Self-Ligating Braces vs. Invisalign: Which Is Best?

In the quest for the perfect smile, two leading options stand out: self-ligating braces and Invisalign. Both promise to align your teeth effectively, but which one is the winner of this comparison?

Self-ligating braces are better for complex dental issues, offering precise control and faster results than Invisalign. They’re also better at delivering a wider smile. Invisalign is great for aesthetics, comfort, and dental hygiene but may not be as effective or speedy.

If you’re new to the braces scene, hang tight. We’re about to dive deep into how self-ligating braces and Invisalign work. We’ll break down the differences, talk about what they might cost you, and share some insider tips backed by science.

Self-ligating braces are a type of orthodontic device that streamlines the teeth-straightening process. Unlike traditional braces that require elastics to hold the archwire in place, self-ligating braces use a built-in mechanism — either a clip or a sliding door — directly on the brackets.

This innovative design allows the wire to move more freely, which can make the teeth alignment process smoother and may even reduce treatment time.

There are two kinds of self-ligating braces: active and passive. Active self-ligating braces have a more forceful clip that actively moves the teeth, which can be particularly effective during the later stages of treatment. Passive self-ligating braces, on the other hand, have a freer sliding mechanism that exerts less force, ideal for the initial phase of treatment when teeth start to move.

Self-ligating brackets also come in two versions: metal and ceramic. Metal brackets, while visible, are smaller and sleeker than conventional braces. Ceramic self-ligating brackets blend in with the tooth’s color but can have a bulky profile.

Self-ligating braces come with several benefits over traditional braces. They are often associated with less discomfort because the lack of elastic bands means less friction against the teeth. They also tend to facilitate better oral hygiene since there are fewer nooks for plaque to accumulate.

Adjustments are typically quicker and may be needed less often, as the self-ligating mechanism is easier and faster for orthodontists to open and close during appointments.

Self-ligating metal brackets

Invisalign is a revolutionary approach to orthodontic treatment that does away with the wires and brackets of traditional braces. Instead, it uses a series of clear, custom-fitted aligners. These aligners are crafted from a flexible thermoplastic material.

Invisalign sets itself apart from other clear aligners with the use of patented SmartForce attachments. These are small, tooth-colored shapes that attach to your teeth before the aligners are placed.

Attachments act as anchors that provide the aligners with additional leverage and focus, allowing for more complex tooth movements that other aligners may not be able to achieve.

While Invisalign is capable of correcting a wide range of orthodontic issues, it works best for patients who primarily want cosmetic corrections.

The process of Invisalign treatment is straightforward. You wear each set of aligners for about two weeks, 20 to 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, brush, and floss. As you replace each aligner with the next in the series, your teeth will move little by little, progressing toward the final alignment goal.

Invisalign aligners are transparent, therefore virtually invisible and discreet. They’re also removable, which makes maintaining oral hygiene much easier than with traditional braces. There’s no need to alter your diet or struggle with flossing between wires. You can eat, brush, and floss as you normally would.

When considering the best way to straighten teeth, it’s important to compare self-ligating braces and Invisalign on key factors like appearance, speed of treatment, and efficacy.

Here’s the comparison in a simple table format:

InvisalignClear Self-Ligating BracesMetal Self-Ligating Braces
Aesthetics and VisibilityLeast visible, attachments subtle but noticeable up close.Less visible, but bulkier and more noticeable than Invisalign.More visible, smaller and sleeker than traditional braces.
Comfort and ConvenienceRemovable for ultimate comfort, easier eating, and cleaning. Similar visits to SLBs.Non-removable, bulky, more rounded than traditional braces but still some discomfort.Non-removable, more rounded than traditional braces but still some discomfort.
Cost$3000 to 8000
Most insurance plans cover up to 50%.
$5000 to 8000
Most insurance plans cover up to 50%.
$4000 to 8000
Most insurance plans cover up to 50%.
Age ConsiderationsBest for adults and responsible teensFriable and bulky, best suited for adultsPerfect for all ages and treatment types
Treatment Time and EfficiencyGentler material, slower teeth movement, less forceful.Faster than Invisalign, but not as fast as metal braces.Faster than Invisalign thanks to stronger consistent forces and low friction.
Suitability for Orthodontic ProblemsBest for crowding and spacing, mild bite issues, and minor repositioning.Effective for complex issues. Not recommended in the bottom arch. Suitable for all types of bite issues, surgery cases, and severe crowding.
Self-Ligating Braces vs. Invisalign

Aesthetics and Visibility

Invisalign takes the lead for being the least noticeable. Its clear aligners are discreet, and while the attachments might be visible up close, they’re quite subtle.

Clear self-ligating braces are less obvious than metal braces but have a bulkier design, which makes them more noticeable.

Metal self-ligating braces are more visible, but they have a smaller, more streamlined look compared to traditional braces.

Comfort and Convenience

In terms of comfort, Invisalign leads because you can remove the aligners. This feature not only feels better but also makes eating and cleaning your teeth much easier.

Self-ligating braces have a smoother design than traditional braces, with more rounded edges, but they’re still fixed in your mouth with wires and other components that can cause discomfort.

Self-ligating braces and Invisalign are similar when it comes to appointment frequencies. Both work best when you visit your orthodontist every 6 to 8 weeks. This interval will vary greatly, especially with clear aligners, because it depends on the treatment complexity and the orthodontist’s preference.

Despite appearing more convenient, Invisalign visits, attachments, and IPR can get quite time-consuming, so self-ligating braces can actually require fewer visits in the long run.


Self-ligating braces typically cost between $4,000 to $8,000, while Invisalign ranges from $3,000 to $8,000. Prices depend on treatment complexity, location, and orthodontist rates.

Many insurance plans cover 50% of orthodontic treatments up to a certain cap, including both braces and Invisalign. Consult with your provider for specifics on coverage.

Age Considerations

Metal self-ligating braces are a good choice for all ages, as they’re durable and less reliant on patient compliance. Clear self-ligating braces are friable and bulky, so they might not be ideal for everyone, especially children and teens.

Invisalign, on the other hand, is best for adults and can work well for teens who are disciplined enough to wear them consistently.

However, Invisalign aligners aren’t recommended for children, who may find it difficult to wear them for the required 22 hours a day. Frequent snacking, the risk of losing them at school, and other challenges make Invisalign less suitable for younger kids.

Treatment Time and Efficiency

Self-ligating braces generally work faster than Invisalign. They use a stronger material that applies a more consistent force to the teeth, speeding up the alignment process. Invisalign’s thermoplastic material is gentler and not as forceful, which can mean a slower movement of teeth.

Suitability for Different Orthodontic Problems

For more complex dental issues like severe crowding or significant bite correction, self-ligating braces are usually more effective. They are excellent at closing open bites, correcting deep bites, and working with elastics to adjust overbites and underbites.

Invisalign can address these issues, too, but typically takes longer and may be less effective for severe cases. It’s best suited for less complicated cases, where the bite issues are mild and the teeth need minor repositioning.

When you’re weighing the options between self-ligating braces and Invisalign, it’s helpful to look at what the research says.

One key study on Invisalign found that these clear aligners are better at moving your teeth in sections and might even shorten treatment time thanks to this ability. However, when it comes to getting your bite just right, Invisalign might not be as effective as braces with brackets and wires.

Another research piece tells us that Invisalign is best suited for adults with simple teeth straightening needs. If your teeth aren’t too crowded or your bite isn’t too off, Invisalign could be a viable option, especially if you’d rather not go for tooth extractions.

What about the health of your teeth during treatment? Some studies have zoomed in on this, checking things like whether braces might cause the roots of your teeth to shorten a bit. It turns out that aligners like Invisalign have a lower rate of root resorption compared to self-ligating braces and fixed braces in general.

And there’s more to consider. A study comparing self-ligating braces to Invisalign dug into the details of teeth movement. It found that self-ligating braces were better at increasing the width of your smile in the back teeth area and were also more effective at adjusting the outline of the top set of teeth. These details are what help create a wide harmonious smile.

When it’s time to pick between self-ligating braces and Invisalign, think about what matters most for your smile and your daily routine:

  • Effectiveness: For complex dental issues, self-ligating braces may be more effective. If appearance is a top priority, Invisalign is an option, but be prepared for a possibly longer treatment duration and the potential need for braces later to correct the bite.
  • Lifestyle consideration: Discipline is key with Invisalign since it requires wearing the aligners for 22 hours daily. It’s perfect if you can stick to this routine. However, if you’re worried about keeping up, self-ligating braces might suit you better.
  • Orthodontist experience: Finding an orthodontist who knows their way around self-ligating braces or Invisalign can make all the difference since both methods require some extra skills. You want someone who’s not just knowledgeable but has a track record of successful treatments with both options.

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