Do you have crooked or crowded teeth, or perhaps an overbite but don’t want to wear braces? Clear aligner therapy might be the right solution for you. Similar to traditional braces, clear aligner therapy works to gradually move teeth discreetly with virtually invisible appliances.
What is clear aligner therapy?
Clear aligner therapy refers to an orthodontic alternative to traditional braces where the patient wears a series of custom-made clear plastic aligners that gently and gradually move their teeth into proper alignment. The goal of clear aligner therapy is to help the patient achieve a healthy bite where the top and bottom teeth properly align, function, and fit together.
Clear aligners are great for those who have crooked teeth, crowded teeth, gaps, overbites, underbites, open bite, or even crossbites. However, it is important to note that even though clear aligners can treat a variety of orthodontic conditions, it may not be the best treatment option for everyone.
There are many orthodontic teeth-straightening treatments available. The most recognized is traditional metal braces that use wires and brackets to move your teeth. Traditional braces can be painful, uncomfortable, and put limitations on diet, which makes clear aligners an appealing alternative to many patients.
Some of the benefits of clear aligner therapy include:
- They are custom made to fit the patient’s teeth
- They are removable
- They are easier to keep teeth and gums clean and healthy
- They are clear and discreet
- They are less likely to irritate your gums and cheeks
- They can help prevent wear on teeth from tooth grinding
How does it work?
Clear aligners work like any other orthodontic appliance where pressure is applied to the teeth, gradually moving them and reshaping the supporting soft tissue and bones.
An orthodontist will conduct a full dental exam of the patient’s mouth to assess the most appropriate treatment option. This exam may include digital scans, photographs, impressions, and x-rays. After the orthodontist concludes that clear aligner therapy is a suitable option, a series of clear plastic aligners are created specifically for the patient’s dental goals and lifestyle needs.
The aligners apply gentle pressure to the periodontal ligaments that surround each tooth, and as the pressure is applied, the blood vessels expand and contract along the tooth. This reaction causes chemical signals to be sent so that the body can adjust to the tooth’s new position and rebuild the tooth’s structure and support system so that it can remain in position. Once your tooth is completely rebuilt and adjusted to the new position, it is time to switch to the next aligner for more adjustments.
The length of treatment can also vary depending on what the patient’s goals are and the condition of their teeth. Your orthodontist will be able to give you a better estimate of how long treatment will take once your doctor has customized your treatment plan.
Generally, aligners are changed every 2 weeks to gradually move the teeth. The total number of aligners can vary from patient to patient, though on average patients can go through anywhere from 20-30 aligners during treatment.
Unlike traditional braces, clear aligners put the treatment’s effectiveness on the patient’s shoulders as the patient is responsible for wearing the aligner constantly. For the treatment to work properly, aligners should be worn for at least 22 hours each day unless otherwise instructed. Patients should remove the aligner to eat, drink, brush, and floss their teeth only. Otherwise, they should be worn night and day.