Traditional Expanders and Clear Aligners (The Difference)

What is the difference between traditional expanders and clear aligners? Today’s orthodontic treatments are a far cry from the decades when patients had to endure ponderous hardware and lengthy treatment times! Some of the newest cutting-edge orthodontic practices are so lightweight and streamlined you may hardly know they are there!

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The Difference

No matter what type of oral health treatment you or your child requires, there is now a way to achieve faster, more economical and comfortable results. Here, your choice of an orthodontist can greatly influence treatment times and outcomes – you want to work with a physician knowledgeable in the newest, most efficient practices in the field!

One common question many new patients ask is whether they qualify to use the clear aligners (Invisalign) rather than traditional expanders (braces). This is an excellent question and in this article, the board-certified practitioners at Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics give you an overview of what each has to offer, their similarities and differences and a general profile of the ideal patient for each treatment type.

Expansion usually takes 6-12 months regardless of what type of expansion technique we use, when you consider both the active expansion and the stabilization phase.
– Both conventional expanders and Invisalign yield comparable results for our patients
– Early expansion can eliminate the need for both the removal of baby and permanent teeth


Clear Aligners (Invisalign)

Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment approach that has been in use since the late 1990s. Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics is a Top 1% Elite Preferred Provider for North America. Aligners, as their name suggests, are more like temporary retainers than permanent braces. This is because you can take them in and out at any time.

They are also made of a translucent material and they fit only over the bottom front of your teeth, so they are nearly invisible unless you look very closely! Invisalign is now available as a treatment for adults, teens and children. This system uses a series of aligners that are typically changed out at two-week intervals. Teeth are gradually and comfortably repositioned.


Invisible and complementary with other orthodontic treatments.

There are several obvious and some not-so-obvious benefits to using the Invisalign technology. One, of course, is that they are nearly invisible! Another is that Invisalign aligners can be used with other treatment-accelerating orthodontic technology such as Acceledent as needed to further reduce treatment times.


Remove temporarily if needs be.

Yet another is that the aligners can be removed as needed for special events, although the more time they are worn (23 hours per day is ideal over the course of treatment) the faster you will get results.


Easier to manage and clean.

The aligners are also easier to manage, especially for younger patients, since they require no dietary restrictions or extra time spent brushing and flossing around permanent hardware. And they are definitely comfier, with no hard edges that might irritate the soft tissues of the inside of mouth and cheeks.

– We recommend removing the clear trays during eating and rinsing with water thoroughly before putting them back in. It helps to carry a refillable water bottle.


Reduce the need for orthodontic maintenance appointments.

One particular benefit that all patients (and especially parents) seem to love is that since the aligners can be created in advance using advanced computer imaging, this cuts down on the need to return to the orthodontic office for maintenance visits and adjustments.


An independent treatment solution.

Invisalign is an amazing system for patients who qualify! Generally speaking, you may be a good candidate for aligner-based treatment if your treatment needs are fairly straightforward (i.e. no complex bite or alignment issues), you have the discipline to wear your aligners daily for the recommended time period of 23 hours and you need or desire a more discreet method of treatment.


orthodotics for children


Traditional Expanders (Braces)

As great as Invisalign sounds and as many benefits as this treatment offers, it is not the right choice for every patient. Today’s braces come in all shapes and sizes. They can fit on the front or on the back (sub-lingual) of your teeth. They can be colorful or clear as you may prefer. For teens and kids, traditional braces can be fun! Young patients can even help pick out the color and style of their hardware, mixing and matching as treatment progresses.

Braces are perhaps the oldest form of teeth straightening technology on the planet! However, modern braces really began to evolve into the hardware we use today in the 19th century, and advances have been rapid since that time. Braces have a great deal to offer to the right patient!

– Conventional expanders are “glued” into place and are never removed. We provide dental “pipe cleaners” to help remove any food that can get stuck during eating. The lower conventional expander can be removed at home at night for brushing. With conventional expanders, patients cannot eat anything too hard or too sticky.


Trustworthy treatment.

Braces have been in use since the start of modern orthodontia. In the hands of a skilled provider, this is a treatment you can trust to deliver results.


A cost-conscious choice for more complex treatment.

Braces offer great flexibility in designing a treatment approach to meet each individual patient’s needs. Some treatment is quite straightforward whereas other treatment may be more complex. Today’s braces can be used in conjunction with a wide variety of other newer cutting-edge approaches to adjust teeth, jaw, alignment, bite, spacing and other complex issues for the patient’s best health.


Appropriate for all ages.

As great as aligners may be, they are not the right choice for all patients. This can be especially true for the youngest patients who may readily misplace or forget to insert aligners, which can cause costly and inconvenient treatment delays. Braces stay where they are put. This makes them a great choice for early-life treatment needs!


Can also be quite discreet.

With the newer braces, which can use clear hardware or even be installed behind the teeth, braces can be nearly as discreet as aligners!

– By patient report, the clear aligners are more comfortable and do not interfere with speech or food choices. We typically do not offer clear aligners to patients with airway problems, so we still use both types of expansion in our practice. If for some reason clear aligners are not a good fit for a patient, we can transition them to conventional expanders at no additional charge, but we have not found this to be an issue in our practice.



About Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics

The co-founders of Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics, Dr. Jasmine Gorton and Dr. Bill Schmohl both lead and innovate in orthodontic medicine.

Dr. Schmohl is a pioneer in the development of cutting-edge orthodontic hardware, including invisible braces, to minimize treatment time and overall impact on the patient’s daily life while receiving orthodontic care. Dr. Gorton, a Harvard with honors graduate, is a board-certified orthodontist who has received multiple honors for her research in the orthodontic field.

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Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics
900 Larkspur Landing Circle
Suite 200 Larkspur
California 94939
Phone: 415-459-8006


Traditional Expanders and Clear Aligners (The Difference)