Invisalign vs Braces

I saw the invisalign video on tv and it made it seem it works like normal metal braces. Can someone explain the difference between invisalign and braces?

Doctor Answers 35

Invisalign has REAL LIMITATIONS - just ask any orthodontist!

Let's be clear:  I LOVE INVISALIGN....about as much as I love a screwdriver. 

If I have a screw, I love my screwdriver.   But if I have a nail, I love my hammer.  

The 4 Primary Differences between Invisalign and Braces capabilities:  

1.  Invisalign cannot predictably control any changes in back tooth bite relationships.  In fact, it can really cause back tooth bite problems if you try to move the back teeth and fall short of your goals. Braces can control back tooth bite relationships readily. 

2.  Invisalign cannot predictably rotate cylindrical teeth (such as canines and premolars) because it lacks predictable "friction grip", but invisalign can readily rotate angular teeth, such as incisors, because this does not require only requires point force at a distance away from the center of the tooth.  Example:  USING 1 finger from EACH hand, try to turn a drinking glass that is cylindrical versus one that has 4 sides.  With the cylindrical glass, you will need to try to squeeze your fingers toward each other (producing friction grip) to rotate the cylindrical glass.  With the 4 sided glass, you only need to apply forces in opposite directions at the square corners of the friction grip needed.  That is why Invisalign cannot rotate cylindrical objects predictably.  Braces, on the other hand, are glued to teeth, and therefore have absolute friction, and can thereby rotate any tooth.  Voila!

3.  Invisalign cannot predictably accomplish uprighting root movements:  I don't know how to effectively communicate that in text.  It would require a picture.  Braces accomplish this readily.

4.  Invisalign cannot predictably accomplish vertical movements, as the aligner is designed to release in the vertical plane of space.  Braces accomplish this readily.

Bottom Line:  I love invisalign for patients that do not need Bite correction, rotation of cylindrical teeth, root uprighting, or vertical tooth movements.

Of course, I should also note that the Invisalign company knows these limits.  As such, they have produced "buttons" (glued onto teeth like braces) that are meant to "improve" these weaknesses.  But I find these buttons very inefficient, and often ineffective.  So while some cases will demonstrate success, I would not allow my patients to be exposed to cases that have the above 4 problems, regardless of the "button" it is truly just an attempt.  And the idea of "attempting" something is not my approach to healthcare.  Not when esthetic "braces" options can predictably solve all the orthodontic problems.

It is a question of PREDICTABILITY you see.  And Invisalign PREDICTABLY fails and succeeds based on the 4 limits I have outlined above.

I particularly appreciate the experienced comments of the orthodontists on this site (Dr. Tam, Depew, Cigna, and Walton).  They know the difference between a screwdriver (Invisalign) and a hammer (Braces)...because they use both every day!  : )

Boston Orthodontist

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Invisalign great for those who don't want metal braces

I consider Invisalign treatment to be primarily esthetic rather than functional. Although in the 11 years that I have been using Invisalign the process has improved dramatically! 

Conventional "fixed" (clear or metal braces) orthodontic treatment is still superior to Invisalign in that the brackets are bonded to the teeth which gives us better control of the teeth compared to removable clear Invisalign aligners that depend on 100% patient compliance.

Invisalign is a good choice for people who will not wear metal braces, have TMD (jaw joint) problems or those with periodontal (gum and bone issues) problems.

Dr Gay Kloberdanz, Orthodontist 

Greeley, CO

Gary Kloberdanz, DDS, MS
Greeley Orthodontist

What is the difference between Invisalign and braces?

What a great question!  After reading a number of doctor responses I noticed something very interesting.  The orthodontists answering the question generally praised Invsalign as a great tool for some cases, but not all.  Many of the dentists emphasized that Invisalign is a great way to straighten teeth, period.  Both messages are correct.  The difference is that many orthodontists offer both braces and Invisalign for their patients and can choose the one they feel will work the best in a particular case.  Many dentists do not offer braces so they cannot offer the same choice to their patients.  If you want to be well informed about whether Invisalign is a good choice for your case I would suggest seeking several opinions including at least one from a doctor who can offer both braces and Invisalign.  That way you'll be able to choose the approach that's best for you.

Brian Povolny, DDS, PhD
Seattle Orthodontist
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Invisalign can provide great results, but it is not for everyone

Invisalign is a great way to treat many kinds of malocclusions or bad bites. Since it uses a series of specially made aligners that are removable there are two things to be sure you understand before undergoing the expense of this treatment. First that it requires absolute compliance with wearing the aligners as instructed. Second, it does have its limitations. These limitations are influenced by the experience and skill of the doctor overseeing your care and the types of movements your teeth need. An orthodontic specialist with experience in both fixed braces and removable aligner treatment is best suited to help you decide which is better for your situation, as both modalities have their pros and cons.

Doug Depew, DMD
Atlanta Orthodontist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Using Invisalign vs. metal braces

Hi Joel

I have seen this study and unfortunately, while these numbers are discouraging, there are practitioners such as myself that find more consistent results.

To quote Willy Dayan, a speaker at the Invisalign Orthodontic Summit, you have to think like plastic. Too many Invisalign certified providers do not understand the major differences between moving teeth with plastic vs metal/ceramics.

I do not challenge the fact that the numbers in the study are accurate. I do, however, feel that there are too many people using Invisalign without a true understanding of how it should be used. Furthermore, many of the clinchecks that come back show a lot of intercanine expansion, which likely contributes to relapse.

A prudent practioner would not violate commonly accepted orthodontic principles but simply look at Invisalign as an alternative way to provide optimum care.

Jason K. Tam, DDS
Toronto Orthodontist

Invisalign vs braces

invisalign is another tool that dentist/orthodontist use.  Like any other orthodontic appliance, it has limitations.  Its not a great appliance to correct extreme malocclusion . Malocclusion is the way your upper and lower Jaw relate to each other.  It can help improving the esthetics of your teeth, but you won't be able to get to normal occlusion with invislaign ALONE.  Its a great tool to use in the right cases, but its never a repalcement to braces.  Its a good idea to get more than one professional openion and I'm sure they will guide you the right way.

Hasan Othman, DDS, MS, PhD
Lombard Orthodontist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Invisalign vs. Traditional Metal Braces: What is the difference?

Orthodontics (using braces or Invisalign) is the term we use for straightening teeth to a more ideal position to look better and function better. Invisalign uses a series of clear plastic trays to accomplish this movement, while traditional braces uses metal wires to achieve the movement.

  • Invisalign used to be used only for simple cases (like slightly crowded lower teeth, for instance). Now it is used for all kinds of cases - even advanced cases.
  • Invisalign may be used to straighten crooked or crowded teeth, closing unsightly gaps, correcting deep bite, correcting bites out of alignment, and even some TMJ issues.
  • I have used Invisalign for all kinds of cases (simple to extreme). It has been my experience that Invisalign works faster than traditional metal braces.
  • Patients love Invisalign. No one can see that they are wearing braces, and the trays are comfortable and easy to use. Also, you can use whitening gel in the trays and whiten your teeth while you straighten them.

In fact, I like the product so much, I became a patient. I'm almost finished with Invisalign - my bite is improved and my smile is better than ever.

Susan Goode Estep, DMD
Atlanta Cosmetic Dentist
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Invisalign and braces can give you the straight teeth you want

Invisalign is a series of clear aligners that fit over your teeth that incrementally move your teeth into the desired straight position.

The aligners are replaced every two weeks and are worn about 22 hours during the day. They are removed to eat and drink but can be worn while drinking water.

Invisalign is most effective at treating minor to moderate tooth crowding or spacing issues.

Invisalign is a great way to achieve straight teeth and still be comfortable in social situations. They are comfortable and speech is most often not affected.

Traditional braces utilize either metal or ceramic tooth-colored brackets to move teeth into the desired position. In many cases, traditional braces tend to move teeth faster and are recommended for more complex movements.

Ryan Sellinger, DMD
Manhattan Cosmetic Dentist

Invisalign is a terrific method for tooth movement that...

Invisalign is a terrific method for tooth movement that is not complex. They are clear, computer-generated trays that are worn ideally 24 hours a day and are changed to a new tray every 2 weeks.

Most cases take 6 months to a year, and then some type of retention is needed after so the teeth do not shift back. My patients love this because the trays are relatively invisible.

You cannot eat or drink anything but water with them in but they are easy to remove.

Conventional braces are colored metal or resin brackets that are bonded to the face of the tooth and a wire is run through them. The are not removable, have more potential for complex tooth movement, and usually works a bit faster.

Most adults prefer the Invisalign since they are easily removed, easily cleaned, and undetectable when worn.

Jennifer Jablow, DDS
New York Cosmetic Dentist

Invisalign is computer generated. After very careful...

Invisalign is computer generated. After very careful impressions and photos are taken, the patient is shown not only the final result but the progression of tooth movement.

After patient acquiescence, a series of clear, aesthetic trays are delivered for the patient to wear consecutively during which time her dentist periodically checks her.

Conventional braces are bonded to the patient’s teeth and pressure is used to move the teeth to the desired final result. The patient must be seen regularly for adjustments. It is not as aesthetic, but very effective.

Braces are frequently not the orthodontist's sole modality – palate expanding, for example, utilizing a metal framework is one of other techniques.

Irwin Smigel, DDS
Manhattan Cosmetic Dentist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.