Are Clear Aligners Noticeable?

Are Clear Aligners Noticeable?
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Are Clear Aligners Noticeable?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. How Visible are Clear Aligners?
  2. When Are They Visible?
  3. What Makes Aligners Noticeable?
  4. Care to Keep Aligners Clear
  5. References

Aligners are orthodontic devices designed to correct irregularly gapped teeth, crooked teeth and underbites. Because wearers can be self-conscious about the aesthetic of these braces, patients often prefer clear aligners, also known as invisible aligners.

What makes aligners appealing is that they are virtually invisible, making it difficult for someone to notice the devices even during a face-to-face conversation. However, they are not invisible.

How Visible are Clear Aligners?

Many people who want to straighten their teeth opt for clear aligners over traditional braces because of their transparency. That opacity makes aligners mostly indistinguishable during everyday life, and to others it will look like you don’t have anything attached to your teeth. Still, clear aligners are more visible to others than lingual braces.

Lingual braces are orthodontic brackets attached to the inner sides of your teeth. If you seek maximum invisibility, lingual braces are your best option.

Clear aligners have other benefits beyond their near-invisibility.
Wearers call them non-intrusive, are easy to remove and even easier to maintain because they have so few components.

When Will People Be Able to Tell?

In most instances, people will not be able to tell if you are wearing clear aligners. However, this largely depends on the distance at which someone is standing from you.

If you stand within a few feet of someone, they may be able to tell that you’re undergoing long-term dental treatment. This is more so if the person pays close attention to detail. Also, some aspects can be a tip-off to the fact that you’re wearing aligners.

Things That Make Clear Aligners More Noticeable

There are several possible ways that people can tell that you're wearing clear aligner.

First, not all the components of clear aligners are invisible. The actual tooth aligners are the only invisible part of these dental orthodontics. Non-clear elements used in conjunction with aligners include:

  • Attachments: small pieces of dental bonding placed on your teeth to direct aligner forces
  • Buttons: anchor points for elastic bands
  • Elastics: bands that put pressure on teeth to keep them in line

If your tooth correction requires the use of these components with your aligners, people will be to tell that you’re undergoing dental correction if they are paying attention.

In addition, clear aligners are made of plastic, and the surface can cause your teeth to appear uncharacteristically shiny.

The thickness of the plastic and small spaces between the device and your teeth can also produce a “halo” effect.

Standing in front of bright light or in direct sunlight makes the aligners more noticeable.

Edges of your clear aligners can be visible in some cases. Usually, the edges remain hidden under your lips. But if you have a high lip line or your aligners don’t cover each of your teeth fully, people may be able to notice the dental device. Debris accumulation, aligner staining, and surface accumulation can also indicate that you're using orthodontics.

Another often overlooked issue that makes clear aligners noticeable is that the devices can affect some of your daily activities. Aligners can subconsciously alter the way you smile and the way you talk. They can boost your saliva production. These physical changes may cause someone to wonder—or ask—if you’re wearing aligners.

Caring for Your Aligners to Keep Them Clear

Dentists and orthodontists have several recommendations for taking care of your clear aligners. The more you clean them, the better chance you have of keeping the aligners clear. Tips include:

  • Each time you remove your aligners, rinse them with antibacterial soap or lukewarm water. This prevents an excess buildup of plaque and dried saliva.
  • Brush and floss your teeth before wearing your aligners.
  • Don't brush your clear aligners with toothpaste because it can erode the resin on the aligners.
  • Soak your aligners once a day using clear aligner soak or water-vinegar mixture to help kill the bacteria.
  • Always remove your aligners when eating. Aligners weren’t designed to withstand chewing and may crack under pressure.
  • Always store your aligners in its provided case whenever you remove them.

References

Invisible orthodontics part 1: Invisalign. (April 2013). National Center for Biotechnology Information

Traditional Braces vs. Clear Aligners like Invisalign. (September 2020). Orthodontics Australia.

Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners and The Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review. (December 2019). Turkish Journal of Orthodontics.

Social perceptions of adults wearing orthodontic appliances: a cross-section study. (July 2010). European Journal of Orthodontics.

Esthetic perception and economic value of orthodontic appliances by lay Brazilian adults. (October 2012). Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics.

Lingual braces: What are they, and how much do they cost?. (July 20, 2021). Orthodontics Australia.

Invisible and almost invisible orthodontic appliances. (March 2014). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

How to clean and take care of your clear aligners. (December 2020). Orthodontics Australia.

How noticeable is wearing Invisalign? (June 2019).  Animated-Teeth.

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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