Do Braces Get Your Teeth Straighter Than Other Methods?

Clinical Content Reviewed by Byte Licensed DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Braces vs. Aligners
  2. Traditional Braces
  3. How do Braces Straighten Teeth?
  4. Braces Materials
  5. Types of Braces
  6. Treatment Plan Duration
  7. Clear Aligners Treatment
  8. How Aligners Work
  9. Better Oral Health with Aligners
  10. Investigate the Best Options

If you have severely misaligned teeth, braces may get your teeth straighter than other methods. If you have minor to moderate misalignment issues, aligners may be the best and most cost-effective choice for you.

Braces vs. Aligners

Braces have been the go-to dental appliance for straightening teeth for decades, but today, people have other options. With the growing popularity of doctor-monitored, at-home aligners, more people are interested in using this approach instead of metal-based braces and retainers.

Clear aligners can correct many misalignment issues, including gaps and crowded teeth. However, they may not be the best option for some more serious dental misalignments. 

Many people get braces in their teenage years, but teeth can still become misaligned in adulthood. Orthodontists report a 34 percent rise in adults pursuing straighter teeth, using a variety of orthodontic devices. 

If you have a smile you are less than proud of in adulthood, you may start seeking out more subtle options than traditional braces. For mild to moderate cases, braces won’t get your teeth straighter than aligners, but for severe cases, they might.

DID YOU KNOW Aligners work for many orthodontic issues and can cost thousands less than braces.

Traditional Braces Work for all Misalignment Issues

Dental braces are appliances that use metal wires and either metal or ceramic brackets to push your teeth into alignment. These devices are able to correct most types of misalignment in your teeth, including crowding, crooked teeth, gaps or spacing problems, and malocclusions of your jaw.

How do Braces Straighten Teeth?

With braces, very small brackets are applied or cemented to the teeth, with bands or elastics placed over them. Wires (called archwires) connect the brackets. These wires are tightened throughout treatment during regular adjustment visits. The tightening applies pressure to the teeth in order to force movement into a new and corrected position. 

There are generally five steps to braces treatment:

You’ll meet with an orthodontist to assess your bite and alignment problems and discuss possible treatment options. Your orthodontist will take impressions of your top and bottom teeth, and possibly x-rays. You’ll discuss the treatment plan as well as payment options and timelines.

During this important appointment, the braces are fitted and bonded to the teeth. Your orthodontist will ensure that everything looks as it should and discuss how to care for your teeth while wearing braces.

Most people will check in with their orthodontist every six to eight weeks for adjustment appointments. In addition to wire tightening, these visits give your orthodontist an opportunity to check on your alignment progress and make sure you’re not having trouble with decay due to oral hygiene problems. The areas between braces and gum and teeth can accumulate bacteria and food particles, and these places can be hard to reach with floss or a toothbrush.

When alignment is complete, the braces are taken off. Teeth will likely be cleaned and polished, and another impression will be taken to check the bite and alignment.

After orthodontic treatment, a retainer must be worn to keep teeth from shifting back to their old placements (in order to “retain” the new corrected bite).  Most people will have to wear a retainer full-time for four to six months after braces and then on a part-time basis indefinitely.

Braces Materials

With advancements in materials like ceramics and stainless steel, current versions of traditional braces are more lightweight, smaller, and more effective than ever before.

Materials used in today’s braces include the following:

  • Stainless steel brackets and wires

  • Ceramic brackets with stainless steel wires

  • Self-ligating elastic and metal bands

Types of Braces

The types of braces that may be right for you depend on several factors, including how serious your misalignment is, if you have an overbite or underbite, and how old you are. Adults have teeth that are more firmly rooted in their gums, so you may need a stronger option to make your smile straighter, particularly if you have these more serious issues.

Types of braces include the following:

When many people hear the term braces, they think of traditional metal braces. The metal hardware on traditional braces is more visible than other options, and these braces may be needed in some cases of severe malocclusion.

They’re highly customizable and effective for use in complex treatment plans. They’re also the most affordable braces treatment option.

With ceramic braces, the hardware is clear or tooth-colored to blend in more with the teeth. This is why they’re also called invisible braces. Ceramic braces are generally more expensive than metal braces, and they’re also more prone to staining.

With lingual braces, the hardware is attached to the back of teeth. This makes them virtually invisible, which is why people choose this option. However, lingual braces have many drawbacks as well.

They’re one of the most expensive orthodontic options and can take longer to get used to. Adjustments may be more uncomfortable, and people can experience speech and eating difficulty throughout treatment.

Treatment Plan Duration

If you use traditional braces, your treatment plan will be customized to the severity of your misalignment and include other devices like a retainer after your braces are removed. The entire course may take between one and three years, on average.

If you follow your orthodontist’s instructions, you will wear braces for the least amount of time possible. If you accidentally snap a wire or band, for example, you may need to wear braces longer.

Clear Aligners for a Barely Visible Smile Treatment

Since Invisalign was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, clear aligners have become the most popular option for adults who want to straighten their teeth. Typically, these aligners are considered invisible braces since they align your teeth by exerting pressure, similarly to traditional braces.

Several companies offer clear aligners through the mail. Some require only one in-person appointment and ongoing virtual sessions with an orthodontist. Others don’t involve any in-person visits. You take your own impressions at home, and your treatment plan is then created and overseen by a doctor.

Aligner Companies

Aside from Invisalign, options for straightening your teeth with clear aligners include the following:

  • Candid

  • SmileDirectClub

  • Byte

  • ClearCorrect

How Aligners Work

Clear aligners are removable and custom-made to fit comfortably over teeth and guide movement to proper alignment.

Teeth aligners treatment usually includes these steps:

Your aligner provider will need to understand your current bite and orthodontic issues in order to make sure that you’re a candidate for clear aligners and to create a treatment plan.

Some providers will start with an in-office tooth scan. Others will take impressions (moldings) of your teeth.

If you’re considering mail-order aligner treatment, top providers (including Byte) will send you an at-home impression kit and refund the cost if it’s determined you’re not a candidate for aligners.

Using your tooth scan or impression kit, aligner software and/or orthodontist specialists design your treatment plan. A series of clear aligner trays are created. Each tray will move your teeth closer to their ideal position.

If you’re receiving your aligners through an in-office dentist or orthodontist, they will provide you with your aligners during appointments.

If you are completing an at-home aligner treatment, your provider will send you all of your trays at once (an aligner kit). The kit may include additional products, like whitening cream or aligner chewies. 

Byte includes the HyperByte high-frequency massage tool in every aligner kit. Massage tools like these may improve the comfort and speed of aligner treatment.1 

Regardless of whether you receive your aligners in an office or at home, the trays will gradually move your teeth into place. You’ll wear each one for a week or two before moving to the next.

Throughout your program, you’ll check in with your aligner provider to ensure treatment is progressing as planned. For in-office aligners, this will mean visits to the practice. For at-home aligners, virtual check-ins will allow your supervising doctor to see your teeth movement.

Byte has an award-winning app for tracking aligner progress and communicating with clinical and support staff.

After your last aligner tray, your teeth should be aligned, and your smile should be ready. You’ll check in with your provider (in person or virtually) to make sure everything looks and feels great.

As with braces, wearing a retainer is important to make sure teeth stay in their new, corrected placements. Retainers will have to be worn day and night for up to six months, and then worn part-time after that.

Teeth shift with age. To ensure your smile stays put, retainers should be worn for the rest of your life after treatment with braces or aligners.

Many aligner providers offer clear retainers. Byte even provides you with your first after-treatment retainer for free.

Better Oral Health with Aligners

One medical study found that people who use clear aligners have better periodontal health than those who have traditional braces. This is because aligners are removable, which makes them easier to clean. It is easier for you to brush, floss, and care for your whole mouth. 

Adults who use invisible aligners also report greater overall satisfaction with their orthodontic treatment.

If you want to straighten your teeth, it is important to get an idea of the severity of your misalignment issues. While doctor-monitored, at-home aligners have advanced greatly and can improve many different types of issues, they won’t work for every case. If you have complex issues, you may still need traditional braces to get the straight teeth you want.

Conditions Treated by Braces vs. Aligners

Do Braces Get Your Teeth Straighter Than Other Methods?
Mild misalignment issuesYesYes
Moderate misalignment issuesYesYes
Severe misalignment issuesYesNo
Mild to moderate bite issues (overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite)YesYes
Severe bite issuesYes, though surgery is sometimes requiredNo
Teeth crowdingYesYes, if mild to moderate
Teeth gapsYesYes, if mild to moderate
Crooked teethYesYes, if mild to moderate

Investigate the Best Options for your Smile

Aligners work as well as traditional braces, and they typically require less time to correct minor to moderate issues like gaps or crookedness.

They also offer a more discreet teeth-straightening option since they aren’t as obvious as metal or even ceramic braces. If you have an important meeting, you can remove the aligners for this short period of time. You don’t have this option with braces.

In some cases, however, braces can give you straighter teeth than aligners or other options. This is simply because some cases are too severe for aligners to effectively treat them.

If you have a severe overbite or underbite, several missing teeth, major jaw misalignment, and some other issues, braces may work best. You may need additional orthodontic appliances, such as headgear, or even jaw surgery to effectively straighten your smile.

Many people would first like to see if they are a candidate for aligners. You’ll take impressions of your teeth at home, mail them in, and a treatment team will then assess whether aligners will work for you. If they won’t, braces may be your best bet.

Braces vs. Aligners Frequently Asked Questions

Most often, braces result in teeth that are completely straight, but it’s not guaranteed. It can be tough to accurately predict exactly where each tooth will end up, but most often, teeth end up very straight after braces and aligners.

This depends on your specific misalignment and bite issues. If you have severe misalignment and bite problems, braces (and other methods like jaw surgery) are likely your best bet. If you have mild to moderate misalignment, aligners may be your best choice since they can offer faster treatment and a less expensive price.

This depends on your specific case and needs. Consult an aligner company to see whether you are a good candidate. If you are, you can save time and money by choosing aligners over braces.

The length of braces treatment will vary greatly depending on how severe or complex the orthodontic problem is along with other factors, like what type of braces are used and how responsive the teeth and jaw are to treatment. Some cases may take less than six months, while others may take more than two years.

As soon as the braces are bonded to your teeth and the connecting wire is tightened, pressure is being applied to encourage movement. How much your teeth move and how quickly will be monitored by your orthodontist throughout treatment.

These are common problems associated with braces:

  • Discomfort and pain: This is especially common after an adjustment visit to the orthodontist (during which the braces are tightened and thus apply more pressure).

  • Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease: The areas between braces and gum and teeth are hard to reach with a toothbrush or floss, and harmful bacteria may build up in these locations. 

  • Bad breath: Poor oral hygiene with braces can lead to bacteria buildup and foul mouth odors.

  • Heightened tooth sensitivity: Teeth tend to be more sensitive during braces treatment.

  • Demineralization stains: These are stains on the tooth from contact with bacteria. This may result in small, white square outlines on the teeth where the brackets were.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, simple cases of teeth misalignment (malocclusion) may take only a few months of braces treatment to fix.

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.
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