HomeSmart LivingAligners or Braces – who wins in the quest for straight teeth

Aligners or Braces – who wins in the quest for straight teeth

Everyone wants beautiful straight teeth that can flash a million Rand smile but deciding how to go about getting one is enough to cause a toothache. Most South Africans have plenty of options between braces or aligners, but sometimes having too much choice isn’t a good thing. Dr Sheryl Smithies, a top Cape Town based aesthetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetic practitioner explains that most patients get to pick their preference based on what best suits their lifestyle. The revered dental genius shares some important information that people should consider before making that all important final decision. 

Firstly, brace yourself with the facts  

Most of us have either worn braces in our childhood, or know someone who has, but how much do we really know about their purpose and functionality? 

Dr Sheryl Smithies image by Claire

Braces are essentially wires made of either metal or porcelain which are attached to your teeth (the more modern ones can be fixed behind). More wires and rubber bands are then used to create tension, effectively forcing the teeth to move into the correct position. It’s a slow and very tedious process and can cause uncomfortable pain too. 

In contract to this, aligners like Invisalign are a more advanced type of orthodontic treatment. These are made of plastic and are custom-made to securely fit around only the teeth that need straightening, rather than the whole mouth. Small bumps of composite resin, which is like a tooth-coloured filling material, is used to help the aligner grip the tooth and each one then moves the teeth separately but rapidly, in a step-by-step fashion until it achieves the final layout, with very little discomfort. 


Secondly, brush up on the pros and cons of each 

The pro’s for both are the same – whichever one you go with; you’re guaranteed to get straighter teeth over time. Braces, however, can be very painful, especially at the onset with the wires cutting the lips and inside of the cheeks. There is also the risk of them causing potentially irreversible damage to teeth and bone structure, especially over a long period of time and it can sometimes be tricky to get the teeth into the correct positions.  It is difficult to get precise movements with a brace and because part of the tooth is covered with a wire, cleaning can become awkward too, and this can lead to potentially significant tooth decay. Braces also require an individual to have regular check-ups at their dentist usually every 4-6 weeks, so this is something to bear in mind too.

If this scares you, then aligners are probably the better option. Not only is this the most advanced way of moving teeth, but they are much easier to clean and there is very little discomfort, except perhaps over the first three days when the mouth is getting used to them. 


The almost transparent look of an aligner is especially attractive to older patients who do not want something that is noticeable. If you stay away from some foods like turmeric which can stain, you probably will only need to see a dentist every 3-4 months, which is also welcome news for those with busy lives. 

Then chew on the costs  

Costs vary depending on the type and length of treatment and every patient will have a different set of circumstances.


Braces can cost anywhere from R30 000 to R70 000, whilst the price bracket for aligners starts from R25,000 to R110,000. Again, this depends on the number of aligners a person needs and the brand. 


Finally, choose the one that aligns with you

Because braces are bonded onto your teeth, they require little input from you when it comes to maintenance and so are best suited to those people who are not as diligent with their dental care. The only significant changes you will need to make will be to your eating habits (things like chewing gum is a complete no), and perhaps adding new toothbrushes to your teeth cleaning tools. You should also be prepared for a significant change in your appearance when you smile as well as lots of pain. 


Aligners on the other hand are a much quicker treatment as they target only the teeth that need to move, as opposed to all the teeth. They therefore are better suited to those who want a quick transformation but still value comfort, aesthetics and ease of use, and who like to be able to clean their teeth well. 

Doctor | + posts

An aesthetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetic specialist, Dr Sheryl Smithies believes that understanding the frame of your face and smile - is key to your personal beauty.

Dr Smithies knows that mapping out the path to the perfect natural you has been made infinitely more accurate and less invasive with the innovation of digital technology. As one of the top Cape Town digital aesthetic dentists, Dr Smithies is passionate about enabling her patients to achieve their desired look without hesitations about the dental procedures or any doubt about their results.  A perfectionist at heart, she takes great pride in the quality of her work and the profound positive impact it has on her patient's lives.

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