Should I Choose Invisalign or Braces for My Child?

Invisalign or braces, that is the question! When it comes time for your child to get braces, it can be hard to know what to choose. Should your child get traditional braces? Or perhaps they might do better with Invisalign clear aligners?

Here at Orthodontist of Santa Barbara, we have some general recommendations based on age and maturity level. However, each child is individual, and as a parent it can be helpful to understand the pros and cons of Invisalign and braces.

What Are the Differences Between Braces and Invisalign Clear Aligners?

In exploring the differences between Invisalign or braces, it can be helpful to understand the basic technology underneath them. Both traditional braces and Invisalign clear aligners are designed to gently move teeth into the proper position through a small amount of force over an extended period of time.

The time it takes for both technologies to straighten teeth depends on the severity of the orthodontic case – and with Invisalign, how compliant the patient is in wearing their clear aligners daily. (This compliance issue is one main reason why Invisalign may not be the best option for your Santa Barbara child, which we will discuss later).

Treatment time for both braces and Invisalign can take a year or more, with Invisalign being possibly the slightly less time-consuming option of a year to 18 months, whereas braces may be worn for up to 3 years. To add an additional wrinkle, certain types of braces, specifically ceramic or clear braces, can take a little longer to do their magic.

Thus, the main difference between traditional braces and Invisalign, besides the time involved, is how they work. Braces are permanently affixed to the teeth and require wires and brackets, while Invisalign uses plastic “trays” called clear aligners that are removable.

Let’s look at these two options more in depth.

How Do Traditional Metal Braces Work?

Traditional metal braces used to be absolutely hated by children, though not anymore, fortunately. The big, clunky metal braces that Jan Brady used to wear in shame are no more. Today’s modern braces use smaller metal brackets, so they are lighter and more comfortable. Additionally, today’s braces come with colorful elastics, so your child can customize their braces for whatever look they prefer.

This is what makes today’s braces a popular option with kids instead of a source of shame like they used to be. Thus, even though they are still “traditional” metal braces, they have been modernized and are even better than before.

Today’s modern braces work to straighten crooked teeth and remove gaps through a series of wires that are connected to small square brackets that are adhered to the front of each tooth. The elastics help keep the wires in place.

As the orthodontic treatment progresses, the wires are tightened gently to help move the teeth along. These adjustments must be done at our dental office in Santa Barbara, California. You’ll have to bring your child in every few weeks for these adjustments.

What Are the Pros of Traditional Metal Braces?

One of the main positives of traditional metal braces is that they are not removable. This means they can’t be lost or left behind at the cafeteria table. Also, today’s kids are often excited to get metal braces in the fashion colors they desire.

What Are the Cons of Traditional Metal Braces?

On the negative side of things, braces cannot be removed for cleaning or eating, so some special care is necessary to keep teeth clean. Also, kids should avoid foods like hard candy while wearing braces as these types of foods can possibly dislodge the wires in braces or in an extreme (and rare) case, break off a bracket.

How Do Invisalign Clear Aligners Work?

Invisalign clear aligners work by the same principle as traditional metal braces. The teeth are gently pushed or pulled into the correct position in the mouth over a period of time. However, with Invisalign, this process occurs through the use of plastic trays (the clear aligners). These trays are entirely removable.

Invisalign clear aligners are custom molded for the patient’s mouth and are replaced approximately every two weeks. Because they are made of a clear material, Invisalign clear aligners are much less obvious than traditional metal braces.

What Are the Pros of Invisalign Clear Aligners?

One of the main pros of Invisalign clear aligners is that they aren’t that visible, which makes them a popular option with many older teens who have grown past the phase where colored elastics would be an enticement to wear braces.

Furthermore, Invisalign clear aligners might be more comfortable, as they do not have any metal brackets or wires.

And, because they are removable, they make it much easier to brush, floss, and eat. You can eat whatever you want with Invisalign clear aligners because there are no brackets and wires for food to get stuck to.

What Are the Cons of Invisalign Clear Aligners?

The main problem with Invisalign clear aligners with kids is that they are removable. This means your kid might not wear them enough. Invisalign clear aligners need to be worn approximately 22 hours per day for the best results.

Kids can also be prone to taking out their aligners and leaving them in public places – and thus losing them. This means there may be extra expenses if Invisalign clear aligner trays need to be replaced on a regular basis.

While Invisalign now has a blue dot on the inside of trays so parents can monitor how much the device is being worn, compliance is ultimately the main issue with clear aligners for kids. For this reason, we recommend them more for responsible, mature kids and teens.

Are There Other Braces Options for My Kids?

There is one more option we should mention, which might be a good middle ground for an older teen who wants a more invisible look but is not responsible enough to wear their Invisalign clear aligners consistently. This option is clear, ceramic braces aka porcelain braces. These work just like traditional metal braces but use ceramic brackets instead of metal. These brackets are tooth colored and make the braces virtually invisible.

The main problem with ceramic braces is that they are more brittle than metal. Thus, more care needs to be taken with them and they also take longer to work (months longer at least).

If your child needs Invisalign or braces in Santa Barbara, California, and you are not sure what to choose, come visit us at Orthodontics of Santa Barbara. We will explain all the options and help you make the right choice for your child. Contact us today at (805) 979-9070 for an appointment.


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