If you were a carpenter, you would understand what your tools could help you do. Hammers bang in nails, saws cut wood, squares measure right angles. You wouldn’t use a hammer to affix a screw or a saw to measure something’s length.

There’s an old saying in construction: a good craftsman never blames his tools. It acknowledges that the tools don’t build the house; the builder does.

It’s the same thing with aligning teeth. Whichever tool your orthodontist uses, the results are going to depend on the skill of the doctor and not the teeth aligning system itself.

However, with orthodontics, there is another variable: the patient. There is no such thing as a piece of lumber that is non-compliant with the instructions of the carpenter. Not so with people: patients who don’t follow their orthodontist’s instructions struggle to achieve the best outcomes.

That’s important to keep in mind when discussing whether standard metal braces or clear aligner therapy like Invisalign is the best teeth-straightening system. The answer is different depending on the patient’s particular situation.

Invisalign is the most popular brand of clear aligner therapy, but not the only one – SureSmile, ClearCorrect, 3M Clarity Aligners and others. What all these have in common is that instead of permanent brackets cemented onto teeth, they are a series of clear aligners custom-made to fit teeth that introduce a small amount of tooth movement as the patient progresses through the treatment.

With clear aligner therapy, the patient must wear the aligner for 21 hours each day but can remove it to eat and brush their teeth. This allows patients to eat all the sticky, crunchy, chewy and gummy foods that are off-limits to those wearing metal braces. It also allows for easy cleaning, both of the teeth and of the aligner. Metal braces present an obstacle to both. Flossing with braces is a real challenge, but can be done normally by those using clear aligners.

Another advantage of clear aligner therapy is how it reduces visits to the orthodontist. With traditional braces, patients must return every 8-12 weeks to have them adjusted. With clear aligner therapy, the adjustment is made by wearing the next aligner in the series. Visits to the orthodontist may be reduced by half.

But…

Clear aligner therapy – Invisalign and its competitors – isn’t for everyone.

Remember patient non-compliance? Clear aligners only work if worn. Traditional braces can’t be slipped off and forgotten, but clear aligners require the initiative of the wearer to commit to keeping them on. Clear aligners, no matter how perfectly fashioned by the orthodontist, don’t work if they’re not in place.

That is why we often recommend traditional braces for children and some adults. They must be prepared to take control of their own teeth straightening by following doctors’ orders and wearing the aligners day and night.

In addition, braces work more optimally for some severe cases or those cases in which there are multiple variables. The movement of teeth is more predictable with braces, and the frequent orthodontist visits allow the doctor to make course corrections along the way.

The bottom line, with any effort to straighten teeth, is that the tools are less important than the craftsman. A great orthodontist will find the right system for you.