Is it even possible to correct your smile without braces? Impossible, I would have told until a few years ago when Aligners were invented. I wonder how could someone come up with such a brilliant idea of moving teeth without fixing braces onto them, truly some genius minds have worked behind this awesome invention. In this article I shall try and explain the facts and myths about clear aligners.
Do aligners really work?
A good system of aligners like the Invisalign system certainly works, they have a good track record of more than a decade and so many documented cases in which doctors around the world have used Invisalign aligners to treat their cases as effectively as with fixed braces. So, its proven and it works.
What are clear aligners ?
Clear aligners are made of plastic like material, which are clear (transparent) and hence hardly noticeable at speaking distance and are custom made as per the dimension of each individual’s set of teeth. The clear aligners have evolved a long way and there have been some significant advances over the years and today most of the cases can be treated without fixed braces, using clear aligners, with only a few exceptions.
Which age group does it suit?
Invisalign aligners can be used on any age group for that matter, starting from as early as 8 years to 60+ years of age, all that it requires is motivation and a desire to correct your smile.
How does it work ?
It all starts with a digital, 3 D intra oral scan of your upper and lower teeth and the scans are then sent to the Aligntech lab in the united states (Aligntech is the world leader in clear aligners, the Invisalign system and I am proud to work with them). Your digital scan is used to section each individual tooth digitally, which is then repositioned in an ideal position that will add aesthetic value to your face. This gives them the final goal in the digital format.
They then make multiple images (around 30 to 40) that would have repositioned the teeth in a very small increment, say 0.5mm, than the previous image until the final goal is reached. So, they now have your initial scanned image and around 30 to 40 images of your teeth that are gradually repositioned to an ideal position until the desired final end result is achieved.
Now a high-quality clear aligner is custom fabricated to each set of images that was digitally created to make a total of 30 to 40 sets of clear aligners.
As a patient, you will be expected to wear the first set of aligners for one to two weeks and then move on to wear the second set of aligners for the same duration, so an and so forth, until the desired final result is achieved.
How is it different from fixed braces?
Braces are fixed onto your teeth while aligners are removable. (All that follows is primarily based on this single feature)
You can continue to enjoy your favourite food without worrying whether the braces might break while eating – gives you a better quality of life.
You can maintain good oral hygiene as you will remove the aligners and brush your teeth as you would normally do, while with fixed braces you will have to invest additional time to maintain good oral hygiene.
Well suited for people who do active sports- you will remove the aligners while playing and hence can avoid sports injury to your lips and cheeks which is a possibility with fixed braces. (Imagine getting hit with a football over the face while having fixed braces, ouch!!).
Hardly noticeable at speaking distance as they are made of clear material and hence chosen by working adults widely.
Say you had to relocate midway during treatment, you will not pay again for the aligners as you have already paid once when you start and your new doctor can request additional aligners from Invisalign, free of cost, within the warranty period.
What’s the downside?
Everything has an upside and downside, right? The only downside as far as I know is that its removable and requires a good co operation from the patient – you must wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day. If you don’t wear them regularly, you might not get the desired results or your treatment might get prolonged. With fixed braces, it stays attached and continues to work whether you like it or not.
Invisalign aligners will cost you a little more than fixed braces but when you compare the quality of life, ability to maintain good oral hygiene etc, the additional cost is worth the investment.
If you are someone who will be very regular with the aligner wear, then go for it or else go for fixed braces.
Whether you opt for fixed braces or for aligners, get your smile corrected, that’s important.
Dr Diwakar Raju,
Shams Al Waha medical
centre, Al Ain