What is the clear aligner process?
Let’s be honest for a second, we all want a more attractive smile. After all, your smile is the first thing that others notice about you. It comes as no surprise that straightening your teeth improves your appearance. Having an even smile makes you look and feel better. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean because they trap less food practices as compared to crooked teeth. This is why straight teeth are also healthier teeth!
So what are the ways you can straighten your smile? Traditionally, braces were your only option to fix your smile problems. That changed 20 years ago when clear aligner technology was introduced. Clear aligners are a series of plastic trays designed to move your teeth without the need to wear brackets and wires. Clear aligners are comfortable, barely visible, and they can be removed when needed. In contrast, braces hurt more, can be an eyesore, and are stuck to your teeth for the duration of treatment.
Naturally, patients love wearing clear aligners. Clear aligners can be used to close small gaps, straighten crooked teeth, fix overbites, and many other types of orthodontic misalignments. If you’re considering straightening your teeth with clear aligner technology, you’re probably wondering about the process of wearing clear aligners. How do clear aligners fix your smile? Let’s take a look at the 7 steps involved in clear aligner therapy:
Step 1: Orthodontic consultation
The first step is to make sure that you’re actually a good candidate for wearing clear aligners. Difficult orthodontic misalignments, such as a crossbite or underbite, do not qualify for clear aligner treatment. The most complicated orthodontic movements always require braces, sometimes in conjunction with tooth extraction, palatal expansion, or even jaw surgery. Schedule a consultation with a local dentist orthodontist to see if you’re a candidate for clear aligner therapy or if you need to wear braces.
Step 2: Orthodontic treatment
The next step is to make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy and strong enough to handle clear aligner therapy. Placing clear aligners on teeth with cavities or gum disease is dangerous and risky. You should always obtain clearance prior to starting any type of orthodontic treatment. This involves a thorough examination of your teeth and gums, probably a dental cleaning if you are due one, and fixing all essential underlying dental conditions. Once cleared, you’re set to start your clear aligner treatment immediately.
Step 3: Dental records
Your dentist or orthodontist must obtain necessary dental records to start your clear aligner treatment. The most important dental record are moldings or digital impressions of your upper and lower teeth. These are used to communicate your teeth shape, size, and position with the dental laboratory. Your dentist will either take impressions of your teeth using putty or scan your teeth using an intraoral scanner. Additional dental records may include photos, necessary X-rays, and bite relationship. Obtaining dental records is easy and quick and usually takes about half-an-hour to an hour.
Step 4: Treatment planning your clear aligner therapy
Once your doctor has obtained all necessary dental records, he or she will send them to the laboratory. The lab technician will scan these records into the computer. They will follow your doctor’s prescription to design a 3D animation of your projected tooth movement. There are many factors which must be taken into consideration to give you the best end results:
- What is your primary concern regarding your smile?
- Which teeth should be moved and which ones should (dental implants, bridges, etc.)?
- Are there teeth that are too large and require contouring?
- Is there a tooth that needs to be rotated with additional torque?
- Does your midline, canine, or molar teeth require correction?
The lab technician and your doctor work together to design a projected animation of your tooth movement. Your doctor either approves this design or makes necessary modifications to improve the design. This process is repeated until your doctor is satisfied with your tooth movement projection. Why go this process? Because you only get one set of adult teeth and messing them up is not an option!
Step 5: Start wearing your clear aligners
Once your doctor has approved your treatment plan it’s now time to make the actual clear aligners. The lab technician uses 3D printing technology to create a series of clear aligners for your smile. You receive your clear aligners at-home (for at-home aligner programs like Smile Direct Club™ or Even28 at-home™) or from your dentist (for Invisalign®). It’s now time to start wearing your clear aligners and straightening your smile. The key to success with any orthodontic treatment is compliance, so you must wear your aligners as instructed. Whether it’s all day, half-a-day or overnight, you must follow your dentist instructions to get the results you desire. Click here to learn about the 3 different methods you can wear your clear aligners to achieve the best end results.
Step 6: Monitoring your progress
Simpler orthodontic treatment can be completed using at-home clear aligners, without the need to visit your dentist or orthodontist every few weeks. However, for more complicated tooth movements you must visit your dentist or orthodontist periodically. This means that you need to see your dentist or orthodontist every two to eight weeks until you’re treatment is complete. Your doctor will perform treatments such as tooth contouring, attachment placement or bite adjustment to ensure the success of your treatment. They will also monitor your progress to ensure treatment is going as planned and make corrections if necessary.
Step 7: Review your final results
Straightening your smile is a delicate process and subtle details make a big difference. Things like establishing an accurate bite or correcting your tooth-to-tooth contact will affect the overall well-being of your mouth for the rest of your life. Wearing clear aligners without proper dentist supervision could mess up your bite, harm your teeth, or damage your existing dental restorations. Therefore it’s important to follow up with your dentist to ensure that treatment has gone according to plan. Occasionally, your doctor may take additional corrective measures to fix unforeseen issues. This may involve bite calibration, fixing certain teeth or using additional clear aligners for corrective measures.
What are my options for straightening my teeth with clear aligners?
Clear aligners are becoming very popular. There are now more than a dozen different companies that can help you straighten your teeth using clear aligners. We categorize clear aligners as either at-home or dentist-directed programs. Here’s how they work:
Option 1 – Clear aligner treatment at home
At-home clear aligner treatment is suitable for the simplest orthodontic movements. This includes closing small gaps, straightening slightly crooked teeth (1-2 millimeters of crowding), closing tiny overbites, and other very minor orthodontic tooth movements. Here’s a list of a few different companies that offer at-home clear aligner therapy:
Option 2 – Clear aligner therapy at your local dentist or orthodontist
More sophisticated tooth movements require dentist supervision. Your dentist does more than just hand you a bunch of aligners. They place attachments to torque stubborn teeth, perform tooth contouring to create additional room, and adjust your bite to correct any interferences. Dentist-delivered clear aligner treatment is suitable for more advanced orthodontic cases. These include teeth crowding, moderate overbites, openbites, and other moderate-to-advanced orthodontic misalignments. Here’s a list of a few different dentist-delivered clear aligner treatment options which you can choose from:
By now you should have a clear understanding of how clear aligners work and what they can and can’t accomplish. Now all that’s left is finding a great dentist who can straighten your smile for you. Head on over to our Search Engine and research nearby dentists to find a great dentist near you. Best of luck with your clear aligner journey!