Braces vs Invisalign: Which is Better for Your Child or Teen?

girl with braces

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I have two children, which means I have two mouths and two sets of teeth that need braces.

With both traditional braces and Invisalign available, how does a discerning mom make a good choice? I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so you can make the best decision for your family.

Braces vs Invisalign: Which is Better for Your Child or Teen?

Traditional braces are usually the best choice. They require less maintenance, do not run the risk of getting lost and are not as easy to stain or damage as Invisalign. However, there are instances when Invisalign is a better option.

Why You Should Choose Traditional Braces

My son had a severe cross bite. His dentist referred him to an orthodontist when he was only eight-years-old. After x-rays and a consultation, it was decided that he would need a first-round of braces immediately.

That would possibly be followed by a second set of traditional braces around age 12.

His age alone made Invisalign an option that wasn’t viable. Invisalign wearers use trays that are taken out to eat, drink anything other than water and brush teeth.

The trays must be cleaned every time they are removed. If a child forgets to clean them, bacteria can build up on the trays that lead to gum damage and tooth decay.

If a child forgets to remove the Invisalign when eating or drinking something with artificial colors, the tray can become stained. Invisalign trays are also very easily damaged.

One wrong move and the tray snaps in half. This makes Invisalign a poor option for young children and teens who aren’t extremely responsible.

Why You Might Choose Invisalign

My 12-year-old daughter needed braces. She had the typical issue of crowded teeth that needed to be realigned. Her dentist recommended that we wait to visit the orthodontist until she had lost her last baby tooth.

Once that happened, we headed back to the same orthodontist who treated her brother.

My daughter was excited. Many of her friends had mouths full of metal in varying colors. She was hoping for teal brackets that would match her eyes. Two weeks after the consultation, she was wearing Invisalign. What happened?

My daughter had an accident a few years ago that resulted in the loss of one of her front teeth.

The fake tooth that she has would make traditional braces difficult as the bracket would not adhere well to the material. Invisalign was a better option for her because it helps to shape her teeth without relying on these brackets.

She has to be very careful with the trays, remember to change them weekly and clean them several times per day. Even with her great care and maturity, she has already broken one tray while removing it.

Not many children have fake teeth but a lot of kids play sports. My children’s orthodontist shared with me that Invisalign is a great option for kids who play contact sports.

They are less likely to be injured by their own braces if they fall. In most other cases, the orthodontist recommends traditional braces for kids.

The Invisalign Process and Why It Isn’t Always the Right Choice

A child who wears Invisalign goes through the same exam as a child who wears traditional braces. The primary difference is that at the end of the exam, a scan is done of the teeth so that sets of trays can be made to correct the smile.

Instead of being fitted with brackets and wires, Invisalign wearers are given sets of trays that slowly change the position of the teeth. They are given 12 sets of trays at each visit.

They are marked with the week number and the day they should be changed. In addition, children are given two extra sets Invisalign retainers. These can be used if and when the children break or lose their trays.

At the end of each 12 weeks, the child returns to the orthodontist. A new exam determines if the Invisalign trays are working. A new scan may need to be done to craft new trays.

There are fewer visits to the orthodontist with Invisalign than with traditional braces. This might seem like a bonus, but the lower amount of hands-on help leaves a lot of room for error.

A child could wear their Invisalign trays wrong for three months before it is realized that the teeth are either not shifting or shifting incorrectly.

Invisalign is also painful. Braces have their own issues, but a child cannot remove braces that cause irritation.

A child who is in pain due to their Invisalign can easily remove the tray with no one knowing for quite a while. Invisalign trays must be worn 23 hours per day for proper tooth adjustment.

Loss is the most common problem with Invisalign. Taking the trays out to eat, especially while at lunch, often leads to Invisalign trays being thrown away.

While the orthodontist will provide two extra trays with each set, it isn’t uncommon for a parent to need to purchase extras for their forgetful children.

With the cost of braces already being very high, the additional cost of extra trays can be too much to bear.

Invisalign Isn’t All Bad

My family now has a lot of experience with Invisalign. While I don’t recommend it, I can tell you, as a parent, it’s not all bad.

An Invisalign wearer can eat whatever they want. They don’t have to avoid foods that traditional braces wearers do. They can bite into an apple, enjoy corn on the cob, suck on hard candy and chew gum all they want.

They just have to remember to take their trays out, clean them well and brush their teeth before they replace the tray each time.

Invisalign doesn’t disrupt photos and video. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing traditional braces in photos. I happen to love the way it looks. Not all braces wearers feel that way.

They sometimes feel awkward when their metal mouths are on full display. Invisalign is virtually invisible in photos and video.

You can see the changes take place. You can’t see the changes with traditional braces in the same way that you can see them with Invisalign.

My daughter can look in the mirror and know that her trays are making a real difference in her smile. Metal brackets do not offer the same kind of instant gratification.

Key Takeaways

Traditional braces aren’t perfect but most kids and teens aren’t fully equipped to use Invisalign. Traditional braces are more budget-friendly, easier to manage and are less likely to lead to gum disease and discoloration.

Do you have any experience with Invisalign? Tell us in the comments!

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