Why Clear Aligners?
Crooked teeth can greatly impact every aspect of your life. One of the most obvious effects is that they detract from your smile. They can cause you to become self-conscious, and lead you to hide your smile from those around you. They can also greatly affect your oral health. Crooked teeth are harder to keep clean, increasing your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. They can also lead to other oral health issues such as uneven tooth wear and significant jaw pain (a condition known as a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD). For decades, metal braces have been used to correct crooked teeth. While effective, metal braces have one major disadvantage—they are very visible in your mouth. When you smile with braces, all eyes are immediately drawn to the metal. For many, particularly older teens and adults, the visibility of metal braces is a significant source of self-consciousness and can be more embarrassing than having crooked teeth. At Amborn Orthodontics, we can provide you with an alternative to traditional metal braces—clear aligners.
Metal BracesBraces have been used for decades to correct crooked teeth. They consist of three basic parts: brackets, bands, and archwires. The brackets are attached to your teeth using a special dental cement, and they are meant to stay in place during the entirety of your treatment. The bands are attached to the teeth at the very back of the mouth and are designed to anchor the archwires in place. The archwires span across the teeth and are attached to the metal brackets with the use of elastic O-rings. These wires are responsible for the movement and stabilization of the teeth. Other components are sometimes used with metal braces, such as rubber bands and springs, but these parts are only used for specific cases. Metal braces are an extremely effective solution for correcting crooked teeth and are a popular treatment for younger teens (around the ages of 11 and 13). They are also effective for older teens and adults as well. However, the high visibility of the metal against the teeth can turn many would-be orthodontic patients against seeking the treatment they need. Now, there are clear aligners.
What are clear aligners?Clear aligners are an orthodontic treatment method that works to straighten your teeth without the use of embarrassing metal brackets and wires. Instead, aligners involve the use of clear, hard plastic, which sits over your teeth. They are made from 3-dimensional virtual impressions of your mouth. The impressions help to ensure a proper, secure, and comfortable fit.
How do clear aligners work?Clear aligners involve the use of several sets of aligners, each meant to be worn for two weeks at a time. Rather than metal wires, the hard plastic of the aligners is responsible for the movement of your teeth. The plastic puts pressure on the teeth, which then exerts pressure on the periodontal ligaments (the structures that hold your teeth securely in place). This pressure widens the ligaments, loosening the teeth. The aligners then work to guide your teeth into proper alignment and holding them in place while they stabilize. While aligners are removable, they should remain on your teeth for 20 to 22 hours every day, which will help to provide you with the best possible results in the shortest amount of time.
Aligners Disappear on Your TeethWhile metal braces are not such an issue for younger patients (especially with the ability to customize the elastic O-rings that hold the archwires in place), most older teenagers and adults can find the "metal mouth" appearance embarrassing. With braces, even the most confident, outgoing individual can quickly become introverted.
Clear aligners provide a much more aesthetic way to straighten your teeth, avoiding all of the embarrassment of "metal mouth." When you place the aligners on your teeth, they become invisible. No one will be able to tell that they are there. This is quite possibly one of the biggest benefits of treatment with clear aligners. No one will be able to tell that you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. No eyes will be immediately drawn to the metal on your teeth. Instead, they will be paying attention to you, and what you have to say. There is no worry about only being remembered as the one with braces. You don't have to hide your smile, or avoid pictures, or even avoid social gatherings. With clear aligners, you can participate in social activities, have your picture taken, and meet new people all with confidence. Moreover, your confidence will continue to grow as your smile transforms.
No More Food RestrictionsWith traditional metal braces, there are so many restrictions on what you can eat. When you wear braces, it is recommended that you avoid whole fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots and corn on the cob, chewy foods such as bagels, crunchy foods such as popcorn and chips, and sticky foods such as taffy, soft caramels, and chewing gum. The list goes on and on. All of these foods can cause serious damage to traditional braces, including dislodging brackets and bending or breaking wires. Ignoring (or even just putting off treatment for) brackets that have come loose, bent wires, even broken wires can lead to delays in your orthodontic treatment, ultimately leading to the need for an extended treatment period. Broken wires can also poke your cheeks or gums, which can lead to irritation and cuts to sensitive tissues.
With clear aligners, there are no restrictions on what you can eat. This is because clear aligners are removable. In fact, eating is one of the few times that your aligners should be removed. With your clear aligners, out of your mouth during meal and snack times, you can eat all of your favorite foods without worrying about damaging your orthodontic appliances.
Improved Oral HealthTaking care of your mouth on a daily basis is essential for maintaining your oral health. The ADA recommends that you brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Taking care of your mouth when wearing traditional metal braces, however, requires a bit of extra work, and can be challenging. You have to adapt your oral care routine to effectively clean around brackets and between the wires. Improper oral care while wearing braces can result in serious oral health issues. Plaque and bacteria can build up in the spaces that you miss, which can result in tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease. Gum disease is characterized in the beginning by red, swollen gums. When not addressed right away, it can quickly result in serious issues that can compromise your oral health. With clear aligners, oral care is significantly easier. You simply remove your aligners and brush your teeth as normal. It is also important to clean your aligners as well, which can be done with a brush and toothpaste.
Continually missing areas of your mouth while brushing with braces can often lead to white spots. These white spots are usually the result of demineralization or the loss of minerals in your teeth. Demineralization occurs as a result of plaque and bacteria acids being left on the surface of your teeth. While white spots can occur on anyone's teeth, they are much more likely to occur on those who wear braces. When the braces are removed, these spots become more evident and can detract from your smile. When you wear clear aligners, the risk of developing white spots is greatly reduced, as there are fewer spaces for plaque and bacteria to hide.
A reduced risk of cavities and gum disease is not the only oral health benefit that clear aligners offer. A common issue with crooked teeth is that they cause grinding, which can lead to uneven tooth wear, jaw pain, and more. Often, the goal of orthodontic treatment is to help to alleviate the grinding. However, while you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, your teeth may continue to grind until you have reached closer to the end of your treatment period. When you experience grinding as a result of crooked teeth, clear aligners can act as a protective measure. The clear aligners cover your teeth in a similar manner to mouth guards. In doing so, they can help to stop uneven and excessive tooth wear by providing a cushion between your teeth.
Greater ComfortMetal braces are effective, but they are not always very comfortable. Every time the wires are adjusted, they can cause discomfort as pressure is exerted on your teeth (and your periodontal ligaments). This discomfort is temporary, but many patients find that it can interfere with normal functions, such as eating, for a short time. While some light pressure is felt when you change out your clear aligners, it is not as severe as with traditional braces, and the discomfort often disappears more quickly.
Metal brackets and wires can also irritate your oral tissues. Brackets can rub against your cheeks, creating sores. If brackets come dislodged, or wires break, they can poke your oral tissues, causing cuts, bleeding and a significant amount of pain. These events are not an issue with clear aligners. There are no rough metal brackets scraping your oral tissues. You don't have to worry about wires breaking and poking your cheek or lip. Additionally, the plastic of your clear aligners is biocompatible, so it does not irritate your gums, providing you with a much more comfortable experience overall.
Enjoy a Wider Variety of ActivitiesIf you play sports, you know the risks that are involved. To avoid getting hurt while playing, you take all necessary safety precautions. This includes such things as wearing a helmet, padding, and, of course, a mouth guard. However, if you have traditional metal braces, you know how difficult it can be to wear a mouth guard. Even if you play without one (which may be more comfortable), you still run a serious risk of cutting your oral tissues if you have an accident. When you wear clear aligners, you don't have to worry about how a mouth guard is going to fit over your braces, or your lip getting cut on wires damaged wires. Instead, you can temporarily remove your aligners and safely wear your mouth guard.
Shorter Treatment TimeTreatment with traditional metal braces can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending on the specific circumstances. For more severe orthodontic cases, treatment can take closer to three years (or more!). During the course of your treatment, you receive adjustments just about every four weeks. This is many visits during your time with braces and can mean many adjustments in your schedule.
Similar to braces, treatment times with clear aligners vary based on your specific needs. However, your overall treatment time with aligners is shorter than with metal braces. Typically, treatment times with clear aligners range from nine months to fifteen months. Most patients usually see results in less than a year. In rare cases, treatment can take closer to two years. During the course of your treatment, you also require less dental visits overall. While you change your aligners every two weeks, you visit the office every six to ten weeks. Fewer visits overall mean that there are fewer interruptions in your busy schedule.
Completely ComputerizedWhile traditional metal braces are a highly effective treatment plan, there is a certain degree of unpredictability involved with them. Clear aligners are created for you based on 3-dimensional images of your mouth. Once these images are taken, they are displayed on a computer monitor. Thanks to specialized software, we can more accurately predict the outcome of your procedure. We are then able to design the custom fit aligners you need to help you achieve the desired results. Computerized treatment plans don't just benefit us. You can benefit from seeing your custom treatment plan. You can see your treatment stage by stage and develop more realistic expectations about your treatment. This allows you to stay well informed, and truly become involved in your orthodontic treatment.
Clear aligners offer an aesthetic alternative to traditional metal braces that can straighten your teeth and help you to achieve the smile you have always dreamed of. For more information about clear aligners, and to find out if they are right for you, contact Amborn Orthodontics today at (503) 967-9887!