Do Aligners Really Work for Teeth Straightening?
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- Key Facts
- What are Clear Aligners?
- Benefits of Aligners
- How Do Clear Aligners Work?
- Effectiveness of Clear Aligners
- Clear Aligners vs. Braces
- Am I A Candidate?
Aligners can straighten your teeth without causing pain or mouth injuries. They're as effective as braces in fixing teeth that are mild or moderately crooked.
Aligners are clear, smooth, and almost invisible. They’re hard for people to see unless they look hard. But they’re also incredibly powerful.
For many people with crooked teeth, they’re just the right solution. You may have heard that this is a “compromise solution.” But this just isn’t true.
Key Facts About Aligners & Teeth Straightening
Clear aligners offer highly predictable tooth movement and can reach an accuracy rate of 73.6 percent without support attachments like elastics, buttons, and chains. Including these supplementary attachments makes tooth movements even more predictable.
Aligners are most effective when worn at least 22 hours per day, and each set is worn for a week or two before you swap out for a new tray.
Aligner treatment plans can last just four months. People using fixed appliances like braces can spend almost 20 months in care, although timeframes can vary from patient to patient.
Almost 88 percent of people who use at-home, doctor-directed aligners are satisfied with the process and the results.
What are Clear Aligners?
Clear aligners straighten your teeth and 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 these:
- Open bite
Benefits of Aligners for Teeth Straightening
The benefits of choosing clear aligner orthodontics include the following:
- 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 that is easier to incorporate into teledentistry for remote monitoring
- Fewer in-person appointments during treatment
How Do Clear Aligners Work to Straighten Teeth?
How could clear, plastic trays wrapped around your teeth make your smile even brighter? It's not magic or mystery. It's a scientific process directed by a dental professional.
Stage 1: Dental Examination
Your dental professional must know what your teeth look like now to plan your path forward. A dental examination makes this possible.
Most professionals use impressions to help. You bite down into a tray filled with polymer, and your doctor has a good look at where your teeth are in relation to one another and your jaw.
Stage 2: Treatment Planning
Computer modeling comes into play. Your doctor transforms your impressions into a 3D visualization. You see what your teeth look like now, and you observe how each tray will provide a tiny nudge in the right direction.
This step is critical, as it provides a roadmap for your aligner therapy. You must approve it before anything else happens.
Stage 3: Tray Creation
Your dentist orders trays that match the computer model of your teeth. They are designed just for you, and they can't be used on anyone else.
Some companies give you all of your aligners at once, labeled so you know which one to use. Other treatment formats provide just a few sets at a time.
Stage 4: Treatment
Your aligner journey begins. You will do the following:
- Wear your aligners. In some treatment models, you wear the trays most of the day (often 22 hours). In others, you wear them only at night.
- Protect your aligners. Take out the trays to eat, drink, and clean your teeth. If you lose or break a tray, you'll order a new one and delay your treatment accordingly.
- Swap trays. Every week or two, you'll change to a new aligner set.
- Keep in touch. Progress exams ensure that your teeth are moving on schedule.
Effectiveness of Clear Aligners for Teeth Straightening
Clear aligners are remarkably effective in moving your teeth. Trays wrap around the entire tooth, from root to tip, and apply gentle but consistent pressure. Your teeth respond by shifting position ever so slightly. With each tray, you move closer to the smile you always wanted.
Aligners work best for cases of mild-to-moderate crookedness. But if your teeth are too crooked or out of alignment, you might need a fixed orthodontic appliance. If you aren’t approved for aligner treatment, consult an orthodontist for the best path forward.
Do Clear Aligners Works As Well As Braces?
The main similarity between clear aligners and braces is that both can straighten your teeth by applying gentle continuous pressure. Patients must wear retainers after having their teeth straightened with either aligners or braces. But there are differences.
Braces and aligners differ in these ways:
- Convenience: 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.
- Discipline: Since aligners are removable, it takes a little extra self-discipline to wear them as prescribed. Noncompliance with your treatment plan can limit its effectiveness. This is not a problem with braces, as they cannot be removed.
- Supervision: Patients need multiple appointments for braces, which may pose a challenge for some patients. Many aligner formats are conducted via telemedicine, so you can comply while staying home.
- Appearance: While braces are constructed from brackets and wires, aligner trays are single pieces of molded plastic.
- Timeframe: Treatment with braces can take years, while many aligner programs are finished in just a few months.
- Comfort: Braces can scrape your dental tissues, while aligners are smooth and easy to wear.
Am I A Candidate?
Clear aligner therapy can correct crooked teeth and bite problems. Generally, you’re a good candidate for the treatment if you meet these criteria:
- You have mild to moderate orthodontic problems.
- You’re willing to comply with treatment. You will need to wear your aligners per their instructions, often up to 22 hours per day.
Speak with an aligner treatment company for advice on whether this option is a good fit for your lifestyle needs and the desired results.
Diagnosis and Management of Crowding of Teeth by Clear Aligners. (June 2019). International Journal of Applied Dental Sciences.
Clinical Effectiveness of Invisalign® Orthodontic Treatment: A Systematic Review. (September 2018). Progress in Orthodontics.
Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners. (June 2018). American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontic Treatment Time: Can It Be Shortened. (December 2018). Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics.
Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics: Surveying the User Experience. (August 2020). The Journal of the American Dental Association.
Braces vs. Clear Aligners. (January 2019). American Association of Orthodontists.
Essential Attributes of Clear Aligner Therapy in Terms of Appliance Configuration, Hygiene, and Pain Levels During the Pandemic. (2020). Pain Research and Management.