All about clear aligners
Clear aligners are one of the most popular courses of orthodontic treatment for adults. Often known by the manufacturer’s name, such as Invisalign®, these aligners are usually hailed as ‘invisible braces’ due to their subtle appearance. This is because this aligners are transparent in colour and custom-made to fit snugly on your teeth, a bit like a small mouthguard.
For adults who want to change the appearance of their teeth without any obvious apparatus, the benefit of clear aligners is clear! But the question patients often ask their orthodontist is ‘will they actually work as well as traditional braces’?
The answer to this question is never straightforward and depends on a range of factors, including:
The issue you want to correct
In general, these aligners will work best for adults who require minor corrections to problems such as mildly crooked, gappy or protruding teeth. Although more complicated orthodontic problems can also be treated with these aligners, the results can be less predictable.
For major corrections, traditional braces are likely to be a better option. This is because when you’re fitted for traditional braces, you receive one appliance which is then adjusted throughout the course of your treatment to achieve the required outcome. These regular check-ups allow your orthodontist to keep an eye on your progress and tailor any adjustments as needed.
The number of clear aligners you’ll need
The number of aligners and attachments you’ll have will vary depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. You’ll usually receive a couple of months of aligners at a time and will work through them independently, so you’ll have fewer check-ups with your orthodontist than if you were to have traditional braces. The more aligners you’ll need during your course of treatment, the longer the treatment will take, the more appointments will be needed and the more expensive the treatment will be.
Whether you can stick to the rules
When considering whether clear aligners could work as well as braces, you’ll also need to consider whether you’ll be able to care for the aligners properly. For the treatment to work, you’ll need to wear the aligner for around 22 hours a day for a full two weeks before moving on to the next one. Wearing your aligners as your orthodontist advises is the best way of ensuring your treatment gives you successful results. However, removing your aligners when eating or drinking is a must. They’re made from medical grade plastic, so hot drinks can cause your aligner to become misshapen, and drinks with colorants can lead to discolouration. So if you are unable to commit to wearing these aligners as close to full time as possible and removing them only to eat or drink, it is probably not the best treatment for you!
What are the benefits of clear aligner treatment?
- A more subtle appearance than traditional braces
- These aligners are removable so you can take them out to eat, drink or brush your teeth (as long as they are worn for at least 22 hours a day)
- They are custom-made to fit in your mouth and are designed to be as smooth and comfortable as possible. While you may feel slight discomfort when a new set of aligners are inserted, this should be extremely minimal, compared to traditional braces.
- A straight set of teeth and healthy smile
Things you need to know about clear aligner treatment
Here are 6 things you may not know about this form of treatment:
There are different brands
For many people, clear aligner treatment is synonymous with Invisalign®. However, that’s just one of the brands of these aligners available to orthodontists in Australia. Other popular brand names include ClearCorrect®and OrthoCaps. At Orthodontics Australia we don’t endorse any particular brand over the others as orthodontists will work with the brand that is the best fit for their practice and patients.
You may need attachments
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of clear aligner treatment is the fact that unlike traditional metal braces, your aligner trays can be removed at your leisure. To ensure the most effective use of your aligner trays throughout your treatment, it is recommended that you keep them in for at least 22 hours a day and only remove them when eating and brushing your teeth.
However, some tooth movements may require the use of additional attachments to complete your treatment. These small ‘buttons’ are clear or tooth-coloured and are attached to your teeth with dental adhesive. If your treatment requires the use of attachments, they will need to be added or removed by your orthodontist at your regular consultations, and maybe slightly visible when your clear aligners are removed.
You should only drink cold drinks
If you’re the type of person who likes to sip on a hot mug of tea throughout the day, then we have bad news for you. As these aligners are made from plastic, they can be warped by hot liquids. While undergoing treatment you should limit your intake of hot coffee and tea to protect the shape of your aligners and stop them from becoming stained.
If you must have a coffee, you should remove your aligner, drink it quickly and if you can’t brush your teeth afterwards you should at least drink some cold water before putting your trays back in. Otherwise, try and stick to plain old cold water throughout the day.
You’ll need to brush your teeth more often
It’s often recommended that we brush our teeth after every meal, but most people tend to stick to just morning and night. When you are undergoing orthodontic treatment it is particularly important that you brush your teeth after every meal. With clear aligners, plaque and food particles can get trapped, which leads to cavities and bad breath.
You should be brushing your teeth every time you remove your aligners, whether it’s for a light snack or a full meal. As a result, you’ll find that you will not only brush your teeth more throughout the day but might cut back on some of the mindless snacking we all fall victim to.
There may be a refinement period
Sometimes you might have a couple of smaller teeth that are resistant to shifting during the normal course of your treatment. Following your planned course of treatment, you may be given some refinement trays to encourage the last few stubborn teeth to move into their new position – it all depends on how your teeth have responded to the treatment.
Regardless of the number of trays you used throughout your treatment, you will be given a final tray and encouraged by your orthodontist to continue regularly wearing it for short periods of time to help your teeth maintain their new position.
Not everyone is suited to clear aligners
Whether you’re suited to these aligners depends on your case and the types of movements you need to undertake, as more complex moves would require a fixed orthodontic appliance to complete. If you’re not likely to wear it consistently for at least 22 hours a day, then you may not be a good candidate for this type of treatment. So you need to consult a specialist orthodontist to see if the treatment option is right for you.
How long do clear aligners take to straighten teeth?
The average treatment period for these aligners is 12-18 months but will vary from case to case, depending on the tooth movements that need to take place. For small tooth movements, treatment time may be shorter than 12 months, however, if you do not wear your aligners for the recommended 22 hours per day, your treatment will be compromised and your orthodontist may need to extend your treatment timings. Every mouth is different, so it’s important to book a consultation with a specialist orthodontist to get an estimate of how long it will take to straighten your teeth with these aligners.
Do clear aligners work as well as braces?
While these aligners might seem like the magical option for adults wanting to get an amazing smile, they’re not always the best option. In some cases, braces may produce a superior treatment result due to the tooth movements required and the benefits of a fixed appliance. Saying that these aligners and braces are both effective ways of straightening teeth so it’s important to speak to your orthodontist about what’s best for you and your smile in the long term.
What are my other orthodontic treatment options?
While clear aligners aren’t going to be right for everyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t get orthodontic treatment. By making an appointment with your orthodontist you will be able to understand the needs of your smile and the options that will be most beneficial. They’ll take into account the different tooth movements that need to be undertaken as well as any lifestyle factors that might affect the choice. For those requiring more extensive movements may need to commit to metal or ceramic braces, while lingual braces can be effective in many cases.
Overall, if you only require minor corrections and are willing to make small changes to your lifestyle during the course of the treatment, a clear aligner can work just as well as traditional braces.
If a clear aligner is an option you’d like to explore, it’s worth noting that while Invisalign® is one of the most well-known brands, there are plenty of other effective options that your orthodontist can recommend. Your orthodontist is best-equipped to talk you through the process and discuss whether it’s an option for your circumstances. If you don’t have an orthodontist, you can find your local orthodontist and make an appointment today – no referral needed.
All price ranges quoted are indicative only, and do not take into consideration other mitigating factors such as the type of malocclusion being treated, the duration of ‘full treatment’ for a particular case or limited treatment solutions. Orthodontics Australia recommends you consult a specialist orthodontist before commencing any form of orthodontic treatment. You can request a detailed quote from your orthodontist to understand the full cost of treatment, including regular monitoring appointments to ensure your treatment is progressing safely and as expected.