If you are dissatisfied with the way your smile looks, and your dentist is unhappy with the way your teeth fit together — but you don't like the idea of wearing braces — clear aligners may be your best solution. How much do you know about this teeth-straightening alternative? Below are some FAQs on the subject.
What do we mean by clear aligners? Clear aligners are a system for straightening teeth that uses clear plastic removable “trays” that fit over your teeth. As the teeth move to fit the trays, new trays are substituted that are designed to continue to move your teeth into the desired position. This system is an alternative to the traditional system of brackets and wires known as braces.
How can teeth be moved to new positions? The connection that holds a tooth in place in your jaws — the periodontal ligament — is not immobile. It constantly changes its position based on the normal forces of your bite. As the ligament is pushed on one side and pulled on the other, the living cells of your mouth respond by depositing bone and cementum (the protective covering of the tooth's root) on one side and dissolving it on the other. Normally this happens in a balance, maintaining your teeth in their position. We can manage these slight changes by applying constant light forces to move teeth in a predictable way.
How long does it take to move teeth to their optimum position using clear aligners? As with braces, the process is gradual. Total treatment time can range from six months to two years.
Do the trays have to be worn all the time? As you move through the sequence of trays, each is worn for 20 hours per day for two weeks. They may occasionally be removed for important social occasions.
How does an orthodontist design the sequential trays that are used? The trays are designed using a computer, based on an assessment and images of your mouth, teeth and jaws.
What kinds of problems can clear aligners correct? This method works well to correct mild to moderate crowding or spacing. If your back teeth already fit together as they should, the system may be ideal. If you have an extreme overbite or underbite, braces might work better.
Are clear aligners an alternative for everyone? Clear aligners are recommended for adults and recently, teenagers. They are not usually recommended for young children.
Why is it important to have your teeth straightened? Besides the obvious benefit of feeling better about yourself and your appearance, straight and well-aligned teeth work better. You will experience a better-functioning bite and can improve your oral health.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about orthodontics and clear aligners. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Orthodontic Aligners” and “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”