Metal braces for correcting teeth alignment have long been a fixture of adolescence. But although they're effective, they tend to put a crimp on a teenager's life with changes in diet and irritation and discomfort from the devices and regular adjustments. For many teens, though, these are minor compared to the change in their appearance that comes with traditional braces, and the embarrassment they may feel.
In recent years, there's been a growing use of another orthodontic device that reduces many of these inconveniences, especially regarding appearance. Known as the clear aligner, this transparent, “almost invisible” device can be taken out for eating, cleaning or important social events.
Clear aligners are a sequential set of clear trays made of polyurethane plastic that are generated for an individual patient using information derived from x-rays, photographs or models. Each tray in the sequence is slightly different from the previous one to account for the tooth movement achieved wearing the previous tray. The patient will wear a tray for about two weeks and then, if all looks well, move to the next tray. This process continues until the teeth arrive at the proper alignment, a period of about six to twenty-four months depending on the patient's initial condition and their progress.
Up until recently, aligners were a viable option for a limited category of patients, mainly adults. Recent advances have changed that. Aligners now include tiny “power ridges” that enable them to move teeth in more than one plane, something previous versions were unable to do. “Eruption tabs” can also be incorporated into aligner sets to hold the space for permanent teeth that haven't erupted yet — a must for many younger patients. We can also temporarily bond attachments to the teeth known as buttons (made with a composite that blends in with the natural tooth color) that give more leverage and stability to the aligner.
With these changes, clear aligners are now an effective choice for a wider group of patients, including many teens. Aligners are comfortable to wear, easy to care for, and for teens acutely conscious of their appearance, less obtrusive than traditional metal braces.
If you would like more information on clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”