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Braces for Adults: How Do I Choose Between Braces and Invisalign?

Braces are usually thought of as something that adolescents and teenagers have to contend with. The decision to get braces is often made by their parents. But at MyOrthodontist in Chapel Hill, NC, it is common for orthodontists to work with braces for adults. Some adults did not have the opportunity to have braces as teenagers. Others experienced their teeth shifting after their braces were removed.

It is never too late to decide to improve your smile. There are more options than ever. One of the biggest questions for adults is whether to choose braces or Invisalign. Each one has its benefits. The decision involves more than which one looks better.

Metal Braces

For many years, metal braces were the only option for anyone who wanted to straighten their teeth. Now there are other options. Metal braces are still the most common treatment method for orthodontic problems. They have come a long way since they became popular in the 1950s. Now the brackets are smaller and more comfortable. The newest braces use heat-activated archwires that tighten in response to body heat. This makes the teeth move into the correct positions more quickly.

How They Work

Metal brackets are glued onto the fronts of the teeth. They are connected together with wires. Other appliances such as spacers, springs, or bands may be used as well.

Braces work by applying pressure to the teeth. Orthodontists customize braces for each patient by placing brackets at certain angles and bending wires in specific places. The teeth move into the correct places. The bones around the roots of the teeth change shape to keep the teeth in their new positions.

Benefits of Metal Braces

One reason metal braces are often chosen over ceramic braces is because of their durability. Ceramic braces can chip or crack. Teenagers who are involved in sports where they may get hit in the mouth may need to opt for metal braces. Since adults are less likely than teenagers to regularly participate in sports, this might not be a concern.

If you have more challenging orthodontic needs, such as very crooked teeth or a severe overbite, metal braces may be the best choice. They are able to withstand more pressure. They can move teeth more quickly and more effectively than ceramic braces.
Metal braces are often less expensive than ceramic braces and Invisalign. If you’re on a budget, you may want to choose metal braces.

Drawbacks of Metal Braces

One of the most common things that people complain about when it comes to metal braces for adults is the appearance. Today’s brackets may be smaller than those in the past, but they are still easy to see. Many adults may be self-conscious about having braces.

Metal braces can be difficult to keep clean. People wearing metal braces must brush their teeth several times per day. The shape of brackets can make flossing a challenge.

Finally, metal braces limit what the wearer can eat. Wearers need to avoid hard and chewy candies, popcorn, corn on the cob, bubblegum, and anything that is difficult to chew. This can be a downside for someone who doesn’t like the idea of giving up their favorite foods while wearing braces.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces work the same way as metal braces. They consist of brackets that are held together by wires. Ceramic braces are clear or tooth-colored. The wires may be metallic or colored to blend in more naturally with the brackets and teeth.

Benefits of Ceramic Braces

A big reason that ceramic braces are chosen as the ideal braces for adults is that they are less noticeable. Adults may not want to stand out in a crowd or be known as “that guy with the braces” at work. They may want something more subtle. Ceramic braces are harder to detect in person and in photos.

Ceramic brackets are lighter in weight than metal brackets. Their surfaces are more rounded. They are less likely to cause pain or to irritate the gums.

Although ceramic braces are not quite as fast or effective as their heavier metal counterparts, they do their job well. Ceramic braces may be a good option for an adult whose orthodontic needs are too severe for Invisalign but who does not want their braces to be too noticeable.

Drawbacks of Ceramic Braces

As mentioned before, ceramic braces are a little less effective than metal braces. They may not be right for people with more challenging orthodontic needs. Ceramic braces are strong, but they can chip or crack. Like metal braces, people wearing ceramic braces have to avoid certain foods. Plus, they are often more expensive than metal braces. This may be an issue for an adult who is on a tight budget.


Invisalign is the brand name for a type of aligner that is used to straighten teeth without braces. It can be an alternative to braces for adults.

How It Works

First, clear plastic trays are made using a mold of the person’s teeth. The trays fit over the teeth. They have to be worn at least 22 hours a day. They can be taken out when the wearer is eating, drinking or brushing their teeth.

Every two weeks, the person receives new trays. The new trays are made so that the teeth are slightly straighter than the patient’s actual teeth. When the wearer puts the trays over their teeth, pressure is put on the teeth. This causes them to slowly move into place.

Benefits of Invisalign

Many people love Invisalign because it is nearly impossible to tell when a person is wearing the clear trays. For anyone who does not like the idea of braces, but does want to have straighter teeth, this is a great advantage. The trays can be removed, so it is not necessary to avoid any of your favorite foods while using Invisalign. This also makes it easier to brush teeth. There are no brackets involved for food particles to be trapped in.

Invisalign trays are smooth and comfortable. There are no sharp edges or wires to irritate the gums or the inside of the mouth. Clear and tooth-colored brackets used to be made from plastic and sometimes became stained. Ceramic brackets do not stain.

Drawbacks of Invisalign

Invisalign works best for people with milder orthodontic needs such as underbites or overbites, gapped teeth, or crowded teeth. More severe problems will require actual braces. While braces stay in the wearer’s mouth at all times, Invisalign trays can be removed. This can be inconvenient for people who may misplace the trays or forget to put them back in after eating.

Being able to remove the Invisalign trays means that brushing teeth is easier. However, people using Invisalign must brush their teeth every single time they eat or drink something other than water before replacing the trays. This can be inconvenient for people who are used to snacking throughout the day.

Some people may need to wear various attachments with their Invisalign trays. The attachments look similar to clear braces and may be more noticeable than just Invisalign trays alone.

Questions to Ask Your Orthodontist

It is important to get as much information as possible while you make this important decision. It helps to come up with a list of questions before your first appointment. Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What corrections do my teeth need?
  • Can I see examples of your work with braces for adults?
  • Is one option better for my long-term health?
  • How long would I need to wear braces or Invisalign?
  • Is there any way to speed up the treatment process?
  • How often will I need to visit the orthodontist?
  • Do I need any tooth extractions first?
  • Will I need any attachments if I get Invisalign?
  • Will I need to wear a retainer after braces or Invisalign?

Other Considerations

Getting braces as an adult can be more complicated than it would be for a child or teenager. Many adults have extra dental problems, such as mild gingivitis, worn down teeth and bone loss. The bones in an adult’s mouth are also fully developed. They are harder than the bones of a child, which may make it more difficult to move the teeth. Adult tissue can take longer to adjust to tooth movement than children’s tissue.

These facts should not deter adults from looking into getting braces, however. They are simply things adults should be prepared to talk about with their orthodontist.

Braces for Adults? Yes!

Adulthood is filled with choices. Those choices include whether to get braces or Invisalign. It can be helpful to make a list of pros and cons for each and think about what is most important to you. It is up to you! Your orthodontist can help you decide which course of treatment is best for you. They can tell you about any additional options that are available. Contact MyOrthodontist in Chapel Hill, NC to schedule your first appointment with an orthodontist.

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