All about Clear Aligners

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  3. Orthodontic Articles
  4. 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 sometimes referred to as ‘invisible braces’ due to their subtle appearance. This is because these aligners are transparent 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 appliances, 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.

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, the appliances are glued to your teeth and therefore can apply predictable and more consistent forces to your teeth to achieve the desired outcome.

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 is likely to 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 wear the aligners properly. For the treatment to work, you’ll need to wear the aligner for 20-22 hours a day for at least a week 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 distorted, and any drinks with colourants (e.g. tea, coffee and soft drinks) can lead to staining of your aligners. 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
  • Because they are removable for eating, you can eat whatever you want! (By comparison, during braces treatment hard & crunchy foods need to be avoided to prevent breakages.)
  • You can continue to brush and floss your teeth as before.
  • 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 a healthy smile

Things you need to know about clear aligner treatment

Here are 6 things you may not know about this form of treatment

1. 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 brands of aligners include Spark®and Clarity. 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. The knowledge and clinical expertise of the orthodontist are far more important than the brand name of the aligners.

2. You may need attachments

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of clear aligner treatment is the fact that, unlike traditional metal braces, your aligner trays are clear and minimally visible.

However, some tooth movements may require the use of additional attachments to complete your treatment. These small ‘buttons’ are clear and are attached to your teeth with dental adhesive. They work by giving the aligner a ‘handle’ or ‘gripping point’ on the tooth, and therefore improving the effectiveness of the aligner.
If your treatment requires the use of attachments, they will be added (and removed at the completion of treatment) by your orthodontist at your regular review appointments and may be slightly visible when your clear aligners are in place.

3. 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 rinse with some cold water before putting your trays back in. Otherwise, try and stick to plain old cold water throughout the day.

4. 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! Another potential benefit of orthodontic treatment!

5. There may be a refinement period

Sometimes you might have a couple of “naughty” teeth that did not move completely as they should have during the normal course of your aligner treatment. Following your planned course of treatment, you may be given some additional refinement aligners to encourage these naughty teeth into their correct position – Refinement is not always required, it all depends on how your teeth have responded to the treatment.

Regardless of the number of aligners you used throughout your treatment, you will be given final removable retainers by your orthodontist to wear (generally every night) to help your teeth maintain their new position.

Do clear aligners work for everyone?

Unfortunately, no. Whether you’re suited to clear aligner treatment depends on your case and the types of movements you need to undertake, as certain complex tooth movements require a fixed orthodontic appliance to predictably achieve. If you’re not likely to consistently wear your aligners for at least 20-22 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 clear aligners.

Are clear aligners (such as Invisalign) really invisible?

Not entirely – that would be impossible! Clear aligners are made of transparent medical-grade plastic that is much more difficult to detect than traditional metal braces. But they’re certainly not invisible. Chatting with a person up-close, you’d probably be able to spot that they were wearing clear 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 type of tooth movements required and the benefits of a fixed appliance. With expert planning and clinical knowledge, both aligners and braces are effective ways of straightening teeth so it’s important to speak to your specialist 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. 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.

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