Patients who come to our clinic to seek braces treatment for a beautiful smile often ask if they are suitable for clear aligner treatment. In the course of helping many patients achieve their beautiful smiles, I have frequently addressed their questions regarding clear aligner treatments. I’ll share some of the answers in this article, in case you are considering clear aligners to straighten your teeth.
What is Clear Aligner Treatment?
Clear aligner treatment aims to straighten a patient’s teeth by providing the patient with a series of clear aligners to wear. Typically, these aligners are numbered and the patient needs to wear them sequentially to bring about a progressive alignment of their crooked teeth. Obviously, the more crooked your teeth are, the more aligners you will need. This will be assessed by your dentist.
There are several brands of clear aligner treatment available in the market, with one of the most popular being Invisalign. While there are various new brands appearing in the market, The Dental Studio currently only uses Invisalign for our patients.
What kind of teeth problems can Clear Aligners fix?
Patients often wonder if clear aligners can be used to correct all types of smiles. Clear aligner treatment has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of dental malocclusions and is especially good for cases that need expansion. These include, but are not exhaustive:
- Crooked teeth/crowding of teeth
- Teeth with Overbite or deep bite problems
- Protruding teeth
- Open bites
- Dental crossbite
- Patients with shifted centrelines
- Other conditions
However, dental conditions that require correction of severe teeth rotations or treatment involving root movements may benefit more from traditional fixed appliance/braces treatment.
What are the main differences between Clear Aligners and fixed braces?
For those thinking of straightening their teeth, 2 options almost always come to mind. Clear removable aligners or fixed braces? Apart from one being almost invisible and the other being visible, we compare other characteristics below:
|CLEAR REMOVABLE ALIGNERS||FIXED BRACES|
|1. Visibility||Almost Invisible||Visible
However, ceramic braces helps to reduce visibility as compared to conventional metal fixed braces
|2. Presence of Bonded Attachments?||Contrary to common belief that clear removable aligner treatment does not require any attachment to be bonded to teeth, most cases require some composite bonded attachments which are usually tooth-coloured.||Definitely, Yes!|
|3. Compliance Level Required from Patient||High compliance is needed as, obviously, teeth will move only if the patient wears the aligners.||Low to moderate. Fixed braces are not removable. Success of treatment is less dependable on patient’s compliance.|
|4. Comfort Level||Higher as compared to fixed braces as there will be less attachments on the teeth, Hence, lower incidences of abrasion/ulceration of the cheeks and lips.||Lower as compared to clear removable aligners as there will be more attachments on the teeth.|
|5. Cost||Higher than fixed braces||More affordable|
|6. Overall Aesthetics Results of Treatment||Good. (*removable aligners may not be able to achieve certain fine details and finishing touches that fixed braces can achieve)||Very Good|
|7. Suitability||Simpler cases||Complex cases|
Can I not extract my teeth if I use Clear Aligners?
The use of clear aligners does not mean that tooth/teeth extraction is not necessary. Whether you need to extract your teeth or not depends on your dental condition rather than the type of straightening treatment e.g. clear aligner or fixed braces treatment. Patients with severe dental crowding or severely protruding teeth are likely to require dental extractions to facilitate their orthodontic treatment.
How long does it take to straighten my teeth with Clear Aligners?
The duration of your clear aligner treatment depends on how severe your dental condition is. The more severe/crooked your teeth are, the more aligners you will need, and hence the longer your treatment time will be.
For a very compliant patient who wears their aligners diligently for at least 22 hours a day, they can change their aligner once every 2 weeks. Hence, a very compliant and motivated patient can help contribute to a shorter treatment time.
Treatment may take a little longer if refinements are needed. Refinements may be needed when treatment goals are not fully achieved even when the patient has finished wearing their last aligner. When this happens, your Orthodontist will need to take another impression / digital scan of your teeth to make more aligners for you to wear to achieve the desired result.
When can I start on clear aligners? Is there a minimum age?
With the introduction of their latest product, Invisalign First, Invisalign Clear Aligners can now be used to treat even children as young as 6 years old! There is also no age limit as to whether you can straighten your teeth with clear aligners. As long as you have healthy teeth and gums, you can have treatment to straighten your teeth!
Clear aligners remain as an important and popular “tool” in the orthodontist’s “toolbox”. It is definitely in the patient’s best interests when the orthodontist makes a prescription for the patient’s malocclusion based on what works best for the case after considering costs, aesthetic concerns, and effectiveness of the treatment prescribed.