Clear aligners are one of the most popular courses of orthodontic treatment for adults. Often known by the manufacturer's name Invisalign, clear aligners are usually hailed as 'invisable braces'.
One of the most appealing features of clear aligners is that they are subtle. As well as being transparent, they're custom-made and fit snugly on your teeth, a bit like a small thin mouthguard.
For adults or mid to late teenagers who want to change the appearance of their teeth without any obvious apparatus, the benefit of clear aligners is obvious. But the question patients often ask the orthodontist is 'will they actually work as well as traditional braces?' The answer to this question is never straightforward, and depends on a range of factors, including:
The issue you want to correct In general, clear will work best for adults or mid to late teens who require minor corrections to problems such as mildly crooked, gappy, or protruding teeth. Although more complicated orthodontic problems can also be treated with clear aligners, the results can be less predictable.
For major corrections, traditional braces are likely to be a better option. This is because when you're fitted for traditional braces, you receive one appliance which is then adjusted throughout the course of your treatment to achieve teh required outcome. These regular check-ups allow your orthodontist to keep an eye on your progress and tailor any adjustments as needed.
By contrast, with clear aligners, the entire course of treatment is programmed from the beginning with limited ability for ad-hoc adjustments. You receive a series of slightly different shaped aligner, and you wear each one for 2 weeks, before moving onto the next as your teeth move in small increments. Aligner treatment also involves placing a number of tooth 'attachments' which look like small white bumps and help the aligners grip properly and shift your teeth gradually into position.
The number of aligners you'll need The number of aligners and attachments you'll have will vary depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. You'll usually receive a couple of months' of aligners at a time and will work through them independently, so you'll have fewer check-ups with your orthodontist than if you were to have traditional braces. The more aligners you'll need during your course of treatment, the longer the treatment will take, and the more appointments will be needed.
Whether you can stick to the rules When considering whether clear aligners could work as well as braces, you'll also need to consider whether you'll be able to care for the aligners properly. For a clear aligner treatment to work, you'll need to wear the aligner for 22 hours a day for a full 2 weeks before moving on to the next one. Wearing your aligners as your orthodontist advises is the best way of ensuring your treatment gives you successful results. However, removing your aligners when eating or drinking is a must. They're made from medical grade plastic, so hot drinks can cause your aligner to become misshapen, and drinks with colourants can lead to discoloration.
If you are unable to commit to wearing clear aligners as close to full time as possible and removing them and immediately replacing them every time you eat and drink, it is probably not the best treatment for you!
Overall, if you require mild to moderate teeth problems corrections and are willing to make changes to your lifestyle during the course of the treatment, a clear aligner can work just as well as traditional braces.
If a clear aligner is an option you'd like to explore, your orthodontist is best equipped to talk to you through the process and discuss whether it's and option for your circumstances.
Suite 12, 183 Tynte Street, North Adelaide SA 5006