Clear aligners

More and more adults are opting for invisible braces, such as clear aligners, in order to transform their smiles. We live in the age of innovative orthodontic care and patients have access to more options than ever. Clear aligners are prescribed by orthodontists, with clear tips on how to care for them. They can help in case of misalignment and bite issues, but they are not recommended for severe issues, where traditional braces are best suited. If you are interested in discovering more information on the subject, do not hesitate to keep on reading. And remember, it is always possible to have straighter teeth.

Clear aligners, an innovative and aesthetic solution

Clear aligners are custom made and meant to straighten your teeth. They can correct misalignments and bite issues, as previously stated. These orthodontic braces are barely noticeable, being preferred by those who are self-conscious and do not want to draw attention to their teeth. Serving a similar purpose to other braces, they apply pressure on the teeth, causing them to shift in the desired position. As the orthodontist will explain, you might have to wear several sets before you will achieve the desired results.

These invisible braces can straighten all the teeth, but some models might focus primarily on the front teeth and premolars. If you also need treatment for the molars, it might be a good idea to present such concerns to your orthodontist. It is also important to understand that the treatment with clear aligners can take up to two years, with frequent visits to the dentist. This can be time-consuming, but you have to think of the main goal once again.

Many patients are drawn to the comfort clear aligners have to offer. Being made from a soft and flexible material, they are less likely to irritate the soft tissues of the oral cavity, as it often happens with metal braces. Moreover, by wearing them at night, you will have protection against unhealthy habits, such as teeth grinding or clenching. As a result, you will reduce the risk of excessive wear and further dental problems.

What material are the clear aligners made of?

In most cases, the clear aligners are made of polyurethane plastic. They are completely removable, without being cemented or bonded to the teeth, as other models of braces. The following include the most common materials from which clear aligners are made: multi-layer aromatic thermoplastic polyurethane, copolyester, methacrylate, polyethersulfone, trimethyl orthosilicate, acrylic resin. Clear aligners do not contain harmful materials, such as bisphenol-A or phthalate plasticizers. Both medical grade plastic and orthodontic plastic are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so clear aligners should always be protected from such factors.

What is the cost of clear aligners?

Clear aligners are generally more affordable than traditional braces, given both the materials and technology necessary for them. The overall costs are influenced by several factors, including the treatment duration, how much correction is needed, treatment plan, location, training and experience of the orthodontist, additional dental issues.

Patients can expect to pay between $1,200 and $8,000 for clear aligners, with the costs varying according to the type and brand. Dental insurance plans might cover a part of the orthodontic treatment, but it is for the best to check with the insurance provider. Some providers offer special orthodontic care plans at additional cost, which might cover the entire cost of your treatment.

Cons and pros of clear aligners

Cons of clear aligners

It is important to understand that clear aligners can only treat mild-to-moderate orthodontic issues, misalignment included. If you are dealing with more serious concerns, you might benefit from traditional metal braces. As always, it is for the best to discuss all the available options with your orthodontist.

Clear aligners must be worn for the better part of the day, between 20 and 22 hours. This can be difficult for some people, but one must keep the major goal in mind. Also, they are removable, which means that one might need to find constant motivation in wearing them. The removable part is also associated with an increased risk of losing or misplacing them. Once lost, you will have to pay for replacements, which can lead to higher treatment costs.

Upon choosing clear aligners, you will have to be extra careful when it comes to your oral hygiene. It is recommended to brush your teeth and floss after every wear and also before reinserting them, in order to keep the bacteria population down to a minimum and reduce the risk of further dental issues. Moreover, these should be thoroughly cleaned, so as to remove any accumulated food debris and ensure they are truly invisible.

Pros of clear aligners

Clear aligners are invisible braces, which means that they are rarely noticed by other people. For many people, the aesthetic factor represents the biggest advantage to be derived. They are comfortable to wear, causing only minimal pain or discomfort, in the first days of treatment. Should these symptoms continue, be sure to contact your orthodontist.

It can bring comfort to know that they can be removed, as opposed to traditional braces, which remain fixed for the entire treatment duration. This also facilitates common activities, such as eating or drinking, and also leads to an improved oral hygiene, as patients are allowed to remove them when brushing and flossing. As a result, the risk of additional dental issues is kept down to a minimum.

Clear aligners are exclusively offered by orthodontists, people who are specialized in providing and monitoring such treatments. Patients are called in for follow-up appointments, where the orthodontist assesses the progress made and provides each patient with a new set. All the treatment plans are customized and adapted to the patient's needs, as well as the challenges experienced.

Patients who are wearing clear aligners might benefit from more dietary choices. They might be advised to avoid foods with a hard texture, as well as gum or other sticky foods, as these might influence the teeth straightening process. With traditional metal braces, you might have to give up more foods. While wearing clear aligners, you will have to avoid staining foods and beverages as well, as these can stain the actual appliance. When drinking tea, coffee, or red wine, it is for the best to remove the clear aligners.

How does the procedure work?

Patients go through an initial consultation, which is necessary to assess the teeth and any potential dental issues. If there are cavities or other dental problems present, these will have to be treated first. Clear aligners can only be used if the teeth are 100% healthy. Once such matters have been resolved, the orthodontist will take an impression of your teeth and send it to a specialized laboratory. Using specialized computer software, the lab will create the custom-fit clear aligners and send them to the orthodontist.

The orthodontist will use a digitalized treatment plan, so as to help your teeth shift in the desired position. The alignment will be corrected gradually, and this is the main reason why you will have to wear several sets of clear aligners to obtain the desired results. As mentioned above, the aligners will have to be worn for 20 to 22 hours per day. Once the desired part of movement has been achieved, you will move to the next, continuing the process until the treatment is complete.

Some aligners have eruption tabs, creating space for molars that have yet to grow. For teenagers, there are compliance indicators, which are built into the respective material, fading with daily wear. This is helpful for both parents and orthodontists to make sure that the clear aligners are actually worn. Such treatments are successful if worn for the recommended amount of time, otherwise all the effort is in vain.

Are clear aligners for me?

This is a question that the orthodontist will be happy to answer to. As you have seen, clear aligners are usually recommended for mild-to-moderate misalignment and bite issues, but they cannot correct severe issues. For instance, if it might be necessary to rotate certain teeth into place, you will do better with traditional braces. The orthodontist will evaluate your teeth in order to determine the best alternative for your individual situation.

How to take care of your clear aligners

If you want for the orthodontic treatment to be successful, you will need to take really good care of your clear aligners. First and foremost, it is recommended to rinse the aligners upon removal. This is necessary to get rid of bacteria and reduce the risk of dental issues. As mentioned above, use only lukewarm water, so as not to damage the aligners. You might also use a specialized cleaning solution.

As the orthodontist will advise, you will need to brush and floss your teeth before and after wearing them. This is one of the easiest methods to remove the bacteria accumulated in your mouth, which in turn will prevent tooth decay, swollen gums, and other issues. Clear aligners should never be cleaned with toothpaste, as you can cause more harm than good. As for your mouth, you will also need to use antibacterial mouthwash on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that clear aligners are prone to staining, so you should refrain from smoking and drinking alcohol. The same goes for other staining beverages, such as red wine, coffee, or tea. It is for the best to remove your aligners before drinking such beverages. You might also want to stay away from hard or chewy foods, candy and chewing gum in particular, as these can get stuck to the aligners.

Frequently asked questions

How long do I have to wear the clear aligners for?

Clear aligners are usually worn anywhere between 6 months and two years, depending on each patient and his/her correction needs. The treatment involves several aligner sets, which are changed as the misalignment improves. The more severe the issues, the longer you will have to wear the aligners.

When are clear aligners not recommended?

As mentioned above, clear aligners cannot work on severe misalignments or bite issues. They might not be able to shift the teeth in the desired position, despite the prolonged treatment duration. The orthodontist might advise you to choose alternative solutions, such as traditional metal braces.

When do the results become noticeable?

Provided you will wear the clear aligners for the recommended amount of time in a day, following the care instructions, you should be able to see the first results within weeks. The progress made will be assessed at the follow-up appointments. After the treatment concludes, you might have to wear a retainer, in order to prevent the teeth from shifting back.

Can patients with dental work wear clear aligners?

Patients who have veneers, crowns, or bridgework might not benefit from wearing clear aligners. This is because such orthodontic treatments are only recommended for healthy teeth. Once again, the orthodontist might suggest alternative options, such as traditional metal braces.

Will I experience discomfort or pain while wearing clear aligners?

Yes, you might experience mild pain or discomfort, but only in the first days of treatment, as your teeth adjust to the pressure. Should these symptoms continue or become worse over the course of time, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist.

In conclusion, clear aligners represent a good option for those who are interested in straightening their teeth or correcting bite issues. They are barely noticeable, which is important for those who are self-conscious about such matters. However, it is worth remembering that they cannot be used for severe orthodontic issues and require special care, so as to prevent dental complications. Patients must wear them for the better part of the day and night, but the good thing is that they can be removed for eating and drinking, as well as brushing and flossing. The orthodontist will create custom-fit clear aligners, with sets that are going to be changed periodically, as the misalignment is corrected. If you are not satisfied with the results, be sure to call your doctor and inquire about potential solutions.

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