Are you considering getting your teeth straightened? Or perhaps you’re looking into the options for your teenager? Clear braces are a popular choice because they are far less noticeable than traditional metal braces.
Here we offer a comprehensive guide to answer the following questions and more:
- What’s the difference between clear and traditional braces?
- What about clear aligners like Invisalign?
- How do they work?
- Which different brands are available in the US?
- How much are clear braces in the US?
- What are the pros and cons of clear and invisible braces?
Table of contents
- 1 Clear braces vs. invisible braces
- 2 Types of clear brace
- 3 How much do clear braces cost?
- 4 Caring for your teeth with braces
- 5 Aftercare
- 6 Summary: pros and cons
Clear braces vs. invisible braces
Let’s begin by clarifying what we’re talking about here. ‘Clear braces’ are like conventional metal braces but with clear brackets (and sometimes tooth-colored wires). Many people also include clear (or ‘invisible’) aligner braces in this category, since they also are made from clear material.
Both types of brace do an effective job of straightening misaligned teeth in an inconspicuous way. The differences are in the way they work, how they look, what it’s like to wear them, and how much they cost.
We will look at some of the most popular brands of clear brace in the US, including Damon Clear and Clearsmile, so you can understand the differences between each one. We have also included information about clear invisible braces like Invisalign so you can easily compare the two options.
Who can wear these braces?
Teeth straightening with braces is often most effective in the teenage years when the teeth and jaw are still developing. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear braces later in life; in fact, many adults also undergo orthodontic treatment with great results.
Thanks to the development of technology used in invisible aligners, you might not even realize that the person you’re speaking to is wearing braces.
One thing that may limit your choice of braces is the severity of your case. For example, Invisalign braces can treat 90% of orthodontic cases, but in the other 10% where teeth very are badly misaligned, braces which use a wire and bracket system might be the only option.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to check whether you’re a suitable candidate for Invisalign treatment. Take a free Smile Assessment in under two minutes to find out if Invisalign is an option for you.
Tooth-colored ceramic braces are another option for people who want a subtle way to straighten their teeth. The choice between clear and tooth-colored braces may come down to the natural color of your teeth.
People with naturally bright, light teeth usually find that transparent braces are the least noticeable option. For people with darker tooth shades, the tooth-colored ceramic material can be a more natural match. Apart from this, these two types of brace function in the same way.
How do clear aligners work?
Transparent aligner systems are a completely different solution for straightening teeth. They consist of a series of clear plastic aligners (or ‘trays’) which fit snugly over the teeth. Trays are custom made for each patient from dental scans or impressions. Every two weeks or so the patient must switch to a new aligner, and bit by bit, they shift the teeth to the desired position.
Treatment with invisible braces typically takes between 9 and 18 months.
One big benefit of these braces is they can be removed – although only for 2-4 hours per day. This allows the wearer to eat what they like and clean their teeth as normal. They are also far less noticeable than any kind of fixed braces – even those with clear brackets – so are the perfect solution for people who want to straighten their teeth discreetly.
Brace wearers may want to remove their aligners for important meetings or special occasions and Invisalign clear braces offer the flexibility to do this.
They can present some inconveniences, though. If you have invisible braces you should clean your teeth after eating or drinking anything other than water, otherwise, bacteria gets trapped inside the aligners and increases your chance of dental caries and gum disease.
They also require the wearer to have some willpower – if you lack this, fixed braces may be the better choice!
To find out more about Invisalign braces and other types of invisible aligner, read our full article on aligner braces where you will discover a lot more information about costs and the practicalities of wearing them.
If you discover that you aren’t a suitable candidate for Invisalign, fixed clear braces are probably the next best option.
How do traditional clear braces work?
Just as with conventional metal braces, clear brace brackets are attached to each tooth and then connected with a wire. This system is effective in treating all kinds of tooth misalignment.
Through careful placement of the brackets, your orthodontist can manipulate your teeth in all directions to pull them into proper alignment. Treatment usually takes 18-24 months, although some brands offer faster treatment thanks to the technology they use.
The following video shows a time lapse of one patient’s success:
Traditional systems require an orthodontist to tighten and adjust the wire regularly. Users often report sore teeth for a day or two after each tightening.
On the other hand, newer self-ligating systems (like Damon Clear) use advanced technology wire which automatically adjusts gradually during the course of treatment. This results in a more comfortable experience for the wearer and reduces the number of checkups needed.
Clear brace brackets are made from either a clear ceramic material or a plastic polycarbonate.
Most systems use a metal wire to connect the clear brackets, but patients may have the choice of a white archwire. These are generally more expensive but have the benefit of making the braces far less obvious, especially from a distance.
While wearing clear ceramic braces you will need to take extra care to keep your teeth clean, especially the places that are hard to reach with normal brushing.
Although they can be a little uncomfortable at first, most wearers soon get used to their braces and don’t experience any ongoing discomfort. There is the possibility for mouth sores while the cheeks and gums adapt to the new fittings, but using orthodontic wax will help reduce abrasion.
Types of clear brace
Damon Clear braces
Damon Clear is one example of a self-ligating brace – one which ‘tightens’ itself. This has several benefits over the traditional system:
- The adjustment process happens continuously over time so is more comfortable than adjustments in stages
- The sliding mechanism means less pressure on teeth
- Fewer dental checkups are needed
- They are easier to keep clean as they don’t use elastics
- Available without any visible metal parts
All of these perks come at a cost, of course, but it’s a price that many patients are willing to pay for the convenience, discreetness, and comfort offered by Damon Clear braces.
Here you can see the process of having Damon braces fitted, including the computer generation used to plan the treatment and end result:
3M Clarity ADVANCED
Clarity ADVANCED clear braces from 3M are designed to be stain-resistant, so you don’t need to restrict your food and drink choices to avoid discoloration.
The brace brackets have rounded corners and a low profile to reduce the chances of irritation to the inside of the mouth. Comfort is certainly a top consideration when it comes to choosing the right braces for you.
Although you’re probably choosing clear braces to make them less noticeable, these ones do come with the option to add colored elastics if you fancy a splash of color for a change.
Invisalign is the leading brand of clear teeth aligner around the world. The American company behind the braces, Align Technology, was the first to develop a clear teeth aligner brace back in 1999.
Since then, they have introduced a range of aligner braces to suit different needs. These include Invisalign Express (for minor dental corrections) and Invisalign Teen (designed especially for teenagers).
Invisalign has an extensive network of dentists around the country. You can search for your nearest Invisalign provider here.
ClearCorrect is another brand of clear invisible brace available in the US. Designed and manufactured in Texas, they function in much the same way as Invisalign.
It’s recommended that you wear the aligners for at least 22 hours a day for optimum results.
Clearstep is another company that manufactures clear aligners for teeth straightening but they are mainly available in Europe and Asia. Again, these should be worn for at least 22 hours a day, if not longer.
Clearstep also produces a teeth whitening gel which can be used in conjunction with their aligners to perform two jobs at once.
Choosing a brand
Many orthodontists prefer to work with one or two particular brands, so you’re unlikely to find a dental clinic offering this full range of choices. There are many other brands available that we haven’t listed here. Remember that more established companies like Invisalign have had more time to refine the technology used in their products – newer companies won’t necessarily have the same level of experience.
It’s a good idea to ask your dentist why they recommend a certain brand. They may have a preference based on costs, performance, service from the company, technology, and a number of other factors. If you’re not happy with the one they use or think they are putting their own profits above your personal needs, you can always look around for an alternative.
How much do clear braces cost?
Clear fixed braces typically cost more than their all-metal counterparts because of the materials and technology used. To save money, some patients may opt for metal brackets on the lower teeth, which are less visible, and clear brackets on the upper teeth.
Before we look at what invisible and clear braces cost, keep in mind that prices can vary wildly from one dentist to another. The price charged will also depend on your location and the length and complexity of your treatment.
If your teeth just require mild correction, for instance, you may be able to use Invisalign Express which costs less than Invisalign Full.
Costs in the US
If you have dental insurance that covers orthodontic work, this probably includes treatment with ceramic braces. However, your annual cover limit may well be less than the overall cost of your treatment, in which case you will still have some out-of-pocket expenses.
Ask your dentist if they offer an interest-free payment plan to help you spread the cost of your treatment.
Although this table gives an idea of clear brace prices, it’s definitely worth shopping around to get quotes from a few different dental clinics. Search for Invisalign providers in your area to get started.
Caring for your teeth with braces
If you opt for clear fixed braces you’ll need to take some extra precautions while you’re wearing them.
Your orthodontist will show you how to clean your braces and teeth properly. This will take some extra time each day as braces contain so many nooks and crannies where food can get stuck, which leads to a build-up of bacteria.
If possible, you should clean your teeth and braces right after eating. If this isn’t possible, at least rinse very well with water. It will help to use a floss threader or interdental cleaner to floss below the archwire.
Your dentist will also tell you which foods are best to avoid while wearing braces, in order to keep both your braces and teeth in good condition. These include:
- Hard foods like nuts, biscuits, and ice
- Chewy foods like candies, cereal bars, bagels, and chewing gum
- Crunchy foods like apples, raw carrots, crusty bread, and potato chips
- Acidic foods like pickles, vinaigrette dressings, and fruit juices
Habits like nail biting or pencil chewing can also cause damage to the wires or fittings. Since the ceramic material used in clear brackets is more brittle than metal, it’s crucial that you follow your dentist’s instructions.
Did you know that it’s just as important to look after your teeth carefully after your braces come off?
After spending all that money on braces and having gone through the inconvenience of wearing them, you finally have that smile you’d been dreaming of. You can look after it by:
- Brushing twice a day and flossing at least daily
- Using an electric toothbrush
- Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash
- Visiting your dentist regularly
- Wearing your retainer as advised (see below)
- Cleaning your retainer daily
Most patients will want to have a thorough dental cleaning to remove any plaque or stains that have built up while they were wearing their braces.
Wearing a retainer
As with any tooth straightening treatment, you’ll probably have to wear a retainer every night (and perhaps during the day at first) for as long as you want your teeth to remain in their new position. Even after years of being held in place by braces and a retainer, teeth left to their own devices can soon revert to their previous crooked state.
There are two types of retainer: removable and fixed. Fixed (or ‘bonded’) retainers consist of a thin wire inconspicuously attached behind the front 4-8 teeth to stop them from moving out of position. These need to be cleaned with the same attention as fixed braces.
Removable retainers come in two styles:
- Wire retainers wrap around the teeth and are secured with an acrylic plate
- Clear retainers look like aligner braces, the difference being that they don’t need changing every two weeks
Removable retainers are much easier to clean and allow the wearer to eat and brush their teeth as normal. However, there is the potential for them to be lost or damaged.
This can get expensive over the years since dentists charge anywhere between $150 and $400 for wire retainers (such as Hawley retainers) and $100 to $250 for clear retainers (such as Essix retainers).
Both types of removable retainer will need to be replaced at some point anyway. If you look after them well they can last for five years or more.
Your dentist will be able to advise you whether a fixed, wire, or clear retainer would be most appropriate for preserving the new position of your teeth.
Summary: pros and cons
The table below summarizes the information given in this article so you can more easily decide between clear and invisible braces.
On balance, adults and teens looking for a way to straighten their teeth without it being noticeable will probably find Invisalign the most suitable, efficient, and convenient option. Not only are the clear aligners very hard to spot, they are also removable and usually cost less or the same as fixed ceramic braces.
To find out if you’re a suitable candidate for Invisalign treatment, don’t forget to take your free online Smile Assessment. It takes less than two minutes to get an answer!
If you’re still unsure which type of brace is right for you, take a look at our full article on orthodontics for adults and teens. Here you’ll be able to find out more about:
- Alternative styles of brace including “hidden” lingual braces
- How they compare in terms of cost and appearance
- What it’s like to wear braces as a teenager or adult
- How to take care of your braces
Our goal at Dentaly.org is to give you all the information you need to make the right decisions when it comes to your oral healthcare. We hope you found this article helpful!