If you’ve always dreamed of having a perfectly straight smile, you’re in luck! There are more options than ever before to get the smile of your dreams.
For those looking for a straighter smile, veneers and braces are great options: both can take your smile from spaced, overcrowded, or crooked to perfection—and both can do it safely and effectively.
But which is better: braces or veneers? That’s actually a tricky question to answer. But in this guide, we’ll compare braces and veneers on all their key differences: how they work, how much each treatment costs, how quickly you get results, and more. By the end, you’ll have a pretty good picture of which treatment is right for you!
How Veneers Work
Braces cover and adjust the entire archway of teeth, but veneers can cover just as many teeth as you need them to—no more, no less. Veneers act like little caps or covers for teeth that are chipped, misshapen, or stained; they can also be used to close gaps or make teeth look like they aren’t crooked.
Veneers are only offered in-office at a local cosmetic dentist, primarily because your teeth need to be prepped for veneers. And “prepped” actually means that your dentist will shave down the enamel a tiny bit to make room for your veneers (but only on the teeth that will get veneers; the others stay as-is).
After that, your dentist takes an impression or scan of those teeth, which will be used to make a perfect fit for your veneers.
Together, you and your dentist will pick out the right shade, size, and shape of veneer, too. Two things happen at once after that: your dentist sends the impressions or scans to a lab so your veneers can be made, and then they put temporary veneers on for you.
Once your veneers are manufactured, you go back to the dentist to have them installed. Once the veneers are on, you’ll have a smile with no gaps, no stains, and no cosmetic defects. And no one else will know you’re wearing veneers; only your dentist will be able to tell.
How Braces Work
Braces have been around for centuries, and in that time, they’ve never lost their place as the most effective, strongest method to straighten teeth. And unlike veneers, which mask the problems, braces actually correct the positions of your teeth.
Essentially, your dentist will affix brackets to the surface of your teeth, and run a wire along those brackets. The wire is gradually tightened—with appointments every 4 weeks or so for adjustments—exerting force on your teeth. That force slowly pulls your teeth into alignment.
Braces are also powerful enough to allow for elastics and metal appliances that can reshape and reposition your entire jawbone. No other orthodontic method is more powerful. There are several different types of braces, too. The most common ones are metal braces. But more discreet options include ceramic braces, which use tooth-colored brackets and sometimes clear wires.
Another discreet option is lingual braces, which are affixed to the back of your teeth instead of the fronts. But no matter which you choose, the braces will give you a straighter smile. If you want to brighten your smile, too, you can bleach your smile after treatment without too much issue.
Braces vs. Veneers: Key Differences
1.) Noticeability during treatment
One of the biggest differences between veneers and braces is how often people will notice that you’re going through treatment. And with braces, lots of people are bound to notice that you’re getting treatment.
Hopefully your friends are mature enough to hold off the “brace face” nicknames, but you won’t be able to prevent them from noticing (unless you go months without speaking or smiling around them, which we don’t recommend). Granted, you can get braces that are a bit more discreet, but in general, someone along the way will notice that you have braces.
But if you get veneers, the only person who will probably ever notice is your dental team. That’s because applying the veneers usually only takes one or two sessions. Even between the appointment when your teeth are prepped and the one when you actually get your permanent veneers, you’ll have temporary veneers on. So the only thing your friends and family will notice is that your smile looks amazing.
2.) Materials Used
The brackets of traditional braces use a combination of metals called an alloy, usually made of titanium, chromium, and nickel.
The wire is typically made of a stainless steel alloy. And the brackets are glued on using a bonding cement. These materials are FDA-approved for their efficacy and safety; normally, your saliva corrodes metals, but those alloys withstand corrosion throughout treatment.
Meanwhile, veneers use a variety of materials, partly depending on the veneer type you use. Porcelain veneers are the most popular choice for their resilience and how closely they resemble real teeth. But a more affordable choice is a composite resin veneer; composite resin is often used to fill cavities, so it’s another great choice. But on top of the veneer itself, the dentist will also use a bonding agent to adhere the veneer to your tooth.
All of the materials above are perfectly safe, but if you want to know exactly what’s going into your mouth, it’s important to note the materials for veneers and braces.
3.) Treatment Purpose
Veneers have a straightforward purpose: they cover up cosmetic imperfections, masking them from view. When used for orthodontic appearances, the veneers are placed and sized in such a way that they make it look as though there are no gaps or crooked teeth.
They do not, however, fix the root cause of the imperfections. The only real dental “fix” provided by veneers is that they can provide a bit of structure and protection for enamel that’s already a bit chipped or damaged.
Braces, however, address the problem of orthodontia at its source: the positions of the teeth within your jawbone. If you have any teeth that are overcrowded, spaced out, or twisted, then braces will pull them all into the proper positions. The braces can also help correct your bite, if needed.
4.) How quickly you see results
Technically, getting veneers is a multi-step process: your initial consultation, getting prepped for your veneers, and finally having them installed. But usually, there are only 2-3 weeks between that first consultation and the final product.
For such a dramatic transformation, veneers take very little time at all. And 2 or 3 appointments is a relatively small hassle. And to make matters even better, you’ll get temporary veneers after your first appointment, which gives you a nearly instant improvement.
Braces, however, will take a bit more patience. Patients can expect to wear their braces for a long time; it’s not uncommon for people to wear them 12 to 24 months (but a few unfortunate cases require even more than 2 years). Granted, everyone’s case is different, and how long you’ll wear braces largely depends on how much work your teeth need. If you have small gaps or minimal crowding, you’ll have less time in braces. Tougher cases take more time.
It’ll be hard to notice your progress mid-treatment simply because the braces are in the way. Because of the discomfort of your teeth shifting, you’ll be well aware that your teeth are making progress. But you won’t really see the results until you get your braces removed.
5.) Ongoing Maintenance
Both veneers and braces have a little bit of ongoing maintenance after treatment, but how much? That’s different. Braces might be pretty high-maintenance during treatment, but afterwards, they’re pretty simple.
Once your dentist removes your braces, they’ll give you retainers to wear. In general, you wear those retainers all day for a few weeks or months, and then you’ll switch to wearing them at night indefinitely. If you wear your retainers faithfully, your teeth will stay put.
Veneers, however, require a bit more maintenance. In general, you’ll find that most people’s veneers last for 10-15 years (depending on which type they use). Veneers are also prone to chipping and breaking, especially if you grind your teeth or routinely chew on hard foods (or non-food materials). But even if you care for your veneers flawlessly, they won’t last forever.
They will require periodic repairs, and eventually, full replacement. That means you’ll pay that $1,000+ per veneer expense all over again.
Money is always an issue, right? And it’s a substantial investment with either veneers or braces aligners. But how big that investment is depends on a couple different factors.
For example, the cost of braces varies depending on the type you use and the severity of your case. Lingual and ceramic braces tend to be more expensive, but the average patient spends close to $5,000 for braces. Keep in mind that these costs also vary based on the cost of living in your area. Most orthodontists offer financing plans.
Veneers can also get pretty pricey. It’s impossible for us to give a perfect price point for them, since every dentist charges a different price. The cost also varies based on the type you choose; porcelain veneers are the most expensive. Average costs fall close to $1,000 (but can get as high as $2,500).
But here’s the thing: that’s a per tooth estimated cost. So if you need more than two or three veneers, it’s probably well worth your time and money to actually correct your crooked teeth with braces. That’s especially true if you’re only using aligners or veneers for orthodontic purposes (and not to adapt the appearance of the shape or shade of your teeth).
The Verdict: Which is Better?
Honestly, veneers and braces aren’t necessarily better than each other; it ultimately depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with treatment. In general, for people with healthy smiles (i.e., no significant chips, cavities, etc.) who want a straighter smile, we recommend going with braces.
That fixes the problem instead of masks it, and many times, braces will also help your bite. If you want whitening, you can do so after your treatment is finished, too. A lot of dentists strongly advocate for braces because they do not require your teeth to be shaved down, as veneers do. In general, the longer you can preserve your enamel, the better.
But if you only want to fix one or two teeth, veneers may be a better option. They’re especially good if you have a single tooth or pair of teeth that’s crooked or chipped. And as an added plus, you get quicker results that still last a long time.
Ultimately, we recommend chatting with your dentist about your smile goals—and get a routine dental checkup before you proceed with any form of treatment. That way, you’ll know exactly where your oral health stands and the exact steps you need to take to make it even better.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a little insight into how braces and veneers work and helped you get a better feel for which best suits your needs. We wish you the best of luck as you pursue the smile of your dreams!