Do Aligners Really Work for Teeth Straightening?

Do Aligners Really Work for Teeth Straightening?
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Do Aligners Really Work for Teeth Straightening?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. About Clear Aligners
  2. Effectiveness
  3. How They Work
  4. Clear Aligners vs. Braces
  5. Benefits
  6. Am I a Candidate?
  7. References

Clear aligners are an effective way to straighten crooked or gapped teeth. They are an alternative to traditional braces.

Aligners work faster than braces by an average of four months and require users to wear around 22 hours a day.

The technology is based on digital simulations of teeth movement.

dental issues aligners treat

About Clear Aligners

Clear aligners straighten your teeth and help improve your smile. Instead of using brackets and wires, this type of orthodontics uses virtually invisible plastic trays to gradually move your teeth into position. By aligning crooked teeth, this treatment can fix several dental issues, including:    

  • Crossbites
  • Overbites
  • Open bite 
  • Overjets
  • Crowding

Effectiveness of Clear Aligners for Teeth Straightening

Clear aligners offer an effective way to straighten moderately crooked teeth. The solution incorporates custom treatment planning based on digital simulations of teeth movement. Incorporating this approach shortens the treatment duration by four months, on average. 

Clear aligners offer highly predictable tooth movement and can reach an accuracy of 73.6% without support attachments like elastics, buttons and chains. Including these supplementary attachments makes tooth movements even more predictable. 

However, aligner systems have several shortcomings compared to braces. Some of the challenges associated with using clear aligners include:

  • That they may not be appropriate for severe cases
  • That treatment may take longer than it does with braces 
  • That treatment may lead to poor root alignment, can often be improved even more with the use of attachments
how clear aligner treatment works

How Clear Aligners Work to Straighten Teeth

Clear aligners rely on digital planning technology to achieve a person’s treatment goals. The dentist conducting the treatment guides their patient through the following four stages:

  • Dental examination
  • Treatment planning
  • Tray creation
  • Treatment
Dental Examination
First, your doctor will examine your teeth for any oral health problems. If any are found, they may need to be addressed before treatment can begin. They will then capture digital scans of your teeth using digital imaging technology.
Treatment Planning
Based on the diagnostic 3D scans, the doctor will use computer aided design (CAD) software to create your treatment regimen. These tools let them determine teeth movement with high precision and develop a custom solution to guide each into its proper position.
Tray Creation
Rigid custom aligner trays that match the size and shape of your teeth are made. Typically, the entire series of aligners you will need for your treatment will be fabricated all at once. Your dentist will give these trays to you along with instructions on how to wear them.
Treatment

You will need to wear your custom aligners at least 22 hours each day or as prescribed by your doctor. The dental appliances will apply gentle pressure on your teeth, forcing gradual movement.

Based on your treatment plan, you’ll wear multiple sets of aligners, each for a week or two. Each subsequent set of aligners builds on the movements achieved by the previous trays to gradually shift your teeth toward the desired final position.

Clear Aligners vs. Braces

The main similarity between clear aligners and braces is that both can straighten your teeth by applying gentle continuous pressure. Patients also need to wear retainers after having their teeth straightened with either Invisalign or metal braces. 

While braces are constructed from brackets and wires, aligner trays are single pieces of molded plastic. In some cases, aligners may require supplementary attachments for accurate management of tooth movement.

Metal braces are permanently fixed in place while aligners are removable. This means you can take your aligners out to brush your teeth or eat, making them more convenient and easier to keep clean than metal braces. 

Since aligners are removable, it takes a little extra self-discipline to wear them as prescribed each day. Non-compliance with your treatment plan can limit its effectiveness. This is not a problem with braces because the appliances cannot be removed. However, the multiple appointments involved with metal braces as well as the lengthy treatment period may pose a challenge for some patients.

benefits of aligners

Benefits of Aligners for Straightening

The benefits of choosing clear aligner orthodontics include:

  • Virtually invisible treatment, fixing crooked teeth with greater aesthetic appeal than braces
  • Greater comfort without wires or brackets that could irritate soft mouth tissue
  • Removable for brief periods when desired, such as during meals or social occasions
  • Shorter treatment periods at times (from 4 to 18 months, depending on your aligner brand and case complexity)
  • Digital treatment planning is easier to incorporate into teledentistry for remote monitoring
  • Fewer in-person appointments during treatment

Am I a Candidate?

Clear aligner therapy can correct crooked teeth and bite problems in children and adults. Generally, you’re a good candidate for the treatment if:

  • You have mild to moderate orthodontic problems
  • You’re willing to comply with treatment (you will need to wear your aligners at least 22 hours every day until the final results are achieved)
  • You have mild, moderate or no gum disease

Speak with an orthodontist for advice on whether this option is a good fit for your lifestyle needs and the desired results.

In rare cases, the use of clear aligners may elevate the risk of painful jaw complications like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Patients with this condition should consult their dentist before using aligners.

References

Clinical Effectiveness of Invisalign® Orthodontic Treatment: A Systematic Review. (September 2018). Progress in Orthodontics. 

Predictability of Orthodontic Movement with Orthodontic Aligners: A Retrospective Study. (November 2017). Progress in Orthodontics.

Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners. (June 2018). American Association of Orthodontists.

Essential Attributes of Clear Aligner Therapy in Terms of Appliance Configuration, Hygiene, and Pain Levels During the Pandemic: A Brief Review . (October 2020). Pain Research and Management with Digital Dentistry.

Braces vs. Clear Aligners. (January 2019). American Association of Orthodontists.

Periodontal Disease Treated with Clear Aligner. (August 2020). Chinese Journal of Stomatology.

Byte Review: 2022 Everyday Health

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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