Invisalign vs. Braces for Teenagers: Which Is Best for Your Child?

Considering Invisalign vs. braces for teenagers?

Orthodontic care has long been associated with teenagers in American culture; some may even consider getting braces to be a rite of passage. Just watch any ‘80s teen comedy and you’re bound to see more than a few characters showing off their braces! 

Today, the connection between teens and orthodontics is still strong, despite a record number of adults seeking the same smile-straightening treatments. Experts recommend that patients begin attending orthodontic appointments at age 7. By that age, orthodontists can see how permanent teeth are erupting in a child’s mouth and can pinpoint emerging alignment problems, such as:

  • Crowding
  • Tooth gaps
  • Overbite
  • Underbite 
  • Crossbite

During these early appointments, orthodontists can also perform interceptive treatments that can minimize misalignments for simpler orthodontic treatment once the patient is old enough for Invisalign or braces. While every patient is different, most receive braces between the ages of 10 and 14, depending on treatment needs and tooth eruption.

Of course, once a child is finally old enough for treatment, they face a decision: Invisalign vs. braces? For teenagers today, clear aligners from Invisalign and conventional braces are both viable treatment options. Various digital advancements and hardware improvements over the last few years now allow orthodontists to use Invisalign or braces to treat even severe problems. 

So, how do you know which treatment plan is right for your teen? Keep reading for knowledgeable answers from Beverly Hills Orthodontics’ team of experts

Invisalign vs. Braces for Teenagers: How They Differ

If your teen is about to start orthodontic care, there’s a good chance they are already debating between Invisalign and braces. 

Up until just a few years ago, Invisalign was not an option, as many teens wouldn't qualify for treatment. In the 2000s and early 2010s, orthodontists were limited to using Invisalign for correcting only mild problems, like slight crowding or minor bite issues. 

However, Invisalign has come a long way since then. Orthodontists like BHO’s own Dr. Monica Madan can now use Invisalign to treat mild, moderate, and even severe alignment issues—the same issues they use braces to correct. Therefore, the decision between Invisalign and braces is often determined by the option that works best for the patient’s lifestyle. 

Invisalign

Although Invisalign and braces can treat the same issues, they do so in very different ways. Invisalign is a clear aligner treatment. Over the course of 12 to 24 months, patients wear custom-made, completely transparent aligners that gradually move teeth into better positions. 

Generally speaking, Invisalign sets contain anywhere from 20-30 aligners, and every few weeks the patient changes to a new aligner set as treatment progresses. Invisalign aligners are:

  • Removable at any time
  • Comfortable
  • Aesthetically discreet

Braces

While Invisalign shifts teeth via removable aligners, braces shift teeth with brackets and wires.  At the beginning of treatment, an orthodontist glues brackets onto your child’s teeth and connects them with a steel archwire. Over the course of 12-24 months, the orthodontist periodically tightens the wire at regular appointments. Adjusting wire pressure enables the orthodontist to move teeth in specific directions, eventually creating a perfectly aligned smile. 

Given how Invisalign and braces move teeth in such distinct ways, it’s easy to understand how they might also affect the patient’s daily routines in different ways. In our next section, we discuss these differences in greater detail.

Invisalign vs. Braces for Teenagers: Key Factors To Consider 

As we noted earlier, though both orthodontic treatments achieve the same results, the choice of whether to use Invisalign or braces will affect your child’s lifestyle and daily routine in different ways. Below, we list the most important factors to consider when deciding between the two options: food, aesthetics, and personal responsibility.

Before you and your teen visit the orthodontist, we suggest you discuss these factors together and list any questions to bring up at your consultation.

Food Limitations

Invisalign will not affect your teenager’s eating habits at all. They simply need to remove their aligners before eating, then they can eat whatever they want (though existing allergies or sensitivities remain, of course). Once the meal is finished, your teen can rinse their mouth with water and place the aligners back on their teeth. 

If your teen opts for braces, however, they will not be able to eat certain foods. Sticky foods, like licorice or gummy candy, can get stuck in the braces themselves and pull the wire out of position. Hard foods like nuts can cause similar damage. Your teen will also be unable to bite into foods like apples, carrots, or corn on the cob with brackets in place—they will need to cut such foods into smaller pieces instead. 

Fortunately, patients with braces can still eat most foods as long as they are careful not to damage their brackets and wires. 

Invisalign Food Limitations Braces Food Limitations
  • No limitations at all
  • No sticky candy
  • No hard foods
  • No biting into hard fruits and veggies

Aesthetic Differences

One of the biggest advantages of Invisalign is how little it affects patient appearance. While brackets and wires will obviously change the way your teen’s smile looks, Invisalign trays are hard to spot unless you are very close to the patient’s mouth. 

On the other hand, braces have become much more inconspicuous in recent decades. Smaller brackets and wires have made braces both more comfortable and more attractive. Many patients even find that they like the way today’s braces make their smiles pop! Of course, if your child is hesitant about changing their look so drastically, Invisalign may be the better option.

Invisalign Aesthetic Differences Braces Aesthetic Differences
  • Aligner trays will be noticeable to those standing very close to your child
  • Highly visible brackets and wires will change the look of your child’s teeth

Daily Responsibilities

All orthodontic treatments require a certain degree of personal responsibility from patients. For Invisalign patients, wearing aligners for 20-22 hours a day is the most important task. 

At any moment of the day, Invisalign patients have the power to remove their aligners to eat, drink, brush, floss, or participate in physical activities. However, it’s essential that every patient wears their aligners for at least 20-22 hours every day to keep treatment on track. When patients don’t follow this rule, it can cause major issues, including:

  • Treatment delays
  • Tooth misalignments
  • The need for new clear aligners to put treatment back on track

These strict requirements make Invisalign difficult for some teens to fit into their busy lives. 

Braces have no such requirements. In general, patients with braces don’t need to make any adjustments themselves. An orthodontist handles all wire adjustments.

Teens with braces need to brush up to 5 times a day and floss once at night. 

Patients can also use handy little interproximal brushes after eating to prevent food from getting trapped around brackets and rinse with mouthwash for extra fluoride. Floss with traditional floss every night.

Invisalign Daily Responsibilities Braces Daily Responsibilities
  • Your child must wear their aligners for at least 20-22 hours every day
  • Your child will need to brush up to 5 times a day and floss nightly

Is Your Teenager Ready for Orthodontic Treatment? Contact BHO Today to Schedule a Consultation

Invisalign and braces have both earned positions as today’s most popular orthodontic treatment options. With modern technological advances, orthodontists like BHO’s Dr. Madan can use either treatment to correct a range of mild-to-severe alignment issues. As such, choosing between Invisalign vs. braces for teenagers usually boils down to finding the approach that best matches the patient’s lifestyle. 

At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, we have been correcting smiles with both Invisalign and braces since 2008. With that wealth of experience, we have learned how to tailor every treatment plan to the unique needs and preferences of each patient.  By partnering with BHO, you and your teenager can work with our team to uncover which approach will work best for your situation. Contact one of our offices in Beverly Hills/Century City, Toluca Lake, Alhambra, or Downtown Los Angeles today to get started!