Buying Teeth Aligners Over the Counter and What to Consider

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Many people want straighter teeth. In the United States and Canada alone, more than 4 million people are currently in an orthodontist's care, reports the Canadian Association of Orthodontists. If you're interested in straightening your teeth, you may have heard about teeth aligners you can buy at a store or online. Before you purchase teeth aligners over the counter, here's what you should know.

How Over-the-Counter Teeth Aligners Work

Teeth aligners are clear, thin trays that fit on top of the teeth. These trays gently shift the position of the teeth. Each tray is worn for approximately two weeks, and then it is replaced with a new tray that continues to shift the teeth until they reach the desired position. Orthodontists can provide clear aligners, but some companies sell them directly to consumers.

Generally, these companies provide customers with a modeling kit. Customers need to take impressions of their own teeth with this kit and send the impressions to the company. The impressions are used to create a set of custom-made aligners, which are then shipped directly to the customer. Once the aligners arrive, customers wear them as directed. Typically, this treatment process does not require a visit to a dentist or orthodontist.

How Traditional Braces Work

Traditional metal braces require a different process. People who are considering braces must meet with an orthodontist in person for an oral examination and evaluation. This evaluation will likely involve X-rays of the head and mouth and dental impressions. The orthodontist can then review the X-rays and create an individualized treatment plan. Once the metal braces have been applied, you can expect to return to your orthodontist every four to six weeks for adjustments.

For people with severely overcrowded teeth, metal braces tend to be more effective than other orthodontic options, like aligners. Metal braces give orthodontists a lot of control over the movement of the teeth, and they can shift the teeth in precise increments until the perfect result is achieved.

Potential Issues With Over-the-Counter Aligners

While purchasing teeth aligners over-the-counter may seem like an easy, affordable way to get straighter teeth, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) lists a number of potential issues to consider first. Patients may not receive an in-person evaluation before treatment begins, which is concerning because not everyone is a good candidate for aligners. Some individuals' teeth and gums aren't healthy enough to begin orthodontic treatment. Others may have orthodontic conditions that are better suited to traditional braces or need treatment prior to braces being placed.

While using over-the-counter aligners, you may not receive hands-on supervision from an orthodontist, who is able to monitor your progress and address any concerns that arise during treatment. The AAO emphasizes that when orthodontic treatment isn't done correctly, complications — like gum damage, tooth loss and bite changes — can occur. It can be expensive to repair these problems, and in some cases, the damage to your teeth may be irreversible.

If you want to straighten your teeth, consult your dentist and orthodontist. These dental professionals can determine if you're a good candidate for orthodontics, and if so, they can design an appropriate treatment plan to make your ideal smile a reality.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Oral Care Tips Related to ADULT ORTHODONTICS

  • Flossing – creating a flossing routine is important during orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists and hygienists may recommend interdental brushes or floss threaders to make getting in between teeth easier.

  • Brushing routine – using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush are ideal for cleaning teeth with braces. Begin brushing at a 45-degree angle at the gum line using small circular motions. Then place the toothbrush on top of the brackets, angling down to brush on top of each bracket. Finally, reposition the brush to brush the bottom of the bracket as well as the wire, angling the toothbrush up.

  • Fluoride mouthwash – after brushing and flossing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities and white spots.

  • Mouthguards – wear a mouthguard if you play sports. Mouthguards can protect your cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to your braces or orthodontic appliance if you fall down or are hit in the face.