Are Braces or Aligners Better for Teens?

Having straight teeth can be a huge confidence booster, especially as a teen, as well as provide a variety of other benefits. The good thing is, if your teen needs orthodontic help to achieve a smile that they are proud to show off, there are numerous treatment options available. This includes traditional braces, Damon® braces, and clear aligners like Invisalign®

When it comes to braces or aligners for your teen, you may be wondering how to choose which option would be best. Before making that choice, there are several things that you and your teen should consider, including the severity of any crooked teeth or misalignment (aka malocclusion) and personal preferences.

In this article, we’ve broken down both of these treatment options plus their pros and cons to help you evaluate braces vs aligners.


Orthodontic Treatment With Braces

Braces have been around the longest compared to other treatment methods and are still considered the standard of care for treating significant crookedness or misalignment. Traditional braces consist of brackets that are bonded to each tooth with a special dental adhesive and metal wires that are connected to all of the brackets with small o-ring elastics. These components all work together to apply gentle and consistent pressure to reposition the teeth. 

Many younger teens prefer the traditional braces system that uses stainless steel brackets that can be decorated with their favorite colored elastics to show off to their friends. Clear ceramic brackets are also available, offering a virtually invisible treatment option that is popular with older teens who want a more discrete choice.

With traditional braces, whether metal or clear brackets are used, your teen must visit their orthodontist periodically for a progress checkup and to have the wires adjusted as needed.

Damon® braces are another type of treatment option that is slightly different from traditional braces in that they are self-ligating, tie-less, and treatment time is usually slightly less.


Pros of Braces for Your Teen:

  • Are effective in correcting severe tooth crowding, misalignment, and bite problems.
  • Are very accurate when used to target and adjust specific teeth.
  • Can achieve certain types of movements more effectively than aligners.
  • There are a variety of colors available for the bracket elastics.
  • Will require less self-discipline from your teen compared to aligner treatments.
  • Are usually less expensive compared to clear aligners.


Cons Of Braces for Your Teen:

  • Certain foods that are problematic for braces will need to be limited or avoided.
  • A strict oral hygiene routine will need to be followed.
  • The periodic in-office wire adjustments can cause temporary mouth pain.
  • Brackets can accidentally come off teeth, leading to another visit to the orthodontist’s office. (This does not happen frequently)


Orthodontic Treatment with Invisalign Clear Aligners

Clear aligners have been available since 1997 (this is when Invisalign® was introduced) and involve the use of gentle and consistent pressure to move and straighten teeth without the use of metal components attached to the teeth. Initially, aligners were approved for use on older teens and adults who wanted to improve their smiles. But, as orthodontic technology has advanced, Invisalign Teen® was introduced and made this teeth-straightening treatment available to all teens, even those who are still waiting on several permanent teeth to come in.

During treatment using clear aligners, the patient wears each aligner (or set of aligners) for 1 to 2 weeks before changing to new ones. It is important to note that the aligners must be worn for at least 22 hours a day. 

The duration and overall success of treatment with aligners will very much depend on how well the patient follows the protocol prescribed by the orthodontist and if they wear their aligners as instructed.


Pros of Clear Aligners for Your Teen:

  • Are nearly invisible when being worn, offering a much more discreet alternative to braces.
  • Can be removed when eating or cleaning teeth.
  • No dietary changes are needed during treatment.
  • Fewer office visits will be needed compared to treatment with braces.
  • Are custom-fitted for the patient throughout the treatment process.


Cons Of Clear Aligners for Your Teen:

  • Cannot be used to effectively treat severe cases of misalignment/bite problems.
  • They must be diligently worn 22 hours a day.
  • Teeth must be brushed and flushed thoroughly before putting the aligners back in.
  • If they are not worn for the required 22 hours per day, the duration of treatment can end up being longer than with braces.
  • Are usually more expensive than treatment with braces.

Deciding Between Braces or Aligners For Your Teen

As you can see, there are several things to consider when you and your teen are trying to decide between braces or Invisalign. Both treatment methods will follow the three stages of orthodontic treatment. But, if your teen’s teeth are extremely crooked or they have a bad crossbite, overbite, or underbite, traditional braces will probably be the more effective option. Also, if your teen will not be diligent enough to consistently wear the aligners 22 hours a day then braces will definitely be the best option.

If your teen is worried about how noticeable braces might be, they may want to consider clear ceramic braces (like Damon® Clear) that will provide a better aesthetic while still being effective in straightening teeth and improving your child’s smile.

In general, if your teen has a less severe case of teeth crookedness or misalignment and their bite is not severely off then clear aligners might be a good option. A good number of teens prefer this treatment option since they are removable and nearly invisible. But remember, If they are not worn for the prescribed time each day, the length of treatment can be significantly increased.

During your teen’s initial consultation with their orthodontist here at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics in Springfield, we go over the different treatment options that may be available based on you and your teen’s specific circumstances and goals as well the pros and cons of each. We can also answer any questions you may have about braces or clear aligners for your teen.

For more information and to schedule an appointment, contact our office today!