Which is better - clear aligners or braces and the rest?
If you’re considering getting your smile re-aligned, there are plenty of options available to you. For adults, clear aligners are now the most popular and prominent but traditional braces and Inman aligners are also available. If you want to know more, we’ve prepared this detailed guide to show you how clear aligners compare to other forms of treatment, so you can make an informed decision.
What are the options?
Clear aligners are clear plastic trays that you wear over your teeth. You replace them every couple of weeks, as they gently maneuver your teeth into new positions to correct your smile over time. You can visit a dentist or orthodontist for this treatment, but many people prefer the at-home option, since you can manage your treatment completely remotely.
Ceramic braces, or wired metal braces, are fixed to your teeth. They are only removable by a dentist or orthodontist so will be worn full-time during the duration of your treatment. They can handle more severe cases than other aligner types in some cases, but on the flip side they are more prominent.
Inman aligners are a sort of middle-ground between clear aligners and wired braces. They’re removable, but they do use metal bars so when worn they are more prominent. They’re also not effective for every situation – they’re best suited to adults who wore braces in their youth but then neglected to wear a retainer. But treatment times can be faster, as we’ll cover later.
Comparing teeth alignment treatments
We’ve compared the three main treatment options on a number of different criteria.
The price of clear aligners varies depending on the treatment you require, and the provider you choose. Opt for Invisalign and you’re likely to be paying somewhere between $3,000 and $8,000. However, if you choose one of the at-home services, you could end up paying as little as $1,200, and usually no more than $2,250 unless you wish to spread the cost with finance. There’ll be some small extra costs involved, such as the price of your impression kit, but this will be no more than $100.
Wired or ceramic braces will tend to cost an average of $5,000 for your treatment. You tend to use them for longer and that price will include the fees incurred by regular visits to your orthodontist to have them adjusted.
Inman aligners are closer in cost to clear aligners, anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000. Again this will depend on how many visits you need to make to your orthodontist to have them adjusted. Remember too that Inman aligners aren’t available everywhere so you may also have to incur travel costs if you insist on this type of treatment.
With all three of these forms of treatment, you’ll usually be able to get some help paying with your dental insurance plan.
Affordability winner: Clear aligners edges this one – of all three it’s the one that’s consistently most affordable, provided you don’t go for the most expensive provider in Invisalign.
Clear aligners are effective on mild to moderate cases of teeth misalignment. In terms of treatment time, it can vary from as little as 4 months to 2 years, but the average treatment time is around 6-12 months. You will see significant results at the end of your treatment and, if you don’t, most providers have a guarantee in place to give you more treatment for free until you’re happy.
Traditional braces, whether wired or ceramic, can be used for more severe cases of misaligned teeth, making them more effective in terms of the problems they can treat. However, treatment times are longer – on average, you’ll wear braces for 18 months to 2 years, and it’s only rare cases where you won’t need them as long.
The effectiveness of Inman aligners depends on your perspective. They are designed to only move the front teeth at the top and bottom of your mouth – so they aren’t particularly effective for issues of the whole mouth. But for those specific teeth they are extremely effective – treatment can be as short as 6 weeks, and usually no more than 4 months.
Effectiveness winner: Call this a tie – it depends on what treatment you need. For most people, clear aligners will be the most effective option but some may only need Inman aligners for a short period of time, while some will need the more pronounced treatment of traditional braces.
If you’re considering clear aligners, you can be confident they will work. Most aligner providers will insist you check-in on a regular basis to monitor your treatment, sometimes in-person with an orthodontist (for the more premium services) but often online with photos. If you then get to the end of your treatment, and you’ve not seen the desired results, most will have a guarantee that allows your treatment to be extended at no extra cost. However, you’ll have to be able to prove you have followed all instructions, which may be trickier for at-home aligners.
There’s no more reassuring treatment than using wired or ceramic braces. It may be less convenient, having to make regular visits to your orthodontist for adjustments, but it guarantees you’re in the best hands and your treatment can be altered as necessary. You’ll get consistent, hands-on and personalized care with the knowledge that the braces will definitely work.
Inman aligner reassurance comes in the form of knowing that you’ll only be recommended the treatment if you have minor alignment issues. They are proving to be highly effective in hundreds of Americans every year, and so you should be confident that if Inman aligners are your orthodontist’s preferred option for you, they should work. If not, alternatives can then be considered.
Reassurance winner: While you shouldn’t be concerned at all about clear aligners or Inman aligners, the winner here is braces. You’ll be monitored more regularly, in person, and have adjustments made there and then to ensure your treatment stays on track.
Clear aligners offer amazing availability. You can choose freely between providers who allow you to visit clinics for initial scans and follow ups, or you can opt for a completely remote, at-home service with aligners shipped to all 50 states. Customer service agents are available for long hours every day, via live video chat or email as well as phone, so it’s super-easy to start your treatment and get help when you need it.
With braces, any orthodontist will have this treatment available – so you should never have to travel far. But, you always do have to travel, even if your orthodontist works only a few blocks away. And you’ll need to make an appointment in advance if you have any issues with your braces.
Inman aligners suffer here as they simply aren’t as popular in the US as they are in some other parts of the world. You can usually find an orthodontist within driving distance who will offer them as an option, but you may need to travel further and it might be harder getting support if you have any issues.
Availability winner: By some distance, clear aligners are the best for availability – both of the treatment and check-ups, but also any extra support you might need.
If you choose clear aligners to straighten your teeth, you’ll have a wealth of providers available. Some offer extra services, such as whitening gels to whiten as your teeth are straightened, to tools that speed up the process by vibrating your gum.
The more traditional braces option doesn’t have the same array of concurrent options. You can’t, for example, whiten your teeth while you have brackets wired to them. But you are in constant conversation with your orthodontist and so can get extra support if required both during and after your alignment treatment.
Inman aligners are a lot more straight forward too, and so you shouldn’t expect any additional services as part of your treatment, but if you also wanted to whiten your smile then you won’t be waiting long to complete your Inman aligner treatment if that is what was recommended to you, and your orthodontist can advise you.
Additional services winner: Another one for clear aligners here – there is more competition between providers and so expect a wider range of extras to be offered to help sweeten the deal.
There are a couple of other things to consider when deciding on your treatment.
For many people, cosmetics are a factor. If you don’t want to be seen to be wearing braces then clear aligners can be extremely beneficial. As their name suggests, they are clear and almost completely imperceptible to anyone else. You can wear them throughout the day and no one would know.
However, while ceramic braces are an option rather than metal wires, they are still more obvious, while Inman aligners are not discreet but only worn for a shorter period of time. If you don’t want your alignment treatment to be obvious, clear aligners are the way to go.
But there’s also the debate between removable aligners and fixed braces. Some people don’t like the thought of having fixed braces, but conversely others can be more forgetful. If you want straighter teeth but think you might not always remember to wear your aligners for the required 22 hours a day, then braces can remove human error from the process.
So are clear aligners better than braces and Inman aligners? For many people they may well be, but certain cases might be more suited to other forms of treatment. What is obvious is that clear aligners do have a lot of advantages, and will be a great option for thousands of Americans who want a straighter, healthier smile.