When you find out that you or your child are in need of orthodontic treatment, it can leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. You’re likely to have a number of questions and concerns, and may be wondering what’s caused the issue, what treatments are recommended for your specific case, and how we’ll correct the problem. You may also want to discuss which treatments are the most effective, if one type of treatment is more affordable than another, and what differences exist between popular orthodontic treatments like traditional braces and the Invisalign clear aligner system.

With orthodontic treatment on the horizon, we feel it’s important that you’re educated, informed, and confident in the orthodontic process. This allows you to play a more active role in your own treatment, which is something we strongly encourage here at Amazing Smiles Orthodontics! Although we offer a variety of treatments, traditional braces and Invisalign tend to be our two most popular options. Both have been designed to straighten your smile and improve oral health, but there are some key differences we’ll take a look at below. Along with input from our doctors, this will help you determine which, if any, of these options, could be the best fit for you and your lifestyle!

Two approaches, one great smile

Traditional braces have been around for many years, and have a well-established history of successfully treating malocclusions. They are usually composed of metal or ceramic brackets that are attached to your teeth, then tied together by wires and tiny rubber bands or elastics. Through regularly scheduled adjustment appointments with one of our doctors, these components will begin working together to gradually move the teeth into the desired positions. Thanks to recent advancements in modern orthodontics, today’s braces are subtler and more comfortable than ever before. They’re also customizable! We offer multi-colored brackets and bands available for patients who want a pop of personality, and clear or tooth-colored brackets for those who prefer a more discreet look.

The Invisalign system is not a fixed orthodontic appliance like braces. Instead of brackets, bands, and wires, it uses a series of clear, removable aligners. These custom-made trays are made of a comfortable plastic material and have small, tooth-colored attachments that allow them to fit snugly over your teeth. Aligners will generally be switched out every 1-2 weeks for the next in the series to keep up with the movements your teeth are making. 

Traditional braces: the basics

There are a number of differences between braces and Invisalign, but the most obvious is that braces cannot be removed until the treatment process is complete. Traditional braces are a bit of a workhorse, and are incredibly efficient at correcting oral issues that range from mild to complex. They can sometimes be faster at closing gaps and aligning teeth than clear aligners like Invisalign, which can shorten the overall treatment time. Speaking of, there’s no “one size fits all” answer for how long treatment will last, since it’s decided on a case-by-case basis, but the average tends to be anywhere from 12-36 months. With braces, you’ll often be able to see some signs of improvement in a relatively short period of time. That may not seem like much, but seeing even a slight improvement in your smile can give you a boost of encouragement as you settle into your orthodontic journey!

Maintaining traditional braces may be a bit of a challenge, especially in the early years. A good dental hygiene routine is especially important for orthodontics patients, but getting the brackets and wires completely clean can be tricky since food debris can get stuck in all the nooks and crannies. This gives bad bacteria a place to flourish and increases the risk for tooth decay and cavities. Fortunately, there are a number of accessories available that can make cleaning much easier. For example, oral irrigators like a Waterpik use a targeted stream of water to help rinse those hard to reach places, and ortho-picks are really effective when it comes to flossing with braces.

Amazing smiles staff working with a patient

Perhaps one of the biggest learning curves to come with braces is the food restriction, which can definitely take some getting used to. To keep your braces and your teeth safe, you’ll need to avoid anything that’s too crunchy or too chewy until you finish up your treatment. This includes some raw fruits and veggies, popcorn, gum, nuts, and several different types of candy and sweets. Just remember, though, that this is only temporary, and it all be worth it when your braces come off and your new smile is revealed!

While you’re in braces, you’ll be scheduled for follow-up visits with us at regular intervals. These visits will usually be every 6-10 weeks or so. During these adjustment appointments, one of our doctors will change the bands that are attached to the brackets. They may choose to replace the wire at this time as well. We try to complete these appointments as quickly as possible, so you don’t need to miss too much work or school, but please don’t skip them! They’re a crucial part of your treatment plan, and help ensure you get the best results in the least amount of time. While you may experience some slight soreness after each adjustment, it should only be temporary.

Invisalign: the basics

Although Invisalign could be considered a relatively new method of treatment when you consider how long braces have been around, it’s still proven itself to be incredibly popular with both patients and orthodontists. The aligners are a convenient, efficient method for gently moving the teeth, particularly in cases that aren’t too complicated or severe. The clear, smooth plastic is also easier on the mouth than braces, and doesn’t tend to irritate the gums or cheeks the way brackets and wires can.

Even though the end results are the same with these two treatment options, Invisalign uses a different, less invasive way to straighten the teeth. The trays are changed out every week or two for the next in the series, to keep the teeth moving in the direction we want them to go. As with braces, there’s no concrete answer for how long a patient will need to wear the aligners, though the average tends to be somewhere between 1-2 years, though of course, this can vary widely. Patient compliance a huge factor in how successful Invisalign treatment is! The system can only work if the recommended guidelines are followed exactly. If aligners aren’t worn the required 20-22 hours per day throughout the course of treatment, the results can be affected and it may also add time to the orthodontic process.

Invisalign aligners are extremely easy to maintain. They’re actually designed to be removed before eating or drinking anything other than water, so you never have to worry about food getting stuck in your brackets or wires. You also take them out before brushing and flossing, so dental hygiene is a much simpler process than it is with braces. The removability of the Invisalign aligners also means there are no food restrictions. You’re free to eat everything you normally would with Invisalign, as long as you’re careful to brush after every meal and floss nightly.

Invisalign patients will typically have follow-up visits approximately every 6-8 weeks. You’ll be responsible for keeping up with changing your aligner at the recommended interval. If you make a habit of skipping or rescheduling appointments, or miss changing your aligners when you’re scheduled to, it can quickly undo any progress you’ve made.

Amazing Smiles staff talking to a patient

Finding the right fit for your smile

When you consider all the pros and cons of braces and Invisalign, it’s clear that both options are excellent choices for straightening smiles and improving oral health. It’s worth noting that for some complex dental issues, Invisalign may not be an option. That’s why it’s so important to work with a qualified and experienced orthodontic team like ours! When you schedule an orthodontic evaluation with Amazing Smiles Orthodontics, we’ll be able to tell you which treatment would be the best fit for your smile, your lifestyle, and your goals. This results in a beautifully aligned smile that’s just right for your face!

With four offices conveniently located in Glen Carbon, O’Fallon, Collinsville, and University City, you’re never far from taking the first step towards a smile you’ll want to share with the world! To learn more about whether braces or Invisalign could work for you, get in touch today to schedule your first orthodontic evaluation