Metal Braces vs. Invisalign: Make an Informed Choice

I’ve had many patients go back and forth between traditional braces and clear aligners when deciding how to get treated. I know it can be a tricky choice, because they’re both great.

If you’re debating between metal braces vs. Invisalign, you’re in the right place. I’m going to lay out my arguments for choosing one over the other. As for which is best, it ultimately depends on what’s most important to you. But here is my opinion:

Metal braces are better than Invisalign because they can treat a wide variety of cases. They are also better at fixing bites. Nonetheless, metal braces have their drawbacks. Metal braces are fixed to teeth, quite visible, uncomfortable, and may take longer than clear aligners.

Choosing between these two treatment options will depend on two things. The first one is personal preference. We’ll discuss all the pros and cons in this article to help you decide.

The second thing that will influence your decision should be your orthodontist’s opinion. Clear aligners like Invisalign can be limited in what they can correct. Your orthodontist should decide if you’re a good candidate for aligners.

Metal Braces vs. Invisalign: Which Is Better?

I believe metal braces are better than Invisalign, but it’s not a simple answer.

Metal braces are better if you need a lot of work done, like extractions, surgery, or bite correction. They use brackets and wires to straighten teeth and fix your bite.

Fully fixing the bite is the goal of any orthodontic treatment, while just straightening the front teeth is considered a compromise.

Metal braces have been around the longest and there are lots of studies that show they work well. Orthodontists have more experience with them and are more comfortable recommending them.

Invisalign uses clear aligners that move your teeth little by little. The movements are planned ahead of time using special software. This saves time because you don’t have to change wires like with metal braces.

Invisalign also uses little bumps on your teeth called attachments. These help the aligners grip better, especially for more difficult movements. Invisalign is capable of fixing the bite, but it may take longer than braces.

Invisalign is and not as widely used by orthodontists yet because it’s not as effective in correcting severe cases. However, in skilled hands, and with a little help from accessories like attachments, buttons, and rubber bands, Invisalign aligners can work on difficult cases too.

More adults are choosing clear aligners like Invisalign these days because they are removable, esthetic, and convenient. Hopefully, aligners will become precise and powerful enough to solve even the most challenging issues.

Metal Braces Advantages & Disadvantages

Metal braces have some serious advantages that make them suitable for all ages and treatment types.


  • Effective for correcting complex dental issues. Metal braces are a fantastic tool for fixing bites. A good bite, and not just straight teeth, should be the gold standard of any orthodontic treatment.
  • Durable and can handle a lot of pressure. Metal braces are made of stainless steel. This allows orthodontists to apply higher forces to teeth without the braces bending or breaking.
  • Generally less expensive than other types of braces. Metal braces are more affordable because they don’t need to be customized. Orthodontists always have them in stock.
  • Can work faster than aligners. Metal braces are better for certain issues that are harder to correct. For example, closing gaps or reducing an overbite.
  • Can eat and drink without removing them. Metal braces don’t stain like clear braces, or like attachments and clear aligners. They don’t need to be removed, but that’s also a drawback.
Metal braces


  • More noticeable than other types of braces. Metal braces are the most visible orthodontic treatment option. Fortunately, most people accept them now as the norm.
  • Can cause discomfort and soreness in the mouth. Metal braces can cause sores and pain, especially during the initial adjustment period. Small components like bracket hooks and wire ends can hurt cheeks and gums.
  • May not be suited for patients with allergies. The stainless steel inside metal braces and wires contains nickel which can trigger allergic reactions in some people.
  • Require more frequent dental appointments and adjustments. Metal braces work best by changing wires and bands frequently, every 4 to 6 weeks. This can be inconvenient.
  • Emergencies like broken brackets or wires can occur. Metal braces often need additional appointments to deal with broken or loose components.
  • Need to avoid certain foods that are sticky or hard. Following the food guidelines will ensure your brackets don’t come off accidentally.
  • Require extra care to keep clean and may stain teeth. It can be challenging to properly clean all around the metal components. Improper hygiene can lead to discoloration, cavities and gum disease.

Invisalign Advantages & Disadvantages

Invisalign has been around for 20+ years and is a powerful tool in any orthodontist’s arsenal. Here are Invisalign’s main pros and cons:


  • Invisalign aligners are nearly invisible. They’re far less noticeable than traditional braces, but keep in mind you can still see them. You’ll be able to see the attachments and plastic film up close.
  • Invisalign aligners are removable. This makes it easier to eat, brush, and floss.
  • Invisalign aligners are custom-made for each patient. This ensures a comfortable and precise fit, but it also speeds up treatment.
  • Invisalign aligners use a gentle, gradual force to move teeth. Aligners can be more comfortable than traditional braces for many patients, and may be less painful. Still, the pain level will depend on the patient’s specific sensitivity.
  • Invisalign treatment can be completed in as little as 6-18 months. This is true especially if you only need cosmetic corrections. Complex cases actually take longer when treated with aligners.
  • Invisalign aligners do not require as many office visits as traditional braces. Some orthodontists offer mail-order aligners and tele-dentistry. This means you can go even longer between appointments.
Invisalign trays


  • Invisalign aligners must be worn for at least 22 hours per day to be effective. This can be challenging for some patients because it relies on their willpower.
  • Invisalign aligners can be easily lost or damaged. This can delay treatment and increase costs to replace aligner trays.
  • Invisalign aligners may not be as effective as traditional braces. If you have severe bite problems or jaw misalignment it’s best to stick with fixed braces.
  • Invisalign treatment can be more expensive than traditional braces. Every case is different, but clear aligners are a high-end treatment that can become costly. Refinements, lost aligners and long treatment times can all increase costs.
  • Invisalign aligners require more self-discipline. than traditional braces because they must be removed before eating or drinking anything other than water.
  • Invisalign treatment may take longer than traditional braces. Invisalign will use attachments, buttons and even rubber bands to create the same movements as braces in complex cases. However, the gentle movements of aligners can take longer for some patients.
Treatment AspectMetal BracesInvisalign
Treatment LengthTypically 18-36 monthsTypically 6-18 months, but may take longer for complex cases
CostGenerally less expensive, but can vary depending on the case
e.g. $2,000–$6,000
Often more expensive, but can vary depending on the case
e.g. $3,000–$7,000
AppearanceMore noticeableNearly invisible, but attachments and plastic film may still be visible up close
ComfortCan cause discomfort and soreness, especially during the initial adjustment periodGenerally more comfortable, but may still cause pain depending on the patient’s sensitivity
RemovableCannot be removedCan be removed for eating, brushing, and flossing
Cases TreatedEffective for complex dental issues, such as severe bite problems or jaw misalignmentMay not be as effective for complex dental issues, but can treat cosmetic corrections and some bite problems
Food RestrictionsNeed to avoid sticky or hard foodsNeed to remove aligners before eating or drinking anything other than water
Metal Braces vs. Invisalign

How to Decide Between Invisalign And Braces? QUIZ

Deciding between metal braces and Invisalign can be tough. There are many factors to consider, and it can be overwhelming to figure out which option is best for you. That’s why I’ve put together a quick quiz with 11 questions to consider:

  • How old are you? Invisalign is best suited for adults and responsible teenagers, while metal braces are ideal for teens and children under 13.
  • How severe is your malocclusion or misalignment? It can be challenging to know what classifies as severe misalignment. Consider metal braces if you have: a marked overbite, underbite, crossbite, shifted midline, deep bite, or severe crowding.
  • How compliant and strong-willed are you when it comes to following instructions? If you’re forgetful, fixed braces may be the better option. Aligners need a lot of discipline and consistency.
  • Are you willing to stick to food restrictions during treatment? If you’re not ready to refrain from your favorite foods, choose Invisalign. Removable aligners make it easy to eat anything you want.
  • How important is the appearance of your braces or aligners to you? Choose Invisalign if you’re worried metal braces won’t look good on you, or if you have a job where looks are important.
  • What is your budget for orthodontic treatment? Go with metal braces if you’re on a budget, and don’t forget to factor in retainers and trips to the hygienist.
  • Do you have any known allergies to nickel? If you have a nickel allergy, Invisalign may be a better option as they’re made of medical-grade plastic.
  • How well do you tolerate pain or discomfort? If you have a low pain tolerance, Invisalign may be a better option as they’re less likely to cause discomfort.
  • How committed are you to maintaining good oral hygiene during treatment? Oral hygiene is important no matter what, but it’s easier to brush with Invisalign compared to braces. Metal braces will need more time and care, as well as special flossing methods.
  • Are you willing to make frequent visits to the orthodontist for adjustments? More visits often translate into faster results, but if that’s inconvenient, go with Invisalign. Invisalign requires half the number of trips to the orthodontist.
  • How soon do you want to see results? Invisalign is faster at aligning teeth, so if you only need cosmetic results or moderate corrections, choose clear aligners.

Can You Switch From Metal Braces to Invisalign?

If you already started orthodontic treatment with metal braces, you might have some regrets about it. Some people start to resent their fixed braces and want to get them off as soon as possible.

The good news is that you can switch from metal braces to Invisalign if that’s something you want. You will need to pay additional costs, but most orthodontists will be able to offer Invisalign or another version of clear aligners.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about your appearance with braces, Invisalign will be a big improvement. You’ll also be able to brush better with metal braces and avoid white spots on your teeth that result from plaque.

Metal braces and Invisalign can, in fact, be a great combination. Some orthodontists use a mix of the two on purpose. They start their patients on braces to correct more challenging issues and then switch to Invisalign to refine teeth positions.

Can You Get Metal Braces After Invisalign?

Some people have the opposite problem. They’re not happy with Invisalign results and want to switch to traditional braces.

You can absolutely get metal braces after Invisalign if you’re not satisfied with your result and want more correction. I suggest seeking a second orthodontist’s opinion if you weren’t pleased with the first round of orthodontic treatment.

Keep in mind that the treatment might take longer since metal braces take a different approach. Metal braces need at least 12 months to fully correct the bite if you’ve previously had braces, but it’s more realistic to expect 18+ months of extra treatment.

If you only need certain teeth to sit in a better position, then perhaps consider partial braces. They’re faster than full braces and just as efficient for correcting front teeth.


Choosing between metal braces and Invisalign is deeply personal and depends on so many things. I believe orthodontics will naturally progress to clear aligners in time, but for now, there’s still room for improvement. I still prefer traditional braces for cases where I need more control and a more powerful approach.

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