Clear aligners are transparent trays that are worn over teeth to move into proper alignment. These trays are custom-made for each patient’s upper and lower teeth. Clear aligners are made up of comfortable, biocompatible medical grade plastic that are invisible when worn on the teeth, and for this reason, are also called as invisible braces.
Unlike traditional metal and ceramic braces that are fixed on the teeth, clear aligners are removable appliances. Clear aligners are a set of trays that need to be worn for a specified number of days, 20-22 hours each day.
If given a chance, everyone would opt for clear aligners as they are the best treatment for those who want to straighten their teeth. But is everyone a candidate for clear aligners? Not really!
Clear aligners, as mentioned earlier are custom-made trays. This means that they are not one-size-fits-all. If a patient wishes to get clear aligner treatment, he/she must visit their orthodontist or the braces specialist. The orthodontist evaluates the patient’s teeth and bite and makes a diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been made, the orthodontist will be able to judge if the individual is a candidate for clear aligner treatment.
Clear aligners are ideal for adults with all permanent teeth erupted. The reason being that once the trays have been fabricated, any change in the dentition of the patient requires new trays and can change the entire treatment plan. So, clear aligner treatment is not ideal for children who still have erupting teeth. Another problem with suggesting clear aligners with kids and young teenagers are that their jaws are still growing, and the clear aligners may remain frequent re-planning.
Clear aligners are the best substitutes for traditional braces and work in the same way as braces do – move teeth into proper alignment. But they are fundamentally different. In the case of traditional braces, brackets are placed on the teeth and a wire is placed through them. The orthodontist tightens the wires a little each time to direct the teeth to move into their designated places and straighten the patient’s smile.
However, clear aligners work slightly differently. The set of upper and lower trays are designed in a way that they apply constant forces on the teeth to move them into places – without the need of wires and brackets
So, how do these trays work? When a patient decides to undergo clear aligner treatment, the orthodontist takes the measurement of the teeth and other tissues using a 3D Digital scanner. These images and measurements are uploaded on the cloud and are accessed by the orthodontists on the aligner company’s panel as well as the lab.
With these measurements and images, a digital treatment plan is made and sent back to the patient’s orthodontist for approval. Once the patient’s orthodontist approves the treatment plan, the same is explained to the patient– how the teeth will move, how long it will take, the teeth positions at different stages during the treatment and the final result.
Once the aligners are fabricated, they are sent a series of sequential clear aligners that are to be worn in pairs. The first set of aligners is called zero-degree aligners and is meant for the patient to get used to wearing and removing them. They do not cause any tooth movements.
Clear aligners need to be removed while eating, drinking very hot or cold liquids while brushing and flossing. When removed, they need to be kept safely in the box provided for storing them. Breaking your aligner trays or misplacing them can delay your treatment and add extra steps involved in the re-fabrication of the broken or lost trays.
One must keep the clear aligner trays clean. You can do so by using a soft toothbrush and gently cleaning them every morning using water and mild soap. Cleaning the aligner trays well and regularly keeps them clear and prevents staining.
When a patient visits an orthodontist and is explained how his/her teeth can be straightened, one of the most common questions that they ask is “How long will my treatment take to complete?”
In the case of clear aligners, the treatment times are usually shorter than those with regular braces. Treatment with clear aligners usually takes about between 10- 24 months on average.
However, if the patient fails to follow instructions and does not wear the aligners for a minimum number of hours each day or for the required number of days, the treatment can get delayed. This delay can also sometimes affect the success of the treatment.
Wearing and removing aligners can be tricky and intimidating for patients in the initial days. To wear them, place the trays on the front teeth and slowly press the trays towards the back teeth. Aligner chewies are available that are made of food-grade rubber and the patient needs to gently bite on them to allow the aligner trays to be seated properly.
To remove the aligner trays, tug gently onto the posterior part of the trays from the tongue side. Once the posterior part of the tray comes off, it is easy to remove the entire tray.
This is a valid question to ask after having understood everything about clear aligners. Are you thinking of the same too? Well, if you want to get a flawless smile with well-aligned teeth, you must visit your dentist or orthodontist for an evaluation. Whether you are a case for clear aligners will be determined by the orthodontist.
Invisible braces or clear aligners need to be worn for a minimum of 20-22 hours every day. They need to be removed while eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing only.
Invisible braces can be kept clear by washing with water every time you remove them. Use a soft toothbrush to gently clean them each morning. Keeping the invisible braces clean helps prevent stains on them and therefore, they look clear.
Each aligner set needs to be worn for 2 weeks. In the first week, active tooth movement occurs. During the second week, the teeth get settled into their new places so that they do not return to their old positions. So, it is essential to wear your aligner tray sets for 2 weeks each, before proceeding to the next set. This needs to be done with your orthodontist monitoring the treatment at each step.
To remove your aligners, gently disengage the posterior end of the aligner tray. From the palatal/tongue side this allows the aligner to come-off from the back teeth and makes it easy to remove the tray from over the front teeth.