With the American Association of Orthodontists estimating anywhere from 50-75% of Americans would benefit from orthodontic treatment, chances are good that you could be one of them! There are lots of things to love about a straighter smile. When your teeth and jaws are aligned, it’s easier to chew, brush, and speak properly. Orthodontic treatment can also help reduce the risk of chipping, tooth grinding, cavities, and periodontal disease. With so many advantages associated with straightening your smile, you may only have one question left: which orthodontic treatment is right for you?
The easiest way to find out which orthodontic treatment will work for you is to schedule a free consultation with us here at Griffin & Errera Orthodontics. During this initial visit, one of our expert doctors will complete an oral examination and determine the treatment method that will best address your specific needs, lifestyle, and goals. In the meantime, there are some important factors to consider when weighing up your options!
Appearance—Are you looking for something subtle or are you happy to sport more traditional braces while you work towards a straighter smile?
Convenience—What is your schedule like? How often will you be able to make trips to the orthodontist?
Compliance—Are you good at following guidelines? How much effort are you willing to put into progressing through treatment?
While there are pros and cons to every treatment option, all of them use the latest technology to make it faster, easier, and more comfortable to achieve your smile goals! But before we get into that, let’s break down the major differences between traditional braces and clear aligners.
When we talk about traditional braces, we’re referring to a system that uses a fixed appliance to move the teeth. Braces are available in both standard metal brackets and clear or tooth-colored ceramic brackets. These are affixed directly to the front or back surface of the teeth. The brackets work together with an archwire and elastics to gently guide the teeth into the desired positions over time.
Clear aligner systems like Invisalign use a series of removable appliances to shift the teeth. They sometimes use small tooth-colored shapes that are attached to the teeth during treatment, but the aligners themselves are designed to be removed for eating, drinking, and oral hygiene. This feature adds some extra flexibility to the treatment process, but it also means patient compliance is the most important factor to consider before committing to this treatment option.
It’s true that traditional braces are going to be more noticeable than clear aligners, but the extent to which they’re visible is sometimes up to the patient. Braces use tiny elastics to keep the archwire secure and these are available in many colors—this is a fun way to add a pop of personality to the treatment process! We can also make braces far less conspicuous by using clear or tooth-colored elastics with clear brackets.
Clear aligners are almost invisible, so if you’re looking for a discrete way to straighten your smile, Invisalign can be an excellent solution! While the level of transparency can vary based on how well you clean your aligners, it’s hard to get a set soiled enough that it’s noticeable before you switch to the next in the series. Remember, too, that some cases will require tooth-colored attachments on the teeth which snap into the aligners. These are typically pretty subtle, however, even with your aligners out.
Total treatment times will always vary from case to case, as every smile is unique and each patient responds to treatment in their own way. If time is an important part of your decision-making process, consider that the amount of time you spend in braces or clear aligners will often be about the same if you follow the guidelines you’re given. That being said, the LightForce brackets we use and our clear aligners can sometimes produce results more quickly than traditional braces.
Your bonding and debonding appointments with traditional braces—where we put them on and off—will be longer than the checkups you’ll have throughout your orthodontic journey. These are usually scheduled for every 8-10 weeks or so in our Middleburg, Warrenton, or Culpeper office. During these short visits, one of our doctors will ensure things are progressing as they should be and make any necessary adjustments. If you experience any broken brackets or wires, you may need to make additional trips.
We use digital planning to plot a course of clear aligner treatment for you. As with braces, your initial and final appointments will be longer, but you will likely have fewer checkup appointments during treatment. Since there are no brackets or wires to deal with, there tend to be fewer emergency-type appointments with clear aligners, too! If you break or lose an aligner, you’ll need to let us know so we can determine if it needs to be replaced or if you can move along to the next in the series.
Since braces are a fixed appliance, there’s less accountability on your shoulders. Our doctors do most of the hard work, while your biggest responsibilities are avoiding foods that can damage your braces and maintaining an excellent oral hygiene routine. If you have elastics, you’ll also need to wear those as directed by Dr. Griffin or Dr. Errera. But as long as you’re cooperative, the movements your teeth are making will ultimately be controlled by your orthodontist.
Patient compliance is a big deal with clear aligners. In order to work, the aligners must be worn for 20-22 hours each day throughout the treatment process. You’ll also be responsible for replacing each set with the next in the series every week or two depending on your treatment plan. Failure to do so can lead to longer treatment times and may even affect the final results. If you aren’t sure you can (or want) to handle the additional responsibility that comes with clear aligners, braces may be a better smile solution for you.
Even though today’s braces are lighter and more comfortable than previous designs, they still come with pokey components that can rub against your cheek, lips, or tongue. This can cause soreness sometimes, although orthodontic wax is a great way to relieve any discomfort until we can check you over. Clear aligners are made of a smoother material, but some patients need a little time for the gums to get used to the edges rubbing against them. There may also be some mild aching when it’s time to move into a new set of aligners, but overall, Invisalign tends to be a bit more comfortable overall than traditional braces.
Find the perfect treatment for your smile with Griffin & Errera Orthodontics
Braces and clear aligners are both excellent options for achieving a straighter smile and improved oral health! It’s important to note, however, that what works for one patient may not be a good fit for another so you should always work with an experienced orthodontic team like ours. If you’d like to learn more about how our treatments can transform your smile, get in touch today to schedule a free consultation with us!