What are clear aligners?

You may have heard about clear aligners as an alternative to traditional metal braces and wondered if that could be an option for you. Let’s look into what clear aligners are and how they can help you.

A patient receiving a fitting for clear aligners

What are clear aligners?

Clear aligners describe a series of clear trays that are closely aligned with your teeth that you change over every 1-2 weeks. They are like mouthguards, but very thin and made of hard plastic so that they can’t be noticed when you smile. They put pressure on the teeth to move them orthodontically into position. Aligners should be worn at least 22 hours a day and should only be removed when eating or cleaning your teeth. They move the teeth in a step-wise manner, with each successive aligner moving the teeth part of the way to their final destination. By the end of the course of trays your dream smile is achieved!

Invisalign is a company that is the market leader in clear aligners. However, there are many other companies and even local dental laboratories that get the same amazing results. Sometimes clear aligners are referred to as “invisible braces” and they are indeed hard to detect. This is why they are so popular. Many people want to undergo teeth straightening without having metal in their mouth, for varying reasons such as aesthetics and gum irritation. Metal braces are also very difficult to brush properly, leading to plaque accumulation around the teeth. This makes clear aligners a great option without the worry of hard-to-clean, unattractive metal braces. Occasionally a case can be too complex for clear aligners and metal braces would be the only option to get the best result- your dentist will guide you in this if needed.

A dentist making a clear aligner mould

What’s the process?

Firstly, your dentist assesses your case and discusses your treatment options. If clear aligners are an option for you and clear aligners are your preference then:

  1. A 3D scan is taken by your dentist. This is sent off to the clear aligner provider.
  2. Once assessed, a 3D simulation of what your teeth will look like after treatment is sent back to your dentist. This is your chance to see what your teeth and even your smile will look like after treatment. It is at this point your dentist will be able to give you the number of months you’ll need to be wearing the clear aligners for.
  3. The trays are ordered and an appointment is set to have small tooth coloured composite resin ‘attachments’ placed on teeth. These act as anchors to help the aligners move the teeth in the desired directions.
  4. You get your composite attachments placed on the teeth and you are sent home with the first set of aligners. You can expect to have a dental visit, review of progress and further aligners issued about every 2-6 weeks. Sometimes at these appointments, small amounts of space is made between tight stubborn spaces by gently filing between the teeth.
  5. You change your aligners every 1-2 weeks and you watch as your teeth become straighter and straighter!
  6. At the end of treatment, the composite attachments are polished off. Also, discussion is had regarding what form of retainers the patient wishes to have. Retainers such as glued in wires behind the front teeth or removable retainers worn at night are essential to ensure your teeth don’t relapse back into their old positions.
Woman smiling with clear dental aligners

How long is the treatment?

Without the scans done and a full assessment made it’s hard to tell exactly how long treatment would be, however usually clear aligners have a much shorter treatment time compared with metal braces. Cases will usually be completed after 3-12 months of aligner use.

What do you have to do?

Adherence to wearing the clear aligners is essential to the success of treatment. These trays are best worn 22 hours a day, so it’s a commitment that needs to be taken seriously, with the trays only removed during meals and oral hygiene. But many people find this easy enough and will do so in order to avoid metal braces and are motivated by seeing the changes in their smile every week.

What’s the cost of clear aligners?

Cost depends on the complexity of the case and the number of aligners needed. This leaves a range of approximately $3000-$8000. With such a broad range it’s clear why a consultation with your dentist is needed.

Choosing an experienced clear aligners dentists

The first step is really in choosing a dentist experienced in clear aligners. At Crows Nest Dentists our dentists are well-trained in “Invisalign” and have guided patients to their dream smile. Don’t put off getting the smile of your dreams, start smiling confidently and book in for your Invisalign consultation today!