Think back to your teen years. How many of your friends had braces? Perhaps you did too. Many adults who didn't have braces as a teen, or whose teeth have become misaligned, are opting to fix their smile later in life.
But what if you don't want metal brackets in your mouth? Clear aligners are an alternative option that will turn a crooked smile straight.
Metal or Clear Braces?
There are many teeth-straightening treatments available. Perhaps the most recognized option is traditional metal braces. Metal braces consist of brackets that are affixed to your teeth. Wires are threaded through slots in the brackets. The brackets are typically made of stainless steel and the wires stay connected to the brackets by small rubber bands. The wires put a constant, yet gentle, force to properly align your teeth.
Aligners are thin, clear trays made to fit your teeth. Unlike metal braces, aligners are removable. The patient is responsible for putting them in and taking them out. Patients receive sets of aligners designed to move their teeth using the same method as braces: constant, gentle pressure.
Benefits of Clear Aligners
Aligners offer some benefits that metal braces don't. Aligners allow for easier brushing and flossing since they're removed for cleaning. Plus, food won't get stuck like with metal brackets.
Because aligners don't have brackets or wires that can loosen, they may require fewer repairs and fewer emergency visits to the orthodontist.
The biggest benefit is that clear aligners are nearly invisible, meaning many people won't be able to tell you're wearing them at all.
The first step to getting your teeth aligned is meeting with your orthodontist. They will perform an oral exam and take a series of X-rays and photos of your head and mouth. They will also take an impression of your teeth to plan your treatment.
Traditional braces require orthodontic adjustment every four to six weeks. Patients typically wear braces for one to three years, although your orthodontist will have a better idea of your time frame after developing your treatment plan.
If you choose aligners, your orthodontist will give you several sets. Each set should be worn for one to two weeks, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Aligners should be worn for 22 hours a day and are taken out of the mouth for eating, brushing and flossing. As with braces, patients will need to wear a retainer after clear aligners.
Which Is More Effective?
Metal braces tend to be more effective at adjusting teeth that have severe overcrowding. Metal braces may also cost less than aligners. And, since they're fastened to your teeth, you don't have to worry about misplacing or losing them.
On the other hand, a study published in The Angle Orthodontist found that the average total treatment time with aligners was shorter than with conventional braces, though the cost was higher.
If you want to improve your smile but cringe at the thought of metal braces, talk to an orthodontist about your options. Clear aligners might be the solution for you.