Aligners are a modern, popular alternative to traditional metal braces. They use clear, plastic trays that are custom fit to teeth to gradually straighten them over time. Clear aligners are virtually invisible when worn, comfortable, and can be easily removed for eating or brushing teeth.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the science behind clear aligners, their benefits over traditional braces, what to expect from the treatment process, reasons to use them, and risks and considerations. We’ll take a look at clear aligners for teenagers, discuss how they can improve their self-confidence, and more. By the end, you should have a better understanding of clear aligner technology and whether it’s the right choice for your teenager.
The Science Behind Clear Aligners
Clear aligners, also known as clear-plastic aligners or invisible braces, are a modern alternative to traditional metal braces. The science behind them is based on the principle of using a series of custom-fit, clear plastic trays that are designed to gradually shift teeth into their desired position.
Clear aligners are created using advanced 3D computer imaging technology. The orthodontist or dentist will take digital impressions of your teen’s teeth, which are then used to put a detailed treatment plan together for them. This will generally include a series of clear aligners, with each one designed to make small adjustments to the position of teeth. Your teen will wear each set of aligners for around two weeks before it is replaced with a new one.
Clear aligners are made from a thermoplastic material; a type of plastic that becomes pliable when heated and solidifies when cooled. Because of this, the aligners can be custom fitted to teeth, providing a precise, comfortable fit. When wearing the aligners, they will exert a gentle yet constant force of pressure on teeth to straighten them.
Clear Aligners vs Traditional Braces
Clear aligners and traditional metal braces are the two most common options available when it comes to orthodontic treatment. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Deciding whether metal braces or clear aligners for teenagers are the right choice for your child will ultimately depend on individual needs and preferences. Use an expert company that can provide a full consultation before you start, helping you decide on the best option.
Some of the main factors to consider when comparing clear aligners and traditional braces are as follows:
- Cost: Clear aligners are typically more expensive compared to traditional metal braces. However, the extra cost can be worth it thanks to the other benefits that they provide. The cost of clear aligners can vary depending on the length of the treatment and the complexity of the case.
- Treatment time: Clear aligners will usually require a shorter treatment time compared to traditional metal braces. In general, your teen can expect to wear the aligners for anywhere between six and eighteen months. On the other hand, traditional braces can have a treatment time of anywhere between eighteen and thirty-six months.
- Comfort: Clear aligners are known for being more comfortable to wear compared to traditional metal braces. Since they don’t have any wires or brackets that can irritate the inside of the mouth and they can be removed for brushing teeth or eating. On the other hand, traditional braces are fixed to teeth and can lead to soreness and discomfort in the mouth. It’s also easier for food to get lodged in the wires and brackets as your teen cannot remove them for eating.
- Appearance: Clear aligners are almost invisible, in stark contrast to traditional braces, which tend to be immediately obvious. Wearing traditional braces can cause some people to become self-conscious, but this is not the case with clear aligners, which do not affect the appearance of the smile and can be removed when needed.
The Clear Aligner Treatment Process
If you’ve decided that you want to get clear aligners for your teen, you’ll start with an initial consultation with a dentist or orthodontist who will evaluate their teeth and determine if clear aligners are an appropriate treatment option for them. Some companies now offer remote consultations, which involve taking impressions of teeth with a home kit, and in some cases, a video call.
- Initial consultation: During the initial consultation, digital impressions or scans of your teen’s teeth will be taken and used to come up with a treatment plan. This includes a series of clear aligners. How many they’ll need to wear will depend on the complexity of the treatment and the result they want.
- Custom-fit aligners: The aligners will be made from a thermoplastic material using the impressions, in order to ensure that they fit the teeth precisely. They are designed to gradually move teeth into the desired position by applying just the right amount of pressure.
- Treatment begins: Your teen will begin wearing the first set of aligners. Typically, they’ll wear this set for around two weeks before moving on to a new one. They should wear the aligners for at least twenty-two hours daily, and if possible, only remove them when eating and brushing their teeth.
- Regular check-ups: They may be required to visit or have a remote appointment with a dentist or orthodontist every four to six weeks to check on the progress of the treatment or receive their next set of aligners.
- Finishing touches: The treatment is complete once the final set of aligners has been worn. Once the treatment is done, your teen will be fitted with a retainer. It’s important to wear this as instructed to maintain the new position of teeth. Your teen’s teeth may quickly move back into their previous position otherwise.
What Can Clear Aligners Be Used to Fix?
Clear aligners can be used to treat a wide range of orthodontic issues including closing gaps between teeth, crowded teeth, underbite, and overbite. They are especially effective for patients with mild to moderate orthodontic issues and can be an ideal alternative to traditional metal braces for both teenagers and adults. Some of the main issues that they are used to treat include:
- Overbite: An overbite occurs when the upper teeth bite over the lower teeth. Clear aligners can be used to reposition the upper teeth and bring them back into correct alignment with the lower teeth.
- Underbite: An underbite is when the lower teeth are biting in front of the upper teeth. With a clear aligner, often in conjunction with other orthodontic treatments, your teen can reposition the lower teeth to align them correctly with the upper teeth.
- Crowded teeth: Correcting overcrowding of the teeth is one of the most common uses for clear aligners. This problem occurs when there is not enough room in the jaw for all the teeth to fit properly, meaning that some may be crooked or overlapping. Clear aligners gently push the teeth into the correct position and straighten them out.
- Gaps between teeth: There are various potential reasons for gaps between the teeth including teeth that have come in too far apart, or missing teeth. With clear aligners, the teeth can be pushed together gently, closing the gap and improving your teen’s smile.
Clear aligners have become one of the most popular and effective options for orthodontic treatment, offering many advantages over traditional metal braces.