Concerns about tooth alignment impact the day-to-day lives of many adults. From closed-lip grins to staying quiet in the boardroom, it’s easy to change your life to accommodate your smile. But what if you could change your smile to fit your lifestyle?
You can, and there are plenty of ways to do it. Two that might interest you are braces and veneers.
How are these treatments similar? What sets them apart? And which is ideal for you? Our comparison guide will walk you through everything you need to know and help you reach the right conclusion.
Table of Contents
Braces and Veneers: The Basics
Both braces and veneers have long been popular options for transforming smiles. These are treatments with a lot of documentation on their effectiveness and results, meaning you can confidently place your faith in them.
However, they are also incredibly different from each other, and this has a significant impact on which is best for correcting your smile concerns.
Braces are brackets, wires, and sometimes elastics that are affixed to the teeth and designed to slowly move your teeth. The wire directs pressure to the teeth, encouraging them to change positions. They can be combined with other appliances to make larger changes in the bone structure as well.
Veneers are thin shells placed on the front of your teeth, most often the six front teeth on your upper arch. Your dentist can customize their shape and size, using them to hide chips and gaps in the teeth, as well as correct issues with your tooth profile. They are made from a variety of materials—usually porcelain or composite resin—and blend into the natural teeth.
Most veneers require your dentist to “prep” your teeth—shave down the enamel so that the veneers don’t protrude out too far. This is an irreversible process, so you’ll need to have veneers for life.
Depending on your specific alignment concerns, veneers may or may not be a viable solution. Braces can correct all kinds of conditions, including teeth that are twisted in place, too crowded, or have large gaps. Veneers, on the other hand, can only conceal gaps—and not all of them. If the gap is larger than 3 millimeters, veneers can only make the gap appear more narrow, not close it.
The effectiveness of braces or veneers really depends on how you want to change your smile. If you want to make major alterations, veneers are not going to cut it. However, if you want to close a small gap, both options can deliver results.
- Can correct nearly all levels of orthodontic abnormalities.
- Come in different materials, giving you control over visibility and comfort.
- With proper care, braces last for the duration of treatment.
- Can address small gaps in the front upper teeth.
- Use either porcelain and composite materials.
- With proper care, most veneers last between 7 and 14 years.
What They Treat
Braces generate gentle but significant force directed against the teeth via the archwire. Through this pressure, braces can address a wide variety of orthodontic concerns, including:
- Crowded teeth
- Gaps between teeth
- Open bite
Veneers, on the other hand, are limited to concealing gaps in the teeth, and they don’t physically move your teeth. Designed as slightly wider than the tooth itself, veneers fill in the gap. If this gap is causing crowding in other teeth, getting veneers will make no difference.
Both braces and veneers can be made from different materials. The material you select will control the visibility of your braces, how natural your veneers look, and the overall treatment cost.
Common Braces Materials
- Stainless Steel: Traditional metal braces and most self-ligating versions use stainless steel, which is lightweight, effective, and affordable.
- Ceramic: You might be able to get ceramic braces on your upper front teeth and stainless steel braces on the rest. Ceramic braces blend in with your tooth surfaces, making them less visible, but they’re also more delicate and prone to staining.
- Plastic: Plastic brackets offer the effectiveness of metal and the discretion of ceramic, without sacrificing durability. They stain easily, but proper dental hygiene can keep them looking their best. There are also plastic archwires that help further reduce your braces’ visibility.
Common Veneer Materials
- Porcelain: This is considered the most natural and durable material for dental veneers. Porcelain is biocompatible, meaning it’s unlikely to damage gum tissue or cause adverse reactions.
- Composite: Composite veneers use a resin composed of organic and inorganic materials. They don’t blend as well with the natural teeth and can stain. Additionally, some people have reactions to them.
- Porcelain Laminate: These are similar to porcelain, except they are a composite material, which is slightly less durable and can cause reactions in some patients. The primary benefit of this type of veneer is that it requires less tooth preparation.
Braces and veneers are typically quite durable, but can be more delicate depending on the materials you choose.
Metal braces are highly durable and can last for your full treatment without breaking. At the same time, even something as simple as chewing gum can cause significant damage to your brackets or wires. Patients must alter the foods they eat, how they brush and floss, and even which teeth they bite with, depending on the type of braces.
Veneers should last somewhere between 7 and 14 years, and they can withstand a lot.
However, you also need to make modifications to your lifestyle to prevent them from damage. This includes avoiding hard foods, not biting your nails, and not chewing on hard objects like pencils.
Orthodontic treatment can be expensive—especially when you need to pay out of pocket. For most people, cost is the number-one obstacle to getting a brand new smile. So you’ll likely want to know whether braces or veneers are more affordable, and there are a few different factors to consider.
- The cost varies based on the materials you choose and the severity of your condition.
- In most cases, insurance will cover braces.
- You can get financing independently or through your provider.
- The cost is based on the materials you choose and how many teeth need treatment.
- Many insurance policies will not cover veneers since they are cosmetic.
- You can get financing independently or through your provider.
The cost of braces can be anywhere between $2,500 for certain types of metal braces to $13,000 for lingual braces. The severity of your condition can also affect the price of treatment. For example, adding other appliances to correct problems with the jaw will raise costs and extend your treatment timeline, increasing the number of overall appointments.
Below is a chart showing different types of braces and their price ranges.
|Metal Braces||$2,500 to $7,500|
|Ceramic Braces||$4,000 to $8,500|
|Lingual Braces||$5,000 to $13,000|
With veneers, you pay by the tooth, and the standard base price varies between materials and providers. They can cost as little as $400 per tooth and as much as $2,500 each. Additionally, veneers must be replaced about once per decade, which means that they are not a one-time cost.
Below is a chart showing different veneer materials and their price ranges.
|Porcelain Veneers||$925-$2500 per tooth|
|Composite Veneers||$400-$1,500 per tooth|
|Porcelain Laminate||$800-$2,000 per tooth|
|Removable Veneers||$470-$600 per tooth|
Will Insurance Cover It?
This depends on your insurance. If you have dental coverage, you need to speak with your provider about its limits on orthodontic and cosmetic treatments, as well as any treatment cutoff deadlines based on the age of the patient.
Most providers will cover at least part of your braces treatment, but only if it’s correcting medical irregularities, not cosmetic ones. However, your provider might reduce the amount they cover for adult patients or decline coverage entirely.
Veneers are considered a fully cosmetic treatment. This means many insurance providers won’t offer coverage. However, some will pay for up to 50% of the total cost. Consult your insurance provider before writing off veneers due to their cost.
Is Financing Available?
You can help braces and veneers fit into your budget with financing options. CareCredit is one company that offers financing for a variety of dental procedures, and your dentist or orthodontist may be able to connect you with others. You can also talk to banks and credit unions about personal loans for dental care.
When selecting a teeth straightening treatment, convenience is also an important factor. You want to achieve your dream smile without upending your life. In this category, there’s a big difference between braces and veneers.
- Most patients are in treatment for 6-18 months, though it can last up to 3 years.
- You need to relearn how to brush and floss around braces.
- Braces require retainers to maintain their results.
- The only treatment time is the time between prepping the teeth and placing the veneers.
- You treat veneers like your natural teeth when brushing and flossing.
- Veneers maintain their results until it is time for replacement.
Braces take a long time to achieve their final results. At the very least, the entire treatment takes 6 months. However, this is typically just for minor adjustments and involves a tooth movement acceleration device, like AcceleDent Aura.
Most people wear braces for roughly 18 months. However, for those with severe misalignments, especially those involving the jaw, treatment could last up to 3 years.
Veneers are much faster. Depending on the type of veneer, your dentist can prep your teeth and place the veneers on the same day. Porcelain veneers often require a waiting period between tooth prep and application, typically of about one week, during which you’ll wear a temporary veneer. However, this is a significantly shorter treatment time than braces.
Comfort and Cleaning
Both braces and veneers will leave your teeth feeling different. Braces brackets can irritate the tongue and soft tissues of the mouth. However, this discomfort is only temporary and fades as your mouth grows accustomed to the braces.
Veneers are much closer to your natural teeth, but they can still feel strange to your tongue and lips at first. Depending on the material, they could cause minor irritation for a few days, but most people adjust to them fairly quickly.
The bigger difference is in how you clean your teeth. Braces require a diligent oral healthcare routine to prevent food from getting stuck around the brackets and discoloring your teeth. You also have to learn new brushing techniques (to prevent bracket damage) and how to floss around the archwire. It’s doable, but there is a learning curve.
Veneers, on the other hand, don’t require any changes to your oral healthcare routine. You keep brushing and flossing twice a day, and that’s it!
Both braces and veneers offer long-term solutions to concerns about your smile. After braces treatment, you must wear a retainer to hold the teeth in place and prevent them from shifting back, and many patients wear their retainer for life.
Veneers don’t require you to do anything extra to maintain results. Just be careful not to damage their surfaces. And remember that they don’t last forever, so you’ll need to have them replaced in the future.
The goal of braces and veneers is to achieve a smile you’re proud to show off. You want to feel confident smiling at work, on dates, and at social gatherings.
Many adults, however, aren’t confident with braces. While there is nothing wrong with their appearance, not everyone likes having a visible appliance on their teeth. Ceramic and plastic braces are less visible than metal ones, and lingual braces are situated behind your teeth. However, in most cases, your braces will be at least somewhat noticeable.
Veneers aren’t noticeable at all because they fit over your entire tooth and blend in with the color of the natural teeth around them. Your dentist can even customize the whiteness of your veneers so they don’t look a lot “newer” than your other teeth.
Patient Experience Comparison
Getting braces means forming a partnership with your orthodontist. You have to see them often, communicate clearly, and meet specific expectations. Veneers aren’t an ongoing treatment, but the patient experience is still important.
Ease of Process
Braces demand a lot from the patient. From rearranging your schedule for office visits to tweaking your diet, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it treatment. You also need to put a lot of work into maintaining your braces and preventing tooth discoloration.
The veneers process usually just requires two appointments, sometimes one, so it is easy on your time. However, your teeth must be prepped in advance, and that involves shaving down the enamel. This is a permanent alteration that means you will need veneers for the rest of your life. So the process may be easier at first, but it will require ongoing maintenance.
Both veneers and braces are treatments delivered in-office by dental or orthodontic professionals, giving you oversight and guidance throughout the process. The only exception is snap-on veneers, which you can order online.
Refinements and Adjustments
How often your braces need to be adjusted depends on the type you have. Traditional metal braces usually require adjustments every 4 weeks, while certain self-ligating braces only need to be checked once every 2-3 months.
Veneers do not require refinements, but sometimes they’re necessary For example, if a veneer feels too long or too wide, the dentist might shave it down to better match your expectations.
Which Should You Choose?
Both braces and veneers are excellent treatments. Braces are more effective for treating severe misalignments, but neither is inherently better when you’re looking to close small gaps in the front teeth. Since both are effective and safe, your decision comes down to personal preference.
Choose braces if…
You want to make major changes in tooth alignment and don’t mind wearing a visible appliance.
Choose veneers if…
You only need to close a small gap in your front teeth and want to address other aesthetic concerns at the same time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the key differences between braces and veneers?
- Braces can correct many different alignment issues while veneers only conceal small gaps between specific teeth.
- Veneers require a few hours in the dentist’s chair spread out over two visits, while braces often require as many as 18 visits over 1-2 years.
- Braces and veneers can be similar in cost, but veneers must be replaced every decade or so, while braces’ results last for life if you wear your retainers.
- Veneers deliver pretty much instant results, while braces are visible for the duration of your treatment, except for lingual braces.
Which conditions can both braces and veneers treat?
The only conditions braces and veneers can both treat are small gaps in the upper front teeth. However, “treat” isn’t the best word for what veneers do. They fill in the gap, but they don’t correct the underlying misalignment.
Are there at-home veneers?
Yes, but these are not the same as what a dentist offers. These are no-prep clip-on veneers that you can put on and remove as you like.
Do veneers last a lifetime?
No, they only last about 7-14 years, depending on the material and how well you care for them. If you are not careful about what you eat—or if you bite your nails—they may only last 5 years or less.
Are veneers and crowns the same thing?
No, crowns cover all or some of a tooth like a cap, replacing missing portions. Veneers are thin shells affixed to the front surfaces of your teeth.
What are the biggest disadvantages of choosing veneers?
Beyond the fact that they only work with certain issues, veneers require the dentist to shave down your enamel, which is a permanent alteration. Once you get veneers, you’ll need to have them for the rest of your life.
What are the biggest disadvantages of choosing braces?
For most patients, the greatest downsides of braces are their visibility and the lifestyle changes that come with them. However, since these are temporary, many find them preferable to removing enamel from their teeth for veneers.
What if I am unhappy with my results?
If you don’t like your results, your orthodontist can adjust your braces to change the way your teeth are aligned. With veneers, you can switch to new ones that better match your expectations.
Can I use insurance, HSA, or FSA funds to cover treatment?
Yes, but your coverage will depend on your insurance provider’s policies. Braces are typically classified as medical devices and therefore covered by insurance, HSAs, and FSAs. Veneers are considered a cosmetic treatment, and while some insurance providers will cover them, HSAs and FSAs do not.
Which option is best for straightening teeth?
Braces are better for straightening teeth since they actually move them. Veneers merely fill in gaps.