Clear orthodontic aligners are used to treat crowded teeth, gaps, and bite issues, such as overbites, underbites, open bites, and cross bites. Since Invisalign came on the market in 1998 as the first brand of clear aligners, the product has gained significantly in popularity, spurring a number of similar product lines by other manufacturers.
When you are considering straightening your teeth with clear aligners, it’s important to understand how effective and reliable the technology actually is. Here are five issues to consider:
Advantages of clear aligners over traditional braces
Invisible aligners are extremely popular for their inconspicuous look, as well as their safe and quick results. Here are some benefits from clear aligners:
- Practically invisible. If you dislike the look of metal braces, you will appreciate the fact that clear aligners are nearly impossible to see on your teeth.
- No food restrictions. Unlike traditional braces, clear aligners use removable trays that can be removed when you eat, so you don’t have to avoid sticky, chewy, or crunchy foods.
- Short treatment period. Clear aligners often work much more quickly than traditional orthodontic treatment methods, sometimes completing the straightening process in as little as 6–12 months.
- Fewer problems. Most people who have worn traditional metal braces have experienced a problem, such as a broken wire or loose bracket, that led to an emergency orthodontist visit. Clear aligners are not prone to such issues.
Drawbacks of clear aligners
Clear aligners are not for everyone. This type of treatment has its disadvantages, as well. Clear aligners must be worn for 20-22 hours each day to obtain the maximum benefit. They must also be removed when eating or drinking, which increases the chances of misplacing the appliance.
Research shows that clear aligners work best for certain demographics and situations. There are certain factors that increase the effectiveness of the aligners.
- Only remove them when eating, drinking, brushing or flossing teeth, or cleaning the aligners.
- Avoid the use of hot water that could warp the plastic.
- The aligners are more effective for people aged 35–50, when the rate of tooth movement slightly increases.
Effectiveness of clear aligners
Research on aligners is still limited, but anecdotal evidence claims that clear aligners are effective, particularly the newer versions that impose increased force on the teeth. Studies indicate that clear aligners are most effective for minor corrective issues. Braces are better able to correct teeth that are severely crooked because they exert a higher level of force on the teeth and actually move them from the root. For this reason, more complex issues or the existence of bridge work on your teeth may negate the effectiveness of clear aligners and require more traditional orthodontic straightening procedures.
Cost of clear aligners
The expense of treatment with clear aligners is comparable to that of traditional braces. The cost will vary depending on the complexity of your alignment problem and the length of treatment you require. Some dental insurance plans pay for the cost of clear aligners, as they can help to fight tooth decay and correct bite problems that could cause additional dental problems down the line if left untreated. If your insurance does not cover the treatment, you may want to talk with your orthodontist about a payment plan.
Ultimately, there are a number of factors to consider when you are assessing whether clear aligners are the right option for you. If you have a relatively simple issue with your teeth and it’s important for you to have an inconspicuous appliance that you will take care of and commit to wearing for most of the day, a clear aligner may be the best solution for you.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.