In my dental practice I am a provider for both 6 month smiles and Invisalign because I believe they’re both fantastic options for getting a knock out smile. Both options offer great results, they just vary a little in the way they go about it. Of course, they both have pros and cons, and I wanted to provide you with a little run down of the differences in 5 categories. How each system works, treatment length, esthetics, convenience and cost.
On a personal level, I need to say that I’ve used both systems on my closest loved ones. I’ve treated my mom using Invisalign and we completely changed her smile, and the freedom with which she flashes it. Without a doubt one the most gratifying things I’ve done in my career. And just this week my wife had her impressions made to start her 6 Month Smiles treatment. She’s looking to fix some mild crowding issues. Let the record show that I think she’s perfect just the way she is and needs absolutely no cosmetic enhancement of any kind, in any way, in perpetuity. With that, I hope to convey that both systems are great, and what follows is just a practical look at the two.
Six Month Smiles
Let’s start with 6 Month Smiles. Their slogan is, “Straight teeth. Less time.” It’s a system designed for adults who want to correct gaps or crowding in their smile. 6MS uses clear, plastic brackets and white wires that are virtually invisible. Honestly, unless you have a piece of spinach wrapped around one of the brackets, they’re really hard to see. Thankfully the plastic brackets are also much gentler on the gums than metal ones are, and anyone who’s had to use ortho wax knows what I’m talking about. In my opinion the biggest benefit to 6MS is the speed and predictability it provides. Brackets and wires are capable of shifting teeth faster and more precisely than clear aligners can. Teeth can be very stubborn sometimes and getting them to go where you want them can be complicated, and I won’t lie, aligners sometimes have a hard time.
Now, wouldn’t you know it? As the name implies the average case takes about six months to complete, and rarely do cases take longer than 9 months. The one downside is that you have to spend another couple of minutes a day cleaning around your brackets, and certain foods just don’t jive with brackets and wires. (Here’s looking at you Swedish Fish) Water-piks, Superfloss and Proxabrushes are all tools we provide our patients to help keep their teeth healthy while we straighten. In all, 6 Month Smiles is a great system designed for adults looking for a straight smile before their next cleaning.
Invisalign takes a different approach to achieving a straight smile. It uses a series of clear aligners, or trays, that gradually straighten teeth. The trays are replaced every 1-2 weeks, depending on the severity of the case, until the desired outcome is achieved. The aligners are removable, allowing you to take them out to eat lunch, and eat whatever you want, which is many nice, yes? Afterwards you just brush and floss and pop your trays back in. – Notice a pattern yet with all the flossing talk? What can I say?, I’m a dentist, I truly can’t help myself.
The Invisalign trays are made of a space age clear plastic that needs to hug your teeth for at least 22 hours per day to be effective. Remember, if you don’t wear them as directed, they won’t work as expected. So you have to be disciplined with your trays. Be zen about your trays grasshopper, yet even for the most disciplined among us, treatment with Invisalign will take a bit longer than with 6 Month Smiles, in my experience it takes about 50% longer to accomplish the same amount of movement.
As far as cost goes, I am clearly in no position to comment on how much other providers should charge for their work, but our fee is about $1200 less for 6 Month Smiles than for Invisalign. This indisputably factors into the decision making process. Ultimately, there is no “better way”. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Both options will deliver on the smile you’re thinking about and a detailed conversation with your treating dentist is the only way to determine what option is best for you. Whatever route you decide, I do hope you decide to. You’re gonna be so happy you did when you see your new smile.
Now, if I may, before we end, a brief word on retainers. Use ‘em! A removable one you wear at night or a bonded one that you wear all the time, whatever, just make sure you have one and you use it. There’s an old saying that if you ask 10 dentists a question you’ll get 11 different opinions, and what the right way to wear retainers is no stranger to debate. My personal recipe is when we finish your treatment you would wear clear retainers full time for 3 months, and then wear it at night for as long as you want your teeth to stay straight.