Dental assistant and teenage patient with braces pose for selfie.

Invisalign vs. Braces

Many people who want to straighten their teeth are unsure where to start. There are so many choices, and everyone knows at least a few people who have done each: the traditional metal bracket approach, Invisalign, and even the clear brackets (most commonly used with adults). However, the two most popular options are Invisalign and braces.

Here at Starling Orthodontics, our goal is to ensure that you have all the information you need to make the best choice for yourself or your family, and that starts with understanding the difference between these two main options. Whether you’re exploring options for a child or teen or want the fastest, least visible approach to straightening your own smile, we’re here to help.

So before you go Googling “orthodontist near me,” read this handy guide for everything you need to know about Invisalign vs. braces.

Traditional Braces

Metal brackets form the backbone of traditional braces, though they can also be made of ceramic. Usually, these are glued to right to the tooth surface. The orthodontist then runs a wire through the middle of each bracket and secures it with bands, for which children and teens often enjoy choosing colors.

The thickness of the wire, along with various angles and placement practices chosen by the orthodontic team, dictate how it will shift the teeth over time. This slowly straightens them with a minimum amount of discomfort, typically only felt right after an adjustment takes place (e.g. the orthodontist changes the wire type, angle, or both).

Invisalign “Braces”

Invisalign isn’t actually braces at all. Rather, it is closer to a retainer. It’s a plastic mold or “tray” that fits around the front and back of your teeth, kind of like the tray used by a dentist or orthodontist to take a mold of your teeth (which will happen before creating your customized Invisalign set).

The mold is clear, so it’s much harder to see. It is also removable, which is convenient for eating and brushing. Many adults choose Invisalign because it is easier to “get away with” even in professional settings where metal braces may not feel comfortable or appropriate. You can also take your Invisalign out for special events, such as a wedding or picture day.

Similarities and Differences

Are braces and Invisalign really all that different? Let’s do a quick compare and contrast.


  • Both straighten teeth using a customized approach overseen by an orthodontist
  • Insurance may cover either plan, depending on whether your treatment is classified as medical or cosmetic
  • Both types of treatment come with financing
  • Both braces and Invisalign start with a one-on-one consultation with your orthodontist about the best approach for you, your children or teen, or other dependents
  • Braces and Invisalign are both possible for adults


  • Braces are a longer treatment, often 18-24 months, while Invisalign usually caps out around a year (but not always)
  • Invisalign is much easier to keep clean, both trays and your mouth, than braces
  • Braces are more appropriate for people who need major correction of bite and position of teeth, while Invisalign is more often (but not always) a more cosmetic approach
  • Invisalign trays have to be replaced as your teeth move, whereas only the wire and bands need changing in braces
  • You may be able to get new Invisalign trays in the mail and skip a visit to the orthodontist
  • Usually, but not always, Invisalign cost is higher than braces cost because you have to replace your trays so often.

Have a few more questions? Let’s see if we can answer them for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are braces available at any age?

A: Yes. The main differentiator in whether or not to get braces is not age but how much correction your teeth need.

Q: Is Invisalign available at any age?

A: Invisalign is not always the best choice for children and teens, whose mouth size is changing and who are losing/gaining teeth. However, if the correction needed isn’t major, Invisalign is a potential treatment even for young children and can help avoid painful adjustments for sensitive kiddos.

Q: What are the health benefits of correction, either by braces or Invisalign?

A: Braces help you maintain tooth and jaw health as well as a stronger bite, keep your gums cleaner, and maintain a nicer smile.

Q: Can Invisalign correct underbites and overbites?

A: Yes, Invisalign can fix all three problems, but is not appropriate for major issues with any of them.

Q: What do I do when I take my Invisalign trays out?

A: The orthodontic team provides special cases, like those used for retainers, in which you can keep your trays when not in use.

Your Trusted Orthodontist in Brentwood TN

Ready to go ahead of find that “orthodontist near me” you were going to Google? Save your effort, because Starling Orthodontics is your go-to choice for Brentwood TN and surrounding areas. We would love to help you and your children find better tooth health today.

Feel free to read some of our many rave reviews or simply get in touch to schedule a visit. Our family looks forward to meeting yours!

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