Let’s talk clear aligners and braces when it comes to modern dentistry. Each year, a significant number of Americans sign up for braces, seeking to straighten their teeth for a healthy and confident smile. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, more than six million people in the country will have traditional metal braces—a third of whom are adults.
In the past, braces were a specialized product limited to those who could afford cosmetic oral treatment. Additionally, having braces was often an uncomfortable and drawn-out process.
But now, thanks to the emergence of new dental technology like clear aligners and intraoral scanners, orthodontic care has become more affordable, accessible, and accelerated than ever.
How do clear aligners vs braces stack up with one another? We’ve created a guide for the perfect smile.
Braces: The traditional way
Braces are the conventional orthodontic treatment for individuals who desire straight teeth and an aligned bite. These tools can slowly help correct teeth issues like crooked, misaligned, or crowded teeth.
In most instances, traditional braces are made of metal.
Typically, a specialist like an orthodontist, affixes brackets and bands to each tooth and then threads a flexible wire through the brackets, which creates the necessary pressure to maneuver the teeth to the desired positioning. In certain patients, specialty measures like rubber bands, metal ties, or even nighttime headgear may require implementation as well.
The pros and cons of traditional braces
Why would a patient consider getting metal braces? Some of the common advantages include the following:
- They’re a proven orthodontic treatment – Braces are a tried and tested method of straightening teeth. They may require some patience, but they will eventually get the job done.
- A winning smile – It’s been proven that patients are left with straighter teeth and a more aligned bite after the course of treatment.
- Solutions for severe orthodontic problems – If a patient has an impacted tooth or a misaligned bite (an underbite or overbite), braces may be the solution. Braces are capable of treating intensive orthodontic issues because of the specialty equipment capabilities and the regular attention of the orthodontic specialist.
But why are a growing number of patients choosing clear aligners over traditional braces? Much of this has to do with the inherent design flaws of conventional braces—issues that newly emerging treatments like clear aligners don’t pose. For instance:
- They can be aesthetically unpleasing – Metal braces look much better off than on. Having a bunch of metal in your mouth isn’t exactly a desirable look—especially since braces can be a magnet for food particles.
- They can be painful – This is likely the single most pressing factor—braces are uncomfortable at best, and excruciating at worse. The wire and brackets can rub and poke, causing blisters and cuts in the cheek. And every time the wire is adjusted, the patient’s mouth may be sore for days.
- They aren’t the most convenient – Having dental braces attached and adjusted is not always a pleasant procedure—and for dental professionals, it takes up valuable chair time. The oral health care provider must regularly take analog oral impressions, which are time-consuming, prone to error, and uncomfortable for patients with a strong gag reflex.
Clear aligners: The new digital solution
Clear aligners work similarly to braces, but better.
They’re the next generation of orthodontic care—in other words, the smarter, kinder, and less obtrusive version of braces. Clear aligners are purposefully designed to eliminate many of their predecessor’s more universal pain points. This is why, according to Fortune Business Insights, “the global clear aligners market is projected to grow from $2.85 billion in 2021 to $10.04 billion in 2028.”
So, how do clear aligners work compared to fixed braces? As the name suggests, these orthodontic products are practically invisible. Instead of metal brackets and wires, small clear beads are affixed to the teeth. From there, the patient receives clear plastic trays that they wear for 10 to 14 days before proceeding to the next set of trays.
With solutions like Dandy clear aligners, the initial appointment is much more patient-friendly. Instead of subjecting them to analog impressions, the dental care provider can use an intraoral scanner to rapidly take 3D digital impressions, which will then be used to develop the optimal clear aligner treatment plan.
From there, the patients can see a video of how their teeth would move with each set of trays—all the way to the final result.
Finally, using CAD/CAM technology, digital labs can make micro-adjustments to the trays to ensure proper spacing and alignment for a flawless, snug fit.
Clear aligners come with clear benefits
What are the common reasons clear aligners are replacing traditional metal braces? For dental clinics and patients, some of the immediate benefits include the following:
- Streamlined and simplified dental workflows – The ability to take digital impressions and then have a set dental treatment plan reduces the time a dentist needs to spend on each dental patient. What used to take an hour of chair time in an orthodontist’s office each week now only takes minutes with the progressive tray approach of clear aligners. Patients get to be in and out and have to take less time away from the schedule for repeat appointments, which can be a critical help for patient dental anxiety management.
- A job fit for a dentist – In the past, a patient had to see an orthodontist for braces. But with clear aligners, any dentist can partner with a digital dental lab to offer patients this essential, revenue-driving service.
- An invisible treatment method (and improved patient confidence) – It’s much harder to tell when someone has clear aligners. This enables patients, especially adults, to feel confident straightening their teeth without feeling self-conscious. Best of all, the patient can take the aligners out while eating.
- Less discomfort – Compared to conventional braces, clear aligners are far less painful. They don’t typically poke or rub. And new aligner trays typically only cause tooth soreness for a few hours. When the process is more comfortable, patients may be more likely to opt in.
If you were to juxtapose these two orthodontic treatments, there aren’t many comparative disadvantages of clear aligners.
The only notable drawback is that a clear aligner may not be ideal for patients with severe teeth or bite issues. Also, unlike braces, aligners can be removed, which could pose a challenge to parents of younger children and teens who may be disinclined to wear them without constant reminders.
Dandy digital orthodontic treatment
Braces have been instrumental in popularizing orthodontic care. But their time and place in dentistry are coming to a close.
Today, both patients and dentists alike are increasingly favoring newer, better orthodontic procedures, such as clear aligners. Coupled with powerful digital tools like intraoral scanners and CAD/CAM technology, clear aligners offer practically all the same benefits of braces without significant drawbacks.
In short, Dandy clear aligners have built upon the foundation that braces set, optimizing the orthodontic process—making it faster, more efficient, less painful, and less conspicuous. Now, practically any professional dentist can offer this valuable service to their patients.
If you’re interested in learning more about adding Dandy’s digital orthodontic treatment to your clinic, contact us today to get started.
American Association of Orthodontists. AAO Info. https://www3.aaoinfo.org/
American Association of Orthodontists. How orthodontic treatment works. https://www3.aaoinfo.org/blog/parent-s-guide-post/how-orthodontic-treatment-works/
Healthline. How Long Do Braces Take? https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-do-braces-take