Posts for tag: clear aligners
For decades, traditional braces were the only orthodontic choice for moving misaligned teeth. Although they’re quite effective, they can cause discomfort and, for teens especially, embarrassment due to their noticeable metallic appearance.
In recent years, though, technology has produced an alternative to braces that’s proven effective for many types of patients. Besides being less cumbersome and disruptive to everyday life than braces, clear aligners have another advantage that appeals to teens — they’re much less visible.
Introduced in the late 1990s, clear aligners are a system of individual trays made of nearly invisible polyurethane plastic worn over the upper teeth. The trays are computer-generated based on the patient’s individual mouth structure captured in photographs and x-rays. Each tray in the sequence is incrementally smaller in size; the patient begins wearing the first aligner in the series for about two weeks, 20 to 22 hours a day. They then switch to the next tray in the series for about the same amount of time, and continue in this fashion until they’ve worn each aligner in the series.
Besides their improvement in appearance, aligners also have another advantage: unlike traditional braces, aligners can be removed from the mouth for eating or on a limited basis for rare important social occasions. Brushing and flossing are also much easier with aligners, which don’t pose the same access problems as traditional braces.
Clear aligners were once only effective with select types of orthodontic patients, which didn’t always include teens. Over the last decade, however, significant changes to design and additional implements have widened their application to more patients, especially teens. For example, we can now add tiny “power ridges” to the aligner design that give greater precision over desired tooth movement to create a more controlled and efficient force on the teeth. More recent aligners are also being produced with a thinner, more comfortable material.
A thorough orthodontic exam will tell whether your teen is a good candidate for clear aligners. If so, they’ll benefit from a more comfortable and less embarrassing experience while gaining a new smile for life.
If you would like more information on clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”
Wearing braces isn't just for teenagers — straightening teeth can be just as viable a need when you're an adult. For example, it may be necessary to first move teeth away from an empty tooth socket before you obtain a dental implant or other restoration.
But braces could have complications, especially if you have periodontal (gum) disease. These infections caused by plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles, inflame and weaken gum tissues and erode supporting bone. It can be treated and brought under control — but keeping it under control requires daily brushing and flossing, along with frequent office cleanings and checkups.
Braces can make this more difficult: it's harder to brush and floss effectively through the hardware of brackets and wires, which can give plaque a chance to build up. Patients susceptible to gum disease are more likely to have re-infections while wearing braces. The hardware can also cause enamel to come in prolonged contact with acid, which can dissolve its mineral content and open the door to tooth decay.
Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that can accomplish tooth movement while minimizing infection flare-ups for people with gum disease. Aligners are a series of customized clear plastic trays worn over the teeth, with each succeeding tray incrementally moving the teeth further than the preceding one. After wearing one tray for a specified time period, you then switch to the next tray. The teeth gradually move to the desired new position over the course of the aligner series.
This option is especially advantageous for gum disease patients because the trays can be removed temporarily for brushing and flossing. There are also other benefits: we can hide a missing tooth space with a temporary false tooth attached to the aligner; and, they're nearly invisible so it won't be obvious to others you're undergoing orthodontic treatment.
Not all orthodontic situations benefit from this alternative, while some cases may call for a combination approach between aligners and braces. But in the right setting, clear aligners are a good choice for not only obtaining better teeth position, but also helping you avoid a new encounter with dental disease.
Many adults these days are opting for clear aligners to correct orthodontic problems that have long bothered them. Katherine Heigl is a perfect example. She had one tooth that was out of alignment, and wanted to have it fixed before her wedding day.
“I got them [clear aligners] because of this wonky tooth,” Heigl told In Style magazine not long ago. “It's awesome because every two weeks you switch to a new retainer. Pretty much the perfect way to describe Invisalign is Netflix for your teeth.”
That's actually a pretty good way to describe this highly user-friendly form of orthodontic treatment. Clear aligners are transparent, plastic oral appliances that are changed every two weeks so that your teeth can be moved a little bit at a time, according to a carefully staged sequence. Though they cover your teeth completely, clear aligners are barely noticeable.
In fact, when Heigl excused herself before taking out her aligners to eat, her In Style interviewer said, “Who knew you wore them? I guess that's the point of Invisalign.”
Being able to remove the aligners for eating and, more importantly, teeth-cleaning, is another major advantage of this method of straightening teeth. Successful orthodontic treatment for adults depends on good periodontal health (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), and the best way to keep your gums and the underlying bone that supports your teeth healthy is to keep up an effective daily oral hygiene routine.
Clear aligners have been improved in recent years to correct more complicated malocclusions (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) than previously; they can even work well for teenagers. But there are still some cases that call for traditional braces. We would be happy to explore all the different options for orthodontic treatment with you, whether you have crowded teeth, an overbite or underbite, or just one “wonky tooth.”
If you would like more information about clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about clear aligners in general by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Wedding Day Smiles.”