What’s the Difference? Invisalign vs. Braces

Invisalign offers a welcome alternative treatment to the highly noticeable, often uncomfortable traditional dental braces. They are constructed of a clear material. These braces are not only virtually invisible but can also be used to correct many dental issues from over-crowding to gaps and overbites to simple bite irregularities. Although both braces and Invisalign address basically the same dental issues, there are some major differences between the two.

1. Understanding the Main Differences Between Traditional Braces and Invisalign

Traditional Braces

Traditional dental braces are used to correct more serious orthodontic issues, including:

  • Crowding
  • Protrusions
  • Alignment issues
  • Irregular spacing and/or crookedness

They work to adjust the placement of the teeth to both keep the bite healthy and to provide a more attractive smile.

Traditional braces use “brackets” and “arch wires” that require adjustments to help ease teeth into the proper position. These brackets and wires are affixed to the teeth, and elastic ties are used to secure them in a particular position. There are different materials available, including metal, ceramic, composite, or a combination of materials.

There are also now a variety of color options available for brackets to make them less noticeable. In some cases, the brackets can actually be attached to the back of the teeth.

Cement is used to affix the brackets to your teeth. The flexible arch wires are then attached to the brackets. Wires apply the pressure required to reposition the teeth. The final step is to connect replaceable elastic bands to the wires.

The initial process takes about 10 to 20 minutes. However, regular appointments are required every three to 10 weeks to replace the elastic bands and to make adjustments. During the adjustments, there is some discomfort expected. Today’s arch wires are designed to require less repositioning and to cause less discomfort.

The duration of treatment can last from less than six to eight months to two or more years, depending on what corrections are required. Once the braces are removed, a retainer is usually worn to avoid drifting.


Invisalign is a brand of clear aligners that you replace every few weeks at home. Conditions that can be treated using Invisalign include:

  • Overly crowded teeth
  • Widely spaced teeth
  • Overbite
  • Crossbite
  • Mild relapse following traditional braces
  • Simple bite irregularities

They are very popular because they are “invisible.” The clear aligners straighten teeth without affecting the appearance of your smile. Invisalign aligners are custom-fit to your teeth much like a mouthguard. They hold themselves in place comfortably and are also removable. 

The aligners are made following an initial consultation where impressions and photos are taken of your teeth. The aligners are then created using CAD/CAM technology. Once fabricated, they are sent to your dentist.

You are provided with several sets of aligners that do not require adjustment. Instead, you simply change aligners according to a schedule that is usually replaced every two weeks. It is always advisable to switch to a new set at night before bed as there can be some discomfort as your teeth adjust to the new fit. You can take a mild pain reliever as you adjust. When you wake in the morning, the discomfort will have subsided.

You can remove the aligners to eat and brush and floss your teeth. Other than that, they must be worn at least 20 hours per day to be effective.

In most cases, treatment can be completed in a year or less for adults and about 18 months for teens.

How Does Invisalign Work?

The custom-made series of clear plastic orthodontic aligners are made in a series with each new aligner designed to slowly and gently ease your teeth closer and closer to their ideal position. Because the aligners are sent home with the patient, you do not require adjustments at the dental office.

As mentioned, they are changed every two weeks to straighten your teeth and ease them into the proper position. It can take a year or less for adults and about 18 months for teens to complete treatment.

The computer-generated images of your teeth are used to create your customized aligners. The first set of aligners will fit the current configuration of your teeth, and each additional aligner will change in position slightly.

You usually require between 18 to 30 sets.

Read more here about how Invisalign works.

2. Which Procedure Is Faster?

As mentioned, Invisalign takes about 18 months to produce straight teeth for teens. However, depending on the correction, adults often see results in less than a year. Traditional braces may take up to two years or more depending on the seriousness of the correction.

3. Effectiveness of Invisalign vs Braces

Invisalign provides braces that are virtually invisible while still providing the same results as traditional braces. Invisalign benefits include:

  • They do not affect the look of your smile
  • They are removable for meals and dental hygiene
  • You have less dental hygiene challenges as food does not get caught in them, and you can maintain your usual oral hygiene regimen
  • You can avoid damage caused by metal braces such as lacerations to your inner cheeks
  • No missed work or school for adjustments at the orthodontist
  • Reduced risk of tooth decay and staining caused by traditional braces

The one thing of note regarding effectiveness for Invisalign is improper use. With traditional braces, you depend on your orthodontist and the braces to do their job without any influences from your habits. However, with Invisalign, the treatment is dependent on self-management. If you fail to switch them at the right time or forget to put them back in after eating or brushing your teeth at night, you will not see the desired results.

4. What Is the Average Cost of Invisalign (Compared to Braces)?

Braces range from $3,000 to $7,000 and are often covered by dental insurance plans. Invisalign ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, and it is also becoming more common for some dental insurance plans to cover a percentage of the cost.

Read more about using your flexible spending account (FSA) to pay for dental treatment here.

5. Which Option Is Right for Me?

Your cosmetic dentist can determine the option that is best for you. However, as a general rule:

Dental braces

  • Candidates are generally people over the age of eight with crowded, crooked, protruding, misaligned, or irregularly spaced teeth.
  • According to the American Dental Association, children should receive an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to look for developing concerns.
  • Adults can also be candidates, often seeking treatment related to the aesthetics of their smile.
  • If you have tooth decay or gum disease, these issues will first need to be corrected prior to treatment.


  • Candidates tend to have less serious orthodontic cases.
  • Ideal for simpler orthodontic fixes over a shorter duration.
  • Approved for use on adults and teenagers with fully erupted, permanent teeth.
  • Young children are not usually good candidates due to self-management issues.

Related Article: What are the 3 most common cosmetic dentistry procedures to enhance your smile?

As you can see, Invisalign offers an excellent alternative to traditional braces. If you would like to learn more about Invisalign, the team of dentists at the offices of Thomas L. Anderson, DDS and Associates can help you make the right choices to obtain the perfect smile and bite.

Contact us today to schedule your dental appointment and meet with our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.