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Invisalign vs braces – helping patients weigh up their options

When it comes to recommending conventional braces, Invisalign or other orthodontic treatment options, it is essential for Dental Health Providers’ and their patients to have all the facts – this allows both parties to come up with a treatment plan that suits the circumstances.

But when is it appropriate to recommend Invisalign? And when are conventional braces a better option?

Invisalign – a subtle solution

Invisalign is a treatment system considered to be an effective alternative to braces, utilising nearly invisible, removable aligning units that are changed every few weeks for another set.

The aligners can be used to treat a range of orthodontic problems, including overbite, underbite, crossbite, wide spacing and overcrowding – and can be easily taken out for eating and drinking, as well as brushing and flossing.

Each set is manufactured individually for the patient’s teeth, with the aligners designed to move the teeth incrementally until they have reached the final position prescribed in consultation between the dental professional and the patient.

Invisalign’s accompanying software system – ClinCheck – gives the patient a virtual overview of their treatment program, showing the movement of the teeth throughout the course and providing a visual guide for what the expected outcome will be.

Invisalign aligners are almost impossible to see when worn, so are much more discreet and can often go unnoticed by other people. This may be a bonus for patients who are feeling self-conscious about the prospect of wearing braces.

However, one important drawback for many patients is the cost of Invisalign, which is often slightly higher than the costs associated with traditional braces. In Australia, a patient may expect to pay between $6,000 and $8,500 for a more comprehensive treatment – although costs will largely depend on the type of work that needs to be carried out, and in some cases, the cost of minor corrections can be lower.

Conventional braces – long-term results

Conventional braces, which have been used to correct orthodontic problems for decades, are often judged to be less attractive than Invisalign, but they have a number of important advantages over this type of treatment.

Generally made from either stainless steel or in clear ceramic, brackets are cemented to the surface of each individual tooth, and then manipulated with wires, which are threaded through the brackets and adjusted once every few weeks to force movement on the teeth.

A dentist is required to perform this procedure – wearers of conventional braces tend to require more frequent visits to their orthodontist for adjustments than those who use Invisalign.

A major advantage – particularly for young patients or their parents – of conventional braces is that they cannot be removed. While aligners can be taken out for eating, brushing and flossing, conventional braces are worn round-the-clock.

According to 2011 research carried out by researchers at the Department of Orthodontics at Malmö University in Sweden, fixed appliances were considerably more effective in treating crossbite than removable ones – and are often less expensive.

Sofia Petren, who is a dentist and orthodontic specialist at the university, asserted in her dissertation: “”Today both treatments are equally common in clinics, but I maintain we should use the method that works best, has a lasting effect, and is most cost-effective.”

Making an informed decision

The bottom line is that the type of orthodontic treatment any patient chooses needs to be evaluated based on their individual circumstances – weighing up the aesthetic benefit of Invisalign with its overall effectiveness.

This decision should be made based on the recommendations of the orthodontist or dentist, as well as the lifestyle of the patient and their budget