Is a mouth full of metal the only way to straighten my teeth?


Ever since braces were invented in 1728 by Dr. Pierre Fauchard until 1997 the answer was, yes, this is the price to pay for getting that perfect smile. However, with the development of a clear aligner system, straightening teeth has become an easy and convenient process. You can actually get your teeth straightened without anyone knowing you are undergoing treatment until they notice one day that all of your teeth are straight!


What are clear aligners?


Clear aligners are a technologically advanced method used to straighten teeth. The actual clear aligner is a transparent tray made of highly specialized medical grade thermoplastic. The job of a clear aligner is to fit over the teeth comfortably while simultaneously applying very specific amounts of pressure on the teeth. In simple terms - a clear aligner is a medical device that looks like a piece of plastic that is used to straighten your teeth. Ever since its invention in 1997, over 7 million people worldwide have used clear aligners to straighten their teeth.


Why have I never heard of clear aligners before?


Clear aligners is a treatment that has been universally accepted as far more comfortable and user-friendly than traditional braces, yet prohibitively expensive. In recent years, thanks to major advancement in 3-D printing technology as well as an increasingly competitive market, the production costs have come down considerably. We utilize the latest advancement in aligner production systems to provide clear aligners at a price comparable to metal braces.


How are clear aligners more convenient than braces?


This is the biggest and most important difference between braces and clear aligners. There are two areas of life which are a night and day difference between the two types of treatments. The first and foremost difference is with regard to eating. With braces, food often gets stuck and there are many limitations on what you can eat. With aligners, you simply slide off the aligners, eat whatever you want, brush your teeth and put them back on. Another difference is with regard to aesthetics. With braces, everyone sees them. Aligners are invisible to the point that even someone talking to you at close proximity will very likely not even notice them in your mouth.


How do I know if clear aligners will work for me?


As with any medical procedure, there is a certain amount of preliminary health checkup that must be done beforehand. Orthodontic treatment is no different. The dentist must see x rays in order to determine how much movement the roots are capable of handling and that there are no other medical issues that require attention, or that may interfere with the planned treatment. Once all of the lights are green it’s time to take impression and begin treatment


How long does the clear aligner process take?


The way treatment is planned out allows for slight gradual movement of the teeth in 2-week stages. A case which only requires slight movement of the teeth can be finished in a matter of a few months. A more advanced case can take roughly one year to straighten. As a general rule, the treatment is finished in roughly half the time that braces would take.


How do I know that my teeth won’t go back to how they were?


What many people don’t realize is that orthodontic treatment is actually a two-step process. The first stage is where the teeth are moved into position. This can be done either with braces or with clear aligners. The result is the same. When the teeth have been moved into the ideal state you are far from finished. At this point the teeth are highly prone to relapse, meaning that they will most likely go back to their original position. This is where the retainer comes in.  The idea of a retainer is to hold the teeth in their new position long enough for the supporting bone to rebuild and regain its original strength. This takes somewhere between 3-6 months. After that, the dentist will give instructions regarding how often the retainer should be worn in the long-term.


How are clear aligners made?


The impressions can be taken either with alginate or, in more advanced clinics, with a 3D intraoral scanner. The impressions then get sent to the lab where they are then scanned into a computer where the teeth are displayed on the screen. This is where the treatment is planned out by moving the teeth to their desired location and creating the “ideal arch”. Once the ideal state of the teeth is determined, the system then divides the entire process into two-week intervals which are printed out using a 3D printer. What comes out of the printer are virtual models of the teeth showing their position at each stage of the process. Each model is clearly marked and if you look closely you can detect ever so slight changes in their position from one model to the next. What happens next is the production of the aligner. The model is then placed in a machine known as a thermoforming machine. The job of the thermoforming machine is to precisely heat up a plastic disk until it has achieved a very specific pliability and to then quickly apply positive pressure on the model. This allows the plastic to take the exact shape of the model. Once cooled off, a technician then cuts away the excess plastic and polish the edges. The plastic that is formed will now resemble a clear retainer.


How is a clear aligner different than a clear retainer?


The only difference between a clear aligner and a clear retainer is which teeth position they are modeled after. A clear retainer is modeled after your actual teeth while the clear aligner is built on the virtual model of how you want your teeth to look. This means that the model that the clear aligner is built on must be similar enough to the current state of the teeth that the resulting aligner will fit in the mouth comfortably, while at the same time applying slight pressure in order to move the teeth along in their alignment process. That delicate balance between comfort and progress is the secret behind the success of the clear aligner process.