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Braces vs. Clear Aligners for Teens: What Are the Key Differences?

By Lan Pham, Miriam Dorisca
Many teens are self-conscious about their appearance—so having a beautiful smile can be very important. Learn why teens may prefer clear teeth aligners.over braces.

Teens experience unique pressures when it comes to their appearance. Mayo Clinic notes that a healthy body image is important to a teenager’s self-esteem—and the state of a teen’s teeth can greatly influence how they feel about their looks. Clear aligners and braces are two treatment options that can both correct dental misalignment in teens, but aligners are often more appealing.

Clear Aligners vs. Braces

With clear teeth aligners, a series of thin, plastic dental trays are custom-made based on diagnostics such as molds and scans of the teeth, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. 

Aligners work by applying steady pressure that moves the teeth a little bit at a time. Your teen will wear each set of aligners for approximately a week or two. It is also generally recommended that aligners are worn for at least 22 hours a day.

Clear aligners are a more recent orthodontic innovation predated by braces. 

Traditional braces, composed of brackets glued to the teeth and joined to each other by wires, are more visible than clear aligners. Like aligners, braces work by applying pressure to the teeth over a prescribed span of time. 

The wires act as a guide for the movement of the teeth, explains the Cleveland Clinic. During regular visits, an orthodontist checks the pressure being applied to the teeth and adjusts the wires to increase or decrease the pressure.

“Aligners and braces are a good treatment option for teens,” Kevin Varley, DDS, a dentist at Stoneybrook Dental tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Both options work to properly align the teeth and jaw for a healthy smile that functions properly.”

Why Teens Like Clear Teeth Aligners

Many prefer clear teeth aligners over traditional braces because of their appearance and comfort, according to a 2019 BMC Oral Health study. 

Since clear aligners are less noticeable, teens often find that they can wear them with more confidence than braces. 

“Aligners, which are practically invisible, are better for teens who are already going through so many changes and could feel self-conscious about their appearance. Aligners straighten the teeth just like traditional braces, however, they are not as bulky and still allow the teen to eat what they want and participate in their normal activities,” Varley explains. 

Clear aligners are removable, unlike braces, which are attached to the teeth. This is particularly appealing to teens, who often enjoy being able to remove aligners to more easily maintain their oral hygiene. 

In addition, clear aligners can be removed while eating. This is a major plus for teens, as braces often necesitate food restrictions because they can become damaged during eating and are harder to keep clean. 

A professional evaluation will determine whether aligners or braces are right for your teen. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of each option before choosing a treatment plan.  

Start your journey to a more confident smile today!

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