What are Clear Aligners?
Clear aligners are an orthodontic treatment that is designed to slowly move misaligned teeth into proper alignment. It consists of a series of clear, plastic trays which fit closely around your teeth. Clear aligners are virtually invisible on your teeth, so only you and your dentist have to know you are wearing your aligners. At the end of the treatment period, you can enjoy the straight, stunning smile you have always desired.
Who Is a Candidate For Clear Aligners?
Most patients who desire to have their teeth straightened are good candidates for clear aligners. The system can treat mild to complex cases. Whether you have several teeth out of place or need your entire set of teeth straightened, it's worth scheduling a free consultation to see whether you are a candidate for clear aligners.
Common issues addressed with clear aligners include the following:
- Open Bites: An open bite occurs when some of your teeth do not touch the teeth on the opposing jaw. Open bites can contribute to TMJ pain and difficulties with speech, so it is important to address them with orthodontic treatments.
- Crowded Teeth: If your jaw is too small or your teeth are too large, your teeth may appear overcrowded and crooked. Your dentist may need to remove several teeth from your jaw before using clear aligners to straighten the remaining teeth.
- Crossbites: When one tooth bites against the inside of the opposing tooth, this is known as a crossbite. It can lead to premature tooth wear and bone loss, so it's important to treat for the future.
Underbites, which occur when the bottom teeth protrude further than the top teeth, and overbites, which occur when the top teeth protrude too much further forward than the bottom teeth, can sometimes be addressed with clear aligners. In serious cases, your orthodontist may recommend another treatment, like a jaw expander, for your underbite or overbite. However, you may be able to use clear aligners in the final stages of treatment.
Clear aligners are a good option for teens who want straighter teeth, but it also works well in adults. Many adults who once had braces but whose teeth have since shifted frequently become clear aligner patients with great success in their treatments.
If you are an adult who never had braces but who has always desired a straighter smile, clear aligners may be a good choice for you, too. The best way to find out if you are a candidate for clear aligners is to schedule an appointment with our local orthodontists. He or she will use various techniques including x-rays and specialized imaging software to determine whether clear aligners are a safe and effective choice, as well as giving you a glimpse of what your smile may look like after treatment.
How Do Clear Aligners Work?
If your dentist determines that you are a good candidate for clear aligners, the first step will be creating custom trays for your teeth. When the trays are ready, you will pick them up from your dentist and he or she will show you how to put them in and take them out.
One great thing about clear aligners is that you only have to wear the trays for 20 - 22 hours a day in order to get optimal results. You take the trays out to brush your teeth morning and night. You also remove the trays before eating a meal, which means you can enjoy all of your favorite foods with no limitations. Just remember to put the aligners back in place after you finish eating.
Each set of aligners slowly pushes your teeth into the desired position. You'll change to a new set of aligners about every two weeks throughout your treatment period. Every six weeks or so, you will have a checkup with your orthodontist so that he or she can monitor your progress.
Every case is different, and your orthodontist will tell you how long you need to wear your aligners during your initial free consultation. Most adult patients need to use clear aligners for about 12 months; teens may need to wear their aligners for longer. If you previously had braces and just need a "touchup" to re-straighten your smile, you may only need to wear clear aligners for 6 months or less. In order to straighten your teeth as quickly as possible, you need to be vigilant about wearing your aligners for the full recommended 20 - 22 hours a day.
It is important to keep your aligners clean throughout the treatment process. You can clean them by brushing and rinsing them, much like you do with your teeth.
What Are The Benefits of Clear Aligners Over Traditional Braces?
Clear aligners are often preferred over traditional braces because it is virtually invisible. Teens who are self-conscious about their appearance don't have to be worried about smiling in public when wearing clear aligners in class pictures and selfies will look perfect. Clear aligners can also be safely worn during sports and gym class without the worry of injury to tongue or cheeks, as with metal braces. For adult patients, wearing clear aligners allows you to maintain a polished, professional image rather than having to deal with the look of metal braces for months on end.
Wearing clear aligners is also more comfortable than wearing braces for most patients. Though you may experience some aching and soreness, especially in the first few days after switching to a new aligner, there are no metal brackets or wires to irritate your gums. Your custom aligners will feel smooth against the cheeks and tongue.
Clear aligners may also allow you to maintain better dental hygiene than traditional braces. Since you remove your aligners before brushing, you are able to keep your teeth very clean. Brushing around traditional braces can be difficult; plaque and bacteria can build up around the braces, increasing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
With clear aligners, there are no dietary restrictions. Patients are able to continue eating all of their favorite crunchy and hard foods, including nuts, apples, and pretzels, during treatment with clear aligners. These foods are often off-limits with braces since they may snap the brackets or wires.
What Are The Challenges Associated With Clear Aligner Treatment?
Wearing clear aligners is comfortable and convenient, but it can take some time to get used to your aligners. New patients sometimes have trouble remembering to take their aligners out before eating and replace them immediately after a meal. You can help yourself remember to remove your aligners by setting an alarm in your phone to go off a few minutes before your planned meal and again a few minutes after your planned meal. Similarly, you can set alarms or reminders on your phone so you don't forget to change to a new set of aligner trays every two weeks.
Some patients also find that their speech sounds a bit abnormal when they first get clear aligners. They may have trouble pronouncing certain sounds like "th" and "s." In time, you will get used to speaking with clear aligners and will be able to speak clearly again. Patients often find that practicing saying difficult words in the privacy of their own home helps them master speaking with aligners in place.
Another thing you'll need to get used to when you first get clear aligner trays is carrying the aligner case. Consider keeping cases at work, in your bag, and in your car so you always have one on hand if aligners need to be removed at any point.
How Much Do Clear Aligners Cost?
The cost of clear aligners will depend on the complexity of your case, how long it takes to straighten your teeth, and whether your orthodontist needs to supplement your clear aligner treatment with other procedures.
Most treatments start between $2,000 and $2,500. Keep in mind, however, that many dental insurance plans cover at least a portion of the cost of clear aligners. If you are thinking of getting clear aligners, consider calling your insurance company to get a better idea of how much they cover.
If your dental insurance plan does not cover the full cost of clear aligners, there are several other ways to pay. If you have a flexible spending account through your workplace, you can use those pre-tax dollars to pay for your treatment. We also make it affordable to begin clear aligner treatment through our various financing options or low interest payment plans.
Can I Get Clear Aligners From a Dentist Near Me?
Don’t let a crooked smile hold you back at any age! If you desire straighter teeth or are looking into orthodontic options for your child, make an appointment for a consultation. Our consultation process is free, quick and painless, and it will give you a better idea of the results you can expect with clear aligners and how long you will need to wear the aligners to achieve your desired results.