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Invisalign vs SmileDirect – which is the right way to straighten my teeth!?

Invisalign vs SmileDirect – which is the right way to straighten my teeth? Here at Chicago Style Smiles, we get this question ALL THE TIME. Whether it’s an existing patient coming in for a routine check-up who has decided to make a change, or a new patient coming in looking for specific answers, or even my aunt Suzy at our Labor Day BBQ.  Everyone has seen the ads for Candid, SmileDirectClub, Invisalign and other brands of orthodontic treatment that use “clear aligners” instead of traditional braces.  While each of these brands claim to offer the same service, with costs ranging from $1500 to $6000, it is important to make the right decision. So let’s run through some of the key factors to consider!

Traditional Braces vs. Clear Aligners (Invisalign, SmileDirect, etc.)

Traditional braces remain the treatment of choice for complex tooth movement and fixing severe malocclusions. Malocclusion, in its most basic definition, is the improper placement of your teeth when biting down. Depending on your particular occlusion and desired outcome, however, clear aligners may be an appropriate alternative. For most people with slight to moderate crowding or spacing of the front teeth and wanting a “straighter smile,” braces are not required because the back teeth may not need significant movement or any movement at all. These people are typically good candidates for clear aligners.

Do-It-Yourself (SmileDirect) vs. Dentist-Directed (Invisalign)

Invisalign and Clear Correct are the most popular and widely used clear aligners by dentists and orthodontists. However, SmileDirectClub, Candid, and other brands have expanded the market by going direct-to-consumer, cutting the cost, and entirely removing the step of seeing a dentist every month. While the FDA has approved these DIY brands, and while most users end up getting satisfactory results, their process has inherent risks that can severely jeopardize the outcome. Here are two great news articles about it: Local News and New York Times.

Apart from the differences explained in the articles above, there are two primary advantages to dentist-directed clear aligners: Interproximal Reduction and Bonded Attachments.

Interproximal Reduction with Invisalign

Invisalign treatment

This is a fancy word to describe the process of how we create space for crowded teeth to align properly. Depending on the extent of crowding in your teeth, we may have to make one or several teeth narrower by filing down the sides and/or using the drill. An extra millimeter goes a long way in helping create a proper esthetic and functional bite. With the DIY method, all crowded teeth will be “flared” outwards, which can certainly work in some cases, but in others it is simply not enough.




Bonded Attachments with Invisalign

Invisalign bonded attachments on upper right and lower right teeth

Also called “buttons,” these are squares of composite tooth-colored filling material bonded to the fronts of one or several teeth to create torque and help move teeth predictably and efficiently. This helps speed up total treatment duration and ensure the roots, not the just the crowns, of the teeth are in the correct position. Without these bonded attachments, a stubborn tooth will usually emerge that never quite gets to the final position, leading to people finishing their aligners and accepting less-than-stellar results.




Regardless of how you decide to straighten your teeth, get a check-up with your dentist before starting to make sure everything is healthy! I hope this helps provide some insight on the thought process we use to recommend orthodontic treatment. If you have any questions or comments, send us an email or make an appointment for a consult!


Until next time,

Will Hardenbergh, DMD





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