Aligners vs Braces: Which Option is Right for You?

With a little research, you can confidently decide on the best way to achieve a straighter, healthier smile
17 April 2024
Photo by Ivana Cajina

Straightening your teeth is an important investment in your health and self-confidence. While braces used to be the only option, clear teeth aligners have become a popular alternative in recent years. This article will compare clear teeth aligners and traditional braces to help you decide which is the best choice for your unique smile goals and lifestyle.

How Do Aligners and Braces Straighten Teeth?

Braces use brackets and wires to apply steady pressure to gradually shift teeth into place over time. Aligners are custom-made, clear plastic trays that fit over your teeth. Each set applies light force to incrementally move teeth into a better position. Here’s a quick overview of how each option works:

Braces: Brackets are bonded to each tooth and connected with arch wires. Tightening the wires over time applies pressure to shift teeth. Orthodontists adjust braces every 4-6 weeks. Treatment times range from 1 to 3 years.

Clear Aligners: A series of BPA-free plastic aligners are custom-made to fit your teeth. Each aligner applies pressure to certain teeth and is worn for 1-2 weeks before switching to the next. Treatment averages 6-18 months.

Photo by Emmanuel Akinte

Comfort and Appearance

For many people, aesthetics are a top consideration when evaluating orthodontic options. Here’s how aligners and braces compare when it comes to comfort and appearance:

Aligners are removable, so you can enjoy the freedom to eat and brush your teeth normally. They are also transparent, making them nearly invisible when worn. No one may even notice you’re straightening your smile!

Braces are fixed metal brackets glued to your teeth, which take some adjustment when eating or cleaning teeth. They are also highly visible. For some patients, however, braces become a fun fashion accessory for self-expression. Decorative rubber bands let you customize your “brace face.”

Lifestyle Factors

Your day-to-day routines and habits may also influence whether clear aligners or braces are better suited to your lifestyle:

Aligners offer flexibility. Since they are removable, there are no dietary restrictions. You must commit to wearing aligners 20-22 hours per day for the best results. Some find it easy to incorporate this routine, while others struggle to keep them in.

Braces don’t require compliance. Once they are on, you don’t need to think much about them aside from adjustments and cleaning. However, you must avoid sticky, hard, or crunchy foods that can damage braces.

Teens or athletic patients often prefer braces since aligners require meticulous oral hygiene and can be lost. Braces may withstand active lifestyles better.

Photo by Gabriel Silverio

Treatment Process

The journey to a straighter smile differs quite a bit between the two options:

Aligners: An impression or 3D scan of your teeth is taken to create a set of custom aligners. You’ll switch to a new aligner every 1-2 weeks, seeing incremental tooth movement at each stage. Most visit the orthodontist every 6-8 weeks for progress checks.

Braces: Brackets are bonded to your teeth during your first visit. The orthodontist will attach wires and adjust them every 4-6 weeks. Each adjustment shifts your teeth further. You’ll see the orthodontist much more frequently.

Aligners require discipline to wear as prescribed. With braces, your orthodontist monitors progress at each visit. Both options rely on regular appointments for optimal results.


When it comes to effectiveness, both braces and aligners can achieve relatively comparable alignment for mild to moderate cases. More severe misalignment often requires traditional braces. Here are some key differences:

Braces can apply slightly more force for complex tooth movement. They are the gold standard for rotating, elevating, or otherwise dramatically shifting teeth.

Aligners use gentler force best for minor crowding, spacing, or simple movement. They work optimally when tooth roots are fully developed. Results may be faster with braces.

Overall success depends on your specific orthodontic needs, oral health, and commitment to treatment. Discuss your case with an orthodontist to determine which option may work better. For moderate issues, aligners and braces can offer similar end results.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Cost is often a primary factor in choosing orthodontic treatment. Here’s an overview of affordability:

The cost of an aligner for full treatment ranges from around $1000-$5000. Not all insurance companies cover aligners, so it’s wise to check your specific policy for details. Clear teeth aligners from ALIGNERCO are available with payment plans so you can spread the cost.

Braces cost about $3,000-$7,500 on average. Most dental insurance plans cover a portion, often 50 percent of fees. Payment plans are also commonly available.

Which Option Is Right for You?

Selecting between clear aligners versus braces is an important decision based on your specific smile goals, needs, and lifestyle. Consider factors like cost, appearance, comfort, effectiveness, and convenience. Schedule a consultation with an orthodontist to get professional insight into whether aligners or braces may be the optimal path for the smile you want. With a little research, you can confidently decide on the best way to achieve a straighter, healthier smile.