Orthodontic aligners such as Invisalign and SureSmile are a series of clear plastic trays that are pre-formed to place pressure to move the teeth in small increments. A computer simulation allows us to create a whole series of aligners to gradually move your teeth from start to finish.
Each week, a new set of upper and lower aligners will be worn that are designed how we want the teeth to be positioned by the end of that week, hence placing small amounts of pressure to guide the teeth to fit snug into each aligner. This usually takes a 7-14 days if the aligners are worn correctly; 22 hours a day and only taken out to eat, drink anything other than water, and clean.
Along with the clear plastic aligners, there may be tooth coloured “buttons” placed on some of the teeth to help activate and place pressure in precise locations on certain teeth. These are created using tooth coloured filling material and are fairly well blended with the teeth. Aligners (like braces) may also come with elastic bands that connect the upper and lower jaws towards the side/ back of the mouth to help position the jaw. Sometimes when crowding is present with aligners, slight adjustments to the width of the teeth may be made by polishing in between the teeth to create space for the teeth to move past each other.
Both braces and aligners are very effective at moving teeth; however some cases work better or are more suited to one than the other. Your dental practitioner will be able to provide better guidance on which options might suit you the best.
The predominant factor choosing between braces and aligners is often compliance and oral hygiene. Aligners are removable whereas braces are (temporarily) glued in place, which means that aligners must be remembered to be worn every day and put back in after every meal. Having braces makes brushing more challenging and time consuming, as brackets and wires interfere with normal brushing techniques and add additional things to clean. If a patient has poor oral hygiene habits, aligners have an advantage as they are able to be removed to brush and floss easily, and in the event of dental decay, fillings can be placed easier too. Regardless, when we are moving the teeth we do want nice healthy teeth and gums to ensure teeth move promptly and predictably and the end result is beautiful healthy straight teeth without decay or gum disease!
Aligners give an option to those compliant patients that are committed to their teeth realignment journey and would like to have a more cosmetic or “invisible” treatment. The first steps are to do a full orthodontic assessment and measurement, take a digital scan of the teeth and within a couple of weeks a simulation of the movement and final position of the teeth will be generated for perusal and approval before the aligners are made ready to proceed with treatment.