Clear Aligners Versus Metal Braces: Which Is Right for Your Child?

Braces are a proven way to correct crooked teeth and have been around for years. Although they’re extremely effective, many children and teens dread the thought of wearing them because they hate the look of all that metal in their mouth. 

Clear aligners hit the scene in the late 1990s and revolutionized teeth straightening. If you’re curious, but cautious, about this newer technology, you’re not alone. And if your child is insisting on clear aligners or nothing, you’re not alone in that either.

To help you sort through the facts about both types of alignment systems, our team of experts at LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia, explains below how each method works so you can make an informed decision. 

A word about teeth straightening

Ideally, your teeth grow in a straight line with no gaps, twists, or protrusions. A well-aligned set of teeth fits together nicely top to bottom and side to side, which becomes especially important when you chew.

If your crooked teeth cause a misalignment in your bite, then chewing puts pressure on all the wrong places and can lead to worn-down teeth and jaw pain. So crooked teeth aren’t just a cosmetic concern; they are essential to your overall dental health. 

Comparing metal braces and clear aligners

Generally speaking, metal braces and clear aligners both do a great job of correcting alignment problems and crooked teeth, and with the exception of a few complex cases, the choice is yours.

Here at LM Orthodontics, we offer traditional metal braces with brackets and wires, clear braces, lingual braces that go on the backside of your teeth, and self-ligating braces that don’t need any wires at all. In the clear aligner category, we offer Invisalign® and 3M™ Clarity™ aligners. Here are the factors to consider when making a choice for your child.


Clear aligners and braces are equally effective for almost all cases of crooked or misaligned teeth, including overbite, cross bite, underbite, gaps, and overcrowding. 

If your child has a more severe problem, like a rotated tooth, problems with back teeth, or teeth that need a vertical adjustment, braces may be your best bet.


Of course, visibility (or invisibility) of the appliance is of primary concern to your child, but you understandably don’t want to sacrifice function for aesthetics. In the majority of teeth-straightening cases, you can opt for clear aligners with complete confidence that they’ll deliver the same results as braces without compromising a thing. 

And remember, if you decide that braces are right for your child, our clear option can make it a win-win choice.


Braces, whether metal or clear, are securely fastened to the surface of your child’s teeth, where they stay until we remove them at the end of the treatment. We make regular adjustments as the teeth shift into alignment, but the hardware remains affixed.

Clear aligners are removable tray devices. This means your child takes them out when they eat, brush, and floss. It also means they can get lost or damaged.

Food restrictions

With traditional braces, your child will have to give up hard, crunchy, chewy, and sticky foods for the duration of the treatment. They should also avoid sugary, carbonated, and colored beverages.

Clear aligners come out during meal time, so they can eat whatever they want, but they need to make sure their teeth are clean before popping the aligners back in.


Neither braces nor clear aligners are painful, though your child might have some discomfort during the first few days as their mouth becomes accustomed to the fit and feel. They also might feel some discomfort with each adjustment to their braces or new set of aligners, but this is temporary and can be easily managed.


If you opt for metal braces, you can count on coming back to see us frequently for adjustments throughout the duration of your child’s treatment.

Clear aligners require fewer visits to the office, though we still like to see you occasionally to monitor progress and make sure the teeth are on the right track. 

What’s the right choice?

There are a few cases where we may recommend traditional braces over clear aligners from an orthodontic perspective. If your child’s jaw needs adjusting, the teeth are severely misaligned, or there are complicated issues like rotated teeth, you may not have the option of clear aligners.

Beyond that, the choice is yours. You know your child better than anyone, and you alone can make the best decision. If your child is capable of following the program, committed to the success of the treatments, and is willing and able to keep the aligners in their mouth at 22-24 hours every single day, then they’re a good candidate for aligners.

To find out more about aligners and braces, call us for an appointment.

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