order to help straighten a patient’s teeth. While their purpose is much the same, they differ when it comes to the materials used, who they may be suited to, how they are used by the wearer and ultimately how they actually help to straighten your teeth.

Let’s look a bit closer at what’s involved with each method.

What are braces?

According to Bupa Dental, braces are an orthodontic device that applies even and constant pressure to your teeth in order to straighten them.

Before braces are placed in a patient’s mouth by an orthodontist, Bupa Dental explains that separators (dental rubber bands) may be positioned between the back molar teeth to create space. 

What Are Braces?
Source: Alex Mit (Shutterstock)

These separators are removed after enough space has been created and bands are placed around the molars to anchor the braces. At this point, small brackets are glued onto each tooth and wire is placed through and attached to the bands. Once installed, the device applies pressure on the teeth which is designed to move them into a straighter position. 

Your dentist will likely book you in for follow up visits in order to check on progress and to make any adjustments to the tension of the braces so that they continue to apply the necessary pressure and movement. You may have braces inserted on both your top and bottom row of teeth or just one depending on your individual situation. 

There are three kinds of braces; metal, ceramic and lingual.

Metal: This stainless steel device is considered the most traditional option by dentists. In most cases, they are the most affordable option in orthodontics. 

Metal Braces
Source: Olga Miltsova (Shutterstock)

Ceramic: With this style, tooth-coloured, ceramic-made brackets are used with a white wire, making them less visible.

Ceramic Braces
Source: Sergey Novikov (Shutterstock)

Lingual: With this style, brackets are custom designed to fit onto a patient’s teeth, with a wire joining the brackets together and pulling the teeth into position. Because of the custom design, this method may take longer to create and install and could cost more than other options. 

Lingual Braces
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What is Invisalign?

Mimicking the look of a mouth guard, Invisalign is marketed as ‘invisible braces’ and is a specific brand of clear aligners that apply force to the teeth in order to cause movement and straighten them.

After your initial consultation with your orthodontist, a 3D image of your teeth will be created and a set of aligners is designed specifically to meet your needs. 

What Is Invisalign?
Source: REDPIXEL.PL (Shutterstock)

The patient would typically wear each aligner for two weeks before moving onto the next one in the set. With each aligner, teeth move incrementally until the desired result is reached.

Which will I need to wear for longer: Invisalign or braces?

There is no exact time frame as every individual case is different, but according to the Australian Society of Orthodontics, an estimated period for a patient to need to wear braces is between six months and three years, depending on the treatment option and the severity of the condition. On the other hand, Invisalign treatment usually takes an estimated 12 to 18 months and must be worn for 20-22 hours a day for changes to be made, according to Perth-based clinic The Orthodontists. 

Which costs more: Invisalign or braces?

Cost of braces

Prices for braces range depending on how long the treatment lasts and what kind of braces you choose to go with. To give you an idea of cost, Orthodontics Australia lists the following price estimates for braces:

Metal: $5,500 to $8,000

Ceramic: $6,000 to $9,000

Lingual: $9,000 to $12,000

Bear in mind the above prices are for a full set of braces (top and bottom teeth). 

Cost of Invisalign

According to Invisalign, cost can be determined by factors such as how complex your case is, the length of your treatment and your chosen provider. Australian Dentist Clinics estimates the cost to be up to $7,000.  Dental Lounge principal dentist, Dr Gamer Verdian, told Canstar that in his experience the cost of Invisalign can range between $2,500 and $9,000. 

In short, the price could vary significantly, so it may be worth speaking to a number or specialists to get a sense of the costs you have to choose from.

Will my private health insurance cover braces or invisalign?

The cost of orthodontic treatments such as Invisalign or braces may well be partly covered under the extras health insurance policy option of ‘major dental’. How much of the cost it covers will depend on your provider and your specific policy. 

But remember that before claiming on an extras policy, you may need to serve a waiting period of up to 12 months. A waiting period is the amount of time that you must be with your insurance provider before they will accept a claim. 

If you don’t have health insurance and are considering other payment options for your braces or Invisalign, Australian Dental Association president Dr Carmelo Bonanno recommends researching any credit options or payment plans carefully before signing up.

“We are aware of many of these products and advise consumers to fully research and understand the costs and their obligations before entering into such arrangements,” he told Canstar. 

Possible pros and cons of Invisalign and braces

Deciding which option is best for you can be tricky, so compiling a pros and cons list may help in deciding. We’ve rounded up some of the potential pros and cons of each.

Pros Cons
Three different options available More noticeable
No extra cleaning steps needed Possible discomfort from wires
Can’t be removed so less chance of losing them or forgetting to put them back in Difficulty eating certain foods


Pros Cons
Clear, making it an almost invisible teeth straightener Not suitable for all orthodontic case
Ability to remove them when eating/drinking May become stained
No wires Must be removed when eating or drinking anything besides water

Are there any side-effects?

With any procedure, even with cosmetic dentistry, a patient may experience side affects. According to Blue Ridge Orthodontics, side effects of braces may include:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Irritation 
  • Difficulty eating
  • Jaw pain
  • An allergic reaction

On the other hand, according to Fine Orthodontics, side effects of Invisalign may include:

  • Discomfort
  • Speech issues
  • An allergic reaction 
  • Bad breath 
  • Biting inside of mouth 

Dr Verdian recommends making regular visits to your orthodontic procedure to avoid any chance of a serious issue arising. 

“If these treatments are not monitored and planned correctly, there can be far reaching consequences such as shortening of the roots and tooth damage, in extreme cases tooth loss,” he says. 

“Excellent oral hygiene is required to commence orthodontic treatment because the risks of cavities and other dental conditions are accelerated.”

Side Effects Of Braces and Invisalign
Source: Antonio Guillem (Shutterstock)

Invisalign or braces: Which should I choose?

There’s no simple answer to this question. As well as doing your own research and considering the factors mentioned above, it’s important to listen to any recommendation you receive from your orthodontist on which treatment will best suit your situation.

Braces Or Invisalign?
Source: aslysun (Shutterstock)

For example, Dr Verdian suggests that the severity of the issue being remedied and the patient’s age could be among the key factors that could be taken into consideration. But ultimately, he says neither is a perfect solution for all situations.  

“Invisalign doesn’t have the same capabilities for complex orthodontic treatment, in particular people with large overbites or for younger children,  while with braces we are often asked to end the treatment early as our patients get tired of wearing braces and end up fatigued with the process and appearance,” he says.

Main image source: aslysun (Shutterstock)

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