Clear aligners like Invisalign (the most well-known brand of aligners) are one of the greatest advancements in orthodontics since I started practicing thirty years ago. Since they’ve come on the market, the number of adult patients has exploded. Adults prefer clear aligners to traditional metal brackets and wires because they’re much less visible but incredibly effective at straightening teeth.
What to Expect with Clear Aligners
When you decide to straighten your teeth with clear aligners, it’s a very different experience from metal braces. While braces are bonded onto the teeth and are permanent until the orthodontist takes them off, clear aligners are removable plastic pieces that are custom-designed to your teeth. They are made to be taken out for eating, drinking, and cleaning your teeth. But they shouldn’t spend too much time out of the mouth; to work, clear aligners should be worn for at least 22 hours a day.
Clear Aligners Work the Same Way Metal Braces Do
Although they are very different from each other, clear aligners and metal braces get the same results by doing the same thing: applying forces to the teeth to move them. Braces use rubber bands, little springs, the wire itself, and other appliances to apply force to the teeth. With clear aligners, it’s the small differences between each set that shapes the teeth over time.
Getting Your Aligners
Over the course of treatment, you have a series of aligners which gradually straighten teeth, each set of top and bottom a little different from the previous set. Each set is worn for two weeks, typically, before moving on to the next set of aligners. The process starts with a 3-D scan of your teeth so the aligners can be designed for you. (If your orthodontist is still using dental impressions to make your aligners, you should question how up-to-date they are on their technology and technique.)
Time and Money
The number of aligners – and therefore, how long treatment lasts overall – depends on how complex your case is and what needs to be done. On average, treatment with clear aligners takes a year or longer to get results, which is a little bit shorter compared to metal braces. As for money, clear aligners cost around the same amount as metal braces. If you’re concerned about the cost, look into your options. Many orthodontists offer payment plans or pay-in-full discounts that make treatment affordable.
Are Clear Aligners Right for You?
There are some cases where traditional braces are needed to address problems with the teeth and jaw, and clear aligners just don’t cut it. But for many people looking to straighten their teeth who want something discreet and effective, clear aligners are an excellent choice.