Clear Aligners vs. Braces: Everything You Need to Know

Clear Aligners vs. Braces: Everything You Need to Know
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Clear Aligners vs. Braces: Everything You Need to KnowClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Cost Considerations
  2. Conditions Treated
  3. Treatment Time
  4. Cleanliness
  5. Visibility Issues
  6. Pain Tolerance
  7. Convenience
  8. Make the Right Choice
  9. References

Both clear aligners and braces help to straighten your teeth. The devices can also adjust the way your teeth fit together.

In general, braces are best for severe bite problems, but you can choose aligners for mild-to-moderate issues. Choose doctor-supervised, at-home aligners like those we offer at Byte, and you'll save time and money.

Not convinced? Check out this quick comparison chart.

Traditional BracesInvisalign AlignersDoctor-Supervised, At-Home Aligners
Cost$5,000 to $7,500$5,000 to $7,500About $2,000
Conditions TreatedSevere malocclusionsMild to moderate issuesMild to moderate issues
Treatment Time2 years6 months or longer4 months
CleanlinessLow; braces aren't removable and you can't flossHigh; aligners are removableHigh; aligners are removable
Easy to See?YesNoNo
Comfortable?Uncomfortable; wires and brackets harm soft tissuesModerate pain when switching traysModerate pain when switching trays
Convenient?No; in-person appointments are mandatoryNo; in-person appointments are mandatoryYes; check in via an app or video chat
Let's dive into each area in detail, so you'll have all the information you need to make the right decision for your health and your mouth.

Cost Considerations: How Much Will You Pay?

Braces cost between $5,000 and $7,500 on average. Invisalign aligners, which are administered in orthodontic offices in a system similar to braces, also cost up to $7,000.

Aligners cost about $2,000. For people looking for the smallest price tag, aligners are clear winners.

You can cut that cost even more with the following:

  • Dental insurance: Insurance companies can and often do chip in to help families cover the cost of orthodontic care. If you have such a plan, you could pay very little for the care you need.
  • Health savings accounts: Get tax benefits for saving money to pay for health issues. Use those funds to pay for your dental care.
  • Discounts: Companies (like Byte!) offer discounts to military members and other groups. Pay attention to the deals, and you could knock a bit of money off your price.

No matter how much you pay, remember that you're investing in your smile. The fees are worth your long-term dental health.

Braces vs Aligners

Conditions Treated: Which Is Right?

Both braces and aligners can shift teeth to proper positioning, but aligners work best for mild-to-moderate issues. Significant problems should be treated with braces.

Aligners can address the following:

  • Crowding: Your teeth are packed tight inside your mouth, and some don't have enough room.
  • Gaps: Spaces sit between your teeth.
  • General crookedness: Your teeth just don't look right when you look in the mirror.

Braces are best for the following:

  • Open bite: Your top and bottom teeth don't touch when you close your mouth.
  • Overbite: Your upper teeth sit too far in front of the lower.
  • Underbite: Your lower teeth stick out in front of the uppers.

Treatment Time: How Long Will It Take?

Moving teeth can take time, especially if crooked or missing teeth significantly impair your bite. But braces tend to be more time-consuming than aligners.

Compare these two common scenarios:

  • Braces: A typical treatment program takes 24 months. Miss an appointment or adjustment, and you'll add time to the plan.
  • Invisalign: Spend six months or longer in treatment. If you miss an appointment, your treatment will take longer.
  • Byte aligners: Many treatment programs take about four months.

Why is the Byte system so fast? Thank the HyperByte. Researchers say accelerated orthodontic treatment with vibration is effective, as these vibrating tools speed up bone remodeling and reduce pain.

Use the HyperByte tool (sent with your aligners), and you'll see the results.

When you're living with a better bite, you'll reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and chewing problems, the American Association of Orthodontists says.

Cleanliness: How Vulnerable Are Your Teeth?

You must brush your teeth to keep them clean, whether dental appliances are in use or not. But braces can make cleaning your teeth tough.

Brackets for braces are glued onto your teeth, and wires connect them. None of these things come out during your treatment.

This permanent hardware creates spaces that trap bits of food, and when bacteria start feeding, plaque forms. That can lead to tooth decay.

Aligners are different. You take out these devices and clean them when you eat and when you drink anything other than water.

You can clean your teeth unimpeded. When you have aligners, you don’t have to change how you:

You simply take out your aligners before you do these things.

Head to the dentist for a cleaning, and you can take out your trays for a full polish and fluoride treatment.

The result is a healthier, cleaner mouth.

Visibility Issues: Do You Want Your Treatment Noticed?

Modern braces are typically made of metal or ceramic materials, and companies have developed colorful wires and bands to string the teeth together. Some people want to express a personal sense of style with their braces, and they appreciate the color. You may not.

Many people who have orthodontic treatment are self-conscious about their looks. You may feel like:

  • People are watching your teeth rather than looking into your eyes.
  • Everyone notices how crooked your teeth are.
  • People make assumptions about your vanity or your health.

For the privacy-conscious, aligners are a better choice. The devices are still noticeable for those who look hard, but they don't catch the sunlight the same way metal wires do.

You should wear your aligners almost all the time, but if you have a high-pressure situation, such as a job interview, you could take them out. You're in control of your appearance with aligners.

Pain Tolerance: How Much Discomfort Can You Handle?

Your mouth isn't accustomed to the constant presence of metal or ceramics. While both aligners and braces can cause some discomfort, the pangs you'll feel with braces are likely stronger than those you will feel with aligners.

Researchers say that people with braces experience a dip in quality of life during the first three months of treatment. That might be caused by a painful adjustment to a mouth filled with braces.

You must grow accustomed to the following with braces:

  • Chapped lips: Your lips must stretch to make room for the brackets that sit beneath the surface. Your lips might not close all the way, resulting in a dryer mouth and lips.
  • Poking wires and brackets: The brackets stick out from your teeth, often rubbing the inside of your lips. Your devices can also rattle loose, and when that happens, you can get scrapes and sores.
  • Mouth sores: Welts are common during braces treatment. Wax can help, but your mouth will feel sore and tender until you develop calluses.

Moving teeth is painful, and both braces and aligners cause that discomfort. But aligners are both thin and smooth. They don't pull on your lips, and they don't poke your gums. Your teeth may be sore, but your soft mouth tissues should emerge unscathed.

Convenience: How Much Time Do You Have?

With both aligners and braces, every step in your treatment plan is supervised by a professional. But braces and Invisalign require in-person appointments. Byte does not.

Opt for braces or Invisalign, and prepare to see your dental health team for periodic checkups and adjustments. That means sitting in a crowded waiting room, hoping your visit will start on time, and ideally, you'll be back to work or your daily schedule without much delay.

Choose doctor-monitored, at-home aligners, and you'll deal with your teeth on your schedule. A doctor will oversee the whole process, ensuring that your treatment plan is designed appropriately and things are moving along as planned. But you won’t have to deal with in-person appointments and crowded waiting rooms.

Make the Right Choice for Your Mouth

Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. It makes sense to invest both time and money to ensure that your teeth look and feel as good as possible.

Do your homework and make the choice that's right for you, your schedule, your budget, and your personal preferences. Your teeth will thank you.


Are You Too Old for Braces? Harvard Medical School.

Invisalign Cost. Invisalign. 

The Invisalign Treatment: Adults. Invisalign. 

Frequently Asked Questions. Byte.

The Effects of Brief Daily Vibration on Clean Aligner Orthodontic Treatment. (December 2018). Journal of the World Federation of Orthodontists.

The Impact of Orthodontic Treatment on Quality of Life and Self-Esteem in Adult Patients. (September 2014). European Journal of Orthodontics.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.