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®, clear aligners are usually hailed as ‘invisible braces’.
One of the most appealing features of clear aligners is that they are subtle. As well as being transparent, they’re custom-made and 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, well, 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, clear 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 clear 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.
By contrast, with clear aligners, the entire course of treatment is programmed from the beginning with limited ability for ad-hoc adjustments. You receive a series of slightly different shaped aligners, and you wear each one for two weeks, before moving onto the next as your teeth move in small increments. Aligner treatment also involves placing a number of tooth ‘attachments’ which look like small white bumps and help the aligners grip properly and shift your teeth gradually into position.
The number of 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 a clear aligner treatment to work, you’ll need to wear the aligner for around 22 hours a day for a full two weeks before moving on 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.
If you are unable to commit to wearing clear 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 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.