Compared to traditional braces, orthodontic clear aligners seem miraculous in many ways, almost too good to be true. You may be wondering if they really work. The answer is yes — but they are not for everyone.
What are orthodontic aligners and how do they work?
Clear orthodontic aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are used to move your teeth and transform your smile without much interference to your daily life. They are removable trays made of a clear plastic material that is essentially invisible.
When using aligners, a sequence of slightly different trays is custom-made to fit over your teeth. You must wear each one 20 hours a day for two weeks before changing to the next in the series. The aligners are computer generated, designed by state-of-the-art techniques based on models and images of your own teeth. They work because slight changes in the sequential aligners gradually shift your teeth. If they are worn consistently, the process takes from six months to two or three years.
Advantages over traditional braces are:
- The aligners can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing, flossing and social occasions.
- They have no rough edges or wires, making them more comfortable.
- Changes become visible quickly as your teeth move into their new, better positions.
Clear aligners are a good solution for correcting mild to moderately crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth. They are most effective if your back teeth already fit together properly. Clear aligners are usually effective in correcting simpler or tipping movements of teeth in two dimensions. For more complex movements, traditional braces may be required. Clear aligners are usually recommended for adults whose teeth and jaws are fully developed, and not for children.
When do you need traditional fixed braces?
Traditional braces are fixed brackets attached to the teeth through which narrow, flexible wires are threaded. They may be necessary if your teeth do not meet properly, creating too much overbite or underbite. Closing spaces where teeth are missing, rotating teeth, or other complicated situations probably make you a better candidate for traditional braces.
Each particular situation is unique. To find out if clear aligners are right for you, make an appointment with us for an assessment and diagnosis of your own situation. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”