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What is a refinement period?

January 25, 2024
What is a refinement period?

A refinement period is sometimes required in the last stages of your clear aligner treatment to help your teeth achieve their ideal final positions. Your orthodontist will use sophisticated digital technology to comprehensively plan your clear aligner treatment and refinement may be considered as a final detailing stage prior to its completion.

When you first commence your clear aligner journey, your orthodontist will use their expert knowledge and digital technology to predict how your teeth will move and then plan your treatment.

From the number of aligners required to the timing and positioning of attachments, many factors are taken into consideration from the beginning to help you know what to expect from your treatment.

One of the most important reasons to see a specialist orthodontist for your clear aligner treatment is the security of knowing that their expert eye will be ready to make any required adjustments, which may require additional or refinement aligners, to your treatment plan to ensure you finish treatment with the best end result.

‘Refinement period’ is just one name used for the end-stage adjustment period, which can vary depending on the brand of clear aligners used and may also be referred to as a detailing or rescan period.

What is a refinement period?

A refinement period may be thought of as a “final perfecting” stage of your clear aligner treatment. Your orthodontist may discuss a need for refinement when your aligners are no longer fitting as well as they should be, or when you’re about 80% of the way through your original treatment plan. Many clear aligner patients do not require any refinement period at all.

However, any clinical procedure has the potential for individual variation and some teeth may just need an extra “little nudge” to attain their desired position after your final aligner from your original plan. If this is required, a new impression or digital scan can be taken and a few additional aligners can be custom made for you to complete your treatment. The exact number of additional refinement aligners required and the duration of your refinement period will vary on a case-by-case basis.

What are the stages of braces? 

While it depends on what braces you have and the scope of the treatment that’s needed to achieve your ideal smile, there are typically six different stages of a braces treatment that will help you achieve your ideal smile. These stages are:  

1. Consultation stage 
During this stage, you’ll meet with your orthodontist to plan out next steps and determine what level of treatment is needed. 

2. Alignment stage 
This period involves your orthodontist pulling your teeth into their desired places using brackets and wires. 

3.Bite correction stage  
This stage is where overbites/underbites are corrected using the orthodontic archwires and/or elastics. 

4. Closing space stage 
During this period, elastics, brackets and wires are often used to close the space between individual teeth. 

5. Refinement stage (also known as the finishing and detailing stage) 
During this time, individual tooth positions are fine-tuned using elastics and wire adjustments  in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcome. 

6. Retention stage. 
This final stage usually involves using retainers (which differ from braces) to maintain the position of your teeth. 

Will I need a refinement period?

Your orthodontist and their team will be closely monitoring your teeth throughout your clear aligner treatment. You can be rest assured that your orthodontist will be able to identify any issues and advise you whether a refinement period will be required as you approach the end of your treatment. If you are unsure, please ask your orthodontist whether they think a refinement period will be required once you’re about three quarters of the way through your original number of clear aligners…

Do I have to pay for a refinement period?

It is important to check with your orthodontist at the beginning of your treatment whether any possible refinement period is included in the costs of your overall treatment. Many orthodontists will have an “all-inclusive” fee for clear aligner treatment, while others may only charge for a refinement if it is actually required. This may depend on the individual orthodontist’s preferences and the exact type of clear aligner treatment that is used.

Is there a time limit for refinement periods?

While there is no set duration for refinement periods across the board, some clear aligner brands do have a time limit regarding when a case can be refined following completion of the original treatment plan.

For this reason, we strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a specialist orthodontist for all your clear aligner needs, and please ask your orthodontist whether a refinement period may be required when you’re approaching the final few aligners of your original treatment plan. You can have full confidence that your specialist orthodontist has the knowledge, experience and expertise to ensure the best possible outcome for your aligner treatment.

You can use our Finder Tool to search our database to find a specialist orthodontist near you.

For more information about Clear Aligner Treatments, you can download our ebook here.

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