Similar to traditional braces, clear aligner therapy works to gradually move teeth. Other popular terms for clear aligner therapy are “clear aligners” or “invisible braces.” clear aligners have allowed traditional orthodontic treatment to be virtually invisible and removable. Clear aligners are easily taken out for eating, brushing, flossing, or for short periods of time.
The original and most well known Clear Aligner manufacturer is Invisalign. They have developed their technology and manufacturing process over the past 20 years. Many of the other companies or aligners that you might hear about use their original 20-year old technology. At Dunegan & Cole, Dr. Dunegan and I keep up-to-date with all of the innovations in the material science of clear aligners. At this time, Invisalign has the best product which is why we exclusively utilize their clear aligners for our patients.
How does it work?
To start, an orthodontic professional does a full exam of the patient’s mouth to assess the most appropriate approach to treatment. This exam includes x-rays, digital scans, photographs, and a clinical exam with the doctor. From there, a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan is customized to each specific patient. The doctor will decide the best way to guide your teeth into healthy positions (ALL of the teeth, not just the ones you can see!)
The overall goal of clear aligner therapy is to achieve a healthy bite. A healthy bite is one where top and bottom teeth align, function, and fit together properly. With an end goal in mind (using the patient’s initial imagery/scans), a series of clear, plastic aligners are custom fabricated for each patient.
How long will treatment take?
Once the aligners are in place in the mouth, they will begin to put a gentle pressure on the teeth. The pressure felt is from the aligners slowly working to reposition the teeth. Generally, aligners are changed every week in order to gradually move the teeth, similar to braces. The total number of aligners for treatment varies from patient to patient. Typically, a patient can expect to go through 20-30 sets of aligners in the initial set followed by 1-2 more sets of 20 or less aligners. The average number of aligners for a comprehensive is about 60.
Once your doctor has customized your treatment plan, they can better estimate how long treatment will take. Generally, a patient that needs a touch up could be in treatment for 3-6 months while patients seeking a smile transformation could be in treatment for 1-2 years.
The secret to Clear Aligner Therapy
While the clear, plastic aligners are removable, it is very important for the patient to keep them in, even if they are experiencing discomfort. Aligners can’t work unless worn in the mouth for 20-22 hours a day, or as prescribed by your doctor. Aligners can be easily lost or misplaced when not worn, so make it a habit to always put them into their case when not being worn, never in a napkin or a pocket! The best way to ensure you won’t lose your trays is to always wear them! If you have lost a set of trays, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
Is Clear Aligner Therapy Right for you?
The best way to answer this question is to schedule a consultation with a professional. Look for someone who is highly ranked in your local area as this is an indication of the doctor’s experience treating patients with clear aligners. At Dunegan & Cole Orthodontics, we are Diamond Plus Invisalign Providers, meaning we treat more patients with Invisalign than any other dentist or orthodontist in our area. Clear aligners may not be the best treatment option for everyone, so it’s important to be able to have a candid conversation with your doctor about your treatment options.