Braces or Invisalign: Which Orthodontic Treatment is Right for Me?

Everyone loves a beautiful smile, after all, one of the first things a person notices is your smile. In fact, there are many studies that show people that smile more are happier, feel more confident, and are often more successful. Showing your smile isn’t just for other people to see, but it’s about you feeling better about yourself as well.

So how can you get a better smile? In this blog post, we’re going to discuss straightening teeth through two primary methods, traditional metal braces or Invisalign, and discuss some of the benefits and drawbacks of each. There are dozens of factors that go into treatment and we’ll highlight important points of interest that can help educate you about your dental health. 

Table of Contents

Conditions and Habits from misaligned teeth

There are many conditions that can cause you not to like your smile, and many are not your fault. The genes you inherit from your parents play a big role in how your mouth develops, the structure of the jaw, teeth, and your gums. The occlusion of your teeth is a fancy way of saying how your teeth come together when you bite and how you develop naturally will determine this. There are three ways your occlusion is referred to, either a Class 1, 2 or Class 3. A class 1 occlusion is a perfect bite where all of your teeth align properly, a class 2 is when the top row of teeth protrude horizontally over the bottom row, also know as “over-jet”, and Class 3 is when your bottom jaw extends forward beyond the top row of teeth. There are nuances to each of these conditions and the exact way the teeth come together, but this is a simple understanding.

Class 1 occlusion - Perfect Bite

Class 1 Occlusion – Perfect Bite

Class 2 occlusion - Overbite

Class 2 Occlusion – Overbite

Class 3 Occlusion - Underbite

Class 3 Occlusion – Underbite

misaligned teeth with a cross-bite

In the picture below you can see that the top front two teeth in sit in front of the bottom, but in the back, the top teeth go behind. This is a fourth type of condition called a cross-bite.

Why does your type of bite matter?

Depending on which type of bite you have, the more or less wear and tear are put on your teeth. When your bite is misaligned and you have one type of malocclusion, your teeth will wear incorrectly at a faster rate than normal, removing the enamel and minerals that protect your teeth, getting into the dentin which is the softer and more susceptible to decay, and sensitivity. This can cause future problems that would require crowns or veneers. This is why braces are considered as preventative care.

Teeth Crowding, Space, and Gums

Having proper spacing between teeth is important for many reasons but primarily for cleaning purposes. When teeth are too close together or are crooked, traditional brushing may not be enough to clean bacteria and remove plaque from your teeth. When these germs are left in your teeth, they begin to break down the tooth causing sensitivity, cavities, and potentially an infection. A dental abscess or tooth infection can be a very long-term problem that can often be avoided by proper cleaning and flossing. Infections can be hard to detect and can cause more than just oral problems like sinusitis, neck swelling, and breathing issues. If the plaque remains between the teeth in the gums, this can cause gingivitis and possibly periodontal disease.

How do Braces Work?

Teeth are attached to your jaw bone by the periodontal ligaments that behind your gums. These ligaments keep your teeth in place amidst the soft tissue of the gums. Braces work by continually applying pressure to the teeth, whether bring them closer together or moving them farther apart. As the pressure is applied to the tooth, it begins to shift, moving the bone in front of the tooth while forming new bone behind the tooth. This small but continuous process is what takes your teeth from crooked to beautiful. Here is a great video from MIT that describes this process in a simple, understandable way.

Does Age Matter for Braces?

Age is a major factor for a doctor to determine treatment. Typically patients receive braces when they are between the ages of 7 and 14 but adults are able to have braces as well. The primary reason for children and adolescents to receive braces is because their bodies are still developing and their bones are still malleable. To align teeth properly, the jaw must change and braces are what helps shape the jaw properly. Children under the age of 10 that still have baby teeth are able to have braces but it depends on the severity of the case. Habits like thumb sucking, extended pacifier use, and tongue thrusting can cause front teeth to be misaligned and should be watched carefully. Catching conditions early on can prevent problems from becoming worse when permanent, adult teeth arrive.

Adult treatment is becoming more common as adults may have passed on or couldn’t have afforded them when they were younger. Primarily adults get braces for aesthetic reasons but incorrect jaw position can cause many different health issues including headaches, problems chewing or speaking, TMJ and jaw pain, gum erosion, and tooth decay. Because of stronger adult bones, treatment may last longer as it may take more time for proper bone movement.

Traditional Braces

Metal wires and brackets are the first thing that most people picture when they think of braces. Braces have continued to develop and have gotten smaller, but are still the primary method of orthodontic treatment. Metal brackets are bonded to the teeth with a special bonding agent to begin the alignment process. Orthodontic bands and archwires are put in place to guide the teeth during the expanding or contracting process. Bands are made in metal, clear, or tooth-colored materials but all service the same purpose. In mild some cases patients may only require metal brackets, not orthodontic bands or in extreme cases, headgear may be required to expand the jaw and create space for teeth during treatment.

Lingual Braces

Lingual Braces are braces that are placed on the back of the teeth rather than the front. These types of braces have become more popular because, like Invisalign, they are virtually invisible to everyone else. The braces behind the teeth can be harder to get used to because of your tongue, speaking issues, problems with chewing and normal, daily habits. Teeth also have to be long enough for there to be sufficient room to glue the braces to the inside of the teeth. Because of the size of teeth, children are often unable to have lingual braces.


Invisalign and clear aligners are by far the most preferred way to straighten your teeth. Invisalign are clear aligner trays made to strong plastic that gently move your teeth into place. Through taking dental impressions of your teeth, a series of X-rays and pictures, an Orthodontist can determine whether clear aligners are right for your treatment. There is some basic bonding that is required for the aligners on the back teeth for the trays to clip in but this is very minor compared to traditional braces.

a woman who is about to put her Invisalign braces to straighten her teeth.

Comparing Braces and Invisalign

When it comes down to researching Braces and Invisalign you’ll find that, for the most part, there isn’t too much difference between the two products. The biggest difference is the condition of your teeth and how much needs changed to make your smile straighter. Braces are a comprehensive tool that has a lot of options to form shape your jaw and teeth precisely as the orthodontist needs. Invisalign is only effective for very mild cases and is often a recommended treatment for a patient who had braces as a child but did not use their retainer regularly and their teeth have shifted back into an unwanted state.

Another factor is your personal commitment to your oral care and straightening your teeth. It is recommended Invisalign trays are worn as close to 24/7 as possible (outside of eating and cleaning) for maximum effectiveness. Given the trays are removable, some patients treatment last longer than the recommended length as they were not worn often enough. On the other hand, keeping braces cleaner is more of a task than simply removing the clear trays, brushing, and replacing them.

These are a few considerations to keep in mind and below is a table of a few more bullet points comparing and contrasting Tradition Braces and Invisalign.

Traditional Braces vs Invisalign
On your teeth from start to finish

18 months to 2 years

Consistent cleaning required to keep brackets clean

Every 4 weeks or at dentist recommendation

Effective at fixing most misaligned teeth

Minor pain, sores and related issues from equipment

Minor discoloration of teeth if not kept clean

Avoid sticky foods to get caught in braces

Time on teeth



Office Visits





Removal but should be worn 22-24 hours a day

18 months to 2 years

Brush and Rinse trays daily

4 to 6 weeks, changing trays every 2 weeks

Only effective for 20% of patients

Minor teeth discomfort from realignment

Brush after meals to avoid discoloration

Removed before eating, no food problems

Life After Braces

woman smiling after orthodontic treatment, with the Aspen Hill Smiles branded logo.

Life after braces is wonderful! Straighter teeth and a happier smile will be an everlasting value to you as long as you keep proper care for your teeth. Strengthening your gums by flossing will help your teeth remain beautiful but your orthodontist will likely be recommended you use a retainer to help maintain the position of your teeth. Depending on the recommendation and the severity of your case, a permanent retainer may be put in place or a removal one that is to be used at least nightly. Just like with Invisalign trays, consistent use is important or the effects of the orthodontic treatment will begin to reverse. After a mere 36-48 hours, you may notice that it can be more difficult to get the retainer in if left out.

Routine check-ups are always recommended to ensure teeth are clean, plaque isn’t allowed to build up, and your healthy smile stays healthy.

Interested in Straighter Smile?

We’ve only touched on a few aspects of each procedure and you may have more questions about our process, how we put them on and take them off, comfortability, and overall how they can help you live a better life with proper oral care. Aspen Hill Smiles Family Dentistry is a Rockville Dentist that can help answer all of your questions related to orthodontics and dentistry in general.

You can leave us a message on our Contact Us page that we’ll respond to by email addressing your concerns. If you’re ready to schedule an appointment, feel free to call us at 301-871-7100 and one of our wonderful team members will be able to fit you into the next available appointment at your convenience.


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