Most people know a relative or friend who wore braces when they were younger. However, as you are certainly aware, orthodontics has made significant strides in recent years, giving you and your teenager more alternatives.
As an alternative to braces, you may already be aware of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen, but you may not be entirely certain how the two treatment options compare to one another.
This orthodontic treatment involves the use of metal brackets that are bonded to each tooth’s enamel. A metal archwire is then manipulated to pass through each bracket, where it is attached via vivid elastic O-rings (you can choose the colors).
You can also choose clear braces, which are less obvious and match the color of your teeth. After that, the archwire can be tightened to gradually move the teeth into a better position to fix the orthodontic problem.
A 3D picture of the your mouth, combined with X-rays and impressions of your teeth, are used to fabricate your custom clear aligners for Invisalign. The treatment involves wearing a series of gradually different clear trays to gently reposition your teeth by less than a millimeter.
Each tray positions the tooth more effectively than the previous one. And before switching to the next tray, each tray is worn for one to two weeks. It is simple to put on and take off the Invisalign trays.
The trays are fabricated using BPA-free, smooth, pleasant plastic. They are worn over the teeth and help to gently realign the teeth. You will need to schedule an appointment to have your aligners changed around every two weeks, or as your orthodontist specifies.
Both traditional braces and Invisalign can help straighten your teeth, but each has benefits and drawbacks of its own that may make then suitable or unsuitable for teens.
The emotional aspect is where regular braces and Invisalign vary the most. Any adult would find it unsettling to have wire bands and brackets affixed to their teeth on a semi-permanent basis, and children who are getting close to the age when orthodontic treatment is necessary are typically more self-conscious than the ordinary adult.
Some teenagers prefer the idea of traditional metal braces because they can choose the color of their braces each time they visit an orthodontist. However, some teens would prefer not to have such obvious braces.
If esthetics is a concern, teenagers who can feel less self-conscious about their treatment is they choose Invisalign because it’s more discreet compared to traditional braces. The main reason parents and teenagers consider Invisalign instead of braces is the potential for anxiety and self-esteem problems associated with traditional metal braces.
Athletes and Metal Braces
Teens who are interested in sports and athletics should consider Invisalign. Traditional metal braces don’t work well in sports like football and wrestling that call for mouthguards. While there are specific mouthguards for orthodontic use that can be worn with braces, they are typically somewhat heavy. Teenagers may stop wearing mouthguards altogether as a result of this, or choose to avoid certain sports for the duration of treatment.
Without a mouthguard, a teen who has braces may sustain damage to their appliances, necessitating time-consuming repair work, or their braces may harm the soft tissues of their mouth. In the worst case, both occur simultaneously.
Traditional mouthguards work better since they fit your teen’s teeth more snugly. Your teen only needs to remove the aligners and store them carefully when wearing the mouth guard. Additionally, compared to braces, there is lower risk of injury or damage to the Invisalign tray if your teen attends practice without their mouthguard.
Considerations for Invisalign vs braces for teenagers
- Skill of orthodontist – The skill and ability of the service provider tends to be more important than even the approach used. So you need to find a qualified orthodontist to discuss your treatment options.
- Severity of case – In the hands of qualified orthodontists, research has shown that treatments that use fixed appliances (braces) deliver results that are much closer to the American Board of Orthodontics Standards than their removable counterparts (clear aligners). It is widely agreed that the outcomes obtained with braces are superior to those obtained with Invisalign, especially for severe problems that require precise control.
- Ease of use – Clear aligners are easier to use, so users experience less discomfort during the entire period of treatment.
- Hygiene – Since aligners are removable, Invisalign is hygiene friendly. Clear aligners often improve oral hygiene because patients remove them before eating and brushing their teeth, whereas it can be difficult for children to floss and clean around wire braces
- Cost – Invisalign costs more than braces because of the lab fee requirement.
- Comfort – According to orthodontists, traditional brackets put more force on the teeth, which might cause patients to feel more pain. Additionally, metal objects rubbing against the cheeks might irritate them and lead to sore places.
- Emergency visits – There are fewer crises, fewer emergency visits to correct broken components, and fewer appointments to finish treatment with clear aligners as compared to metal braces for teens. This translates to significantly less time away from class and extracurricular activities.
- Appointments time – Invisalign doesn’t require monthly adjustments like braces do. Instead, your teen will make dental visits every six to eight weeks for a quick check-up, and to receive the next batch of 3-4 aligner trays in the sequence. This will make the treatment convenient in the long-term.
- Removability for special occasions – This is an important benefit, especially for tween and teen coming-of-age events. Although manufacturers advise wearing clear aligners for 22 hours every day to have the best and most durable results, teens may need a break for a few hours to engage freely in an important social event. Since the patient now has more power over the outcome than the orthodontist does, patient compliance is essential.
- Patient compliance and cooperation – Invisalign aligners need to be worn for 22 hours a day, with patients removing them occasionally to eat, drink, clean their teeth, participate in sports, play a wind instrument – a minority of events. However, this also increases the risk of the clear aligners getting lost, damaged, or simply not worn for whatever reason. So the success of the treatment is largely dependent on patient cooperation. Additionally, with transparent aligners, much more care is necessary. Even when you drink colorful beverages, you must remove them. You don’t want food becoming stuck between your aligners and teeth when you eat.
- Delays in treatment – It can take up to two weeks for a replacement aligner to be delivered if a patient misplaces one, which happens frequently for teen users. To address this problem, many specialists often produce duplicate trays to ensure that replacements are readily available when the need arises.
Verdict - Is Invisalign recommended for teens?
Although Invisalign can be successfully used to treat orthodontic problems for teens, Dr. Hilary Baskin of HealthTap argues that many providers recommend braces because they are cheaper, faster, and potentially more effective in terms of providing greater control of tooth movement compared to Invisalign. This ensures more precision and flexibility in therapy.
The fact that they’re fixed (not removable) also makes braces the preferred choice by many parents as it eliminates the high costs associated with replacing lost or damaged Invisalign trays – teens tend to be careless with these orthodontic appliances.
That said, when it comes to choosing between Invisalign and braces, the right choice is subjective depending on the individual circumstances of the case.
The obvious benefits of clear aligners for teenagers include invisibility, removability, comfort, and less pain. And considering how much Invisalign technology has advanced in recent years, it’s now possible to treat more severe orthodontic issues, which has given patients more options.
This is important since no teenager wants to wear braces that will make them look awkward. Little kids may not mind much, but teens and tweens are very appearance conscious.
Combination orthodontics – brackets and aligners
Moreover, an orthodontist could start by using brackets and eventually move to aligners.
Patients shouldn’t actually be looking for either choice. It truly comes down to the particular case and how to handle it best. What really matters is to be aware of all your alternatives and to develop a long-term plan with your orthodontist based on your treatment objectives and lifestyle preferences.
Appliance-driven therapy should be used with caution, so that the appliance chosen depends on the treatment strategy. Neither orthodontic patients nor practitioners should select the instrument and then determine what can be constructed with it.