Clear Aligners-What are Invisible Aligners?
By Dr Kritika Suroliya MDS (Orthodontics)
When you hear the word “braces,” what comes to mind? Very likely, a young teenager whose teeth are jailed with metal attachments and wires. While we definitely have many orthodontic patients who fit that description, we now have an increasingly popular alternative to traditional metal braces: Clear aligners or Invisible Braces. You may have heard of their more popular trade names, for example, Invisalign.
Clear aligners are a custom made, personalised treatment option for patients. This means that your aligners are one of a kind, and won’t fit anyone else’s teeth. The aligner trays are made of almost invisible polyurethane plastic. Unlike regular metal and ceramic braces, that are fixed onto the teeth throughout the treatment duration, clear aligners are removable.
Here are some other advantages of clear aligner systems:
Improved Oral Hygiene: Fixed metal and ceramic braces with wires, make it difficult for patients to practice routine brushing and dental hygiene practices. With an appliance that is removable, it is easier to clean teeth and maintain good hygiene.
A Discreet Look: For patients who are conscious about getting braces because of their bulky look, but are really interested in getting orthodontic treatment, these are a great treatment option.
More Dietary Choices: Regular braces require patients to stay clear of sticky and hard foodstuffs. However, with clear aligners there are no food restrictions, and patients can enjoy chips and their favourite pizza!
Comfort: The soft, flexible material of which clear aligners do not cause irritation to the soft tissues of the cheeks and mouth, as metal wires and braces can.
Teeth-Grinding Protection: If you have a teeth-grinding or clenching habit, clear aligners can function as thin night-guards that will protect your teeth from excessive wear.
Therefore, you can straighten your teeth out without majorly affecting your existing lifestyle! Clear aligner technology has been improving over the years and can correct many other aberrations of teeth that once would have been too complicated for this form of treatment, such as teeth gaps or forwardly placed teeth. Yet there are still some situations for which traditional braces would still be best. Each case is unique, and the final call on what option would work the best for you, should be made after a thorough consultation with a braces specialist/orthodontist.
The process of getting your clear aligners can be summarised in the following steps:
- 1. Initial Consultation: An initial check-up by your orthodontist is a must for assessing the degree of difficulty of your case, and whether you are a suitable clear aligner candidate or not. During this appointment, your doctor will also recommend additional x-rays or other general treatment if required, before you start your aligner journey.
- 2. Digital Scan: Aligner processing requires accurate 3-D models of your entire set of teeth. Earlier, doctors would take impressions using moldable dental materials and trays for this purpose. However, with the latest technology available, the whole procedure has been made digital, and computer generated scans have replaced older methods.
- 3. Digital Planning: Once scans and photographs have been processed, a special software is used for customising tooth movement and the final position of all teeth. These softwares allow us to visualise the end results right at the beginning of your treatment!
- 4. Aligner Processing and Delivery: After finalising your treatment plan on the software, your aligners are manufactured by the lab. Once the doctor receives them, they schedule an appointment with you, so that you can kick off your aligner wear journey!
- 5. Follow-up appointments: These are necessary to monitor if your aligners are working properly, and that your teeth are also changing according to your treatment plan or or not.
- 6. Retention: Once your teeth have moved to the desired planned positions, and your doctor and you are happy with your final smile, your treatment is complete! No matter which braces you opt for, wearing your retainers once your treatment is finished is a must.
With so many advantages, there is occasionally a high cost factor involved, but the benefits are definitely worth it. So if you want to get an improved smile, but are reluctant to get braces, clear aligners are a good road to go down upon!