If you were lucky enough to get through your teenage years without a set of hefty, uncomfortable braces, chances are that your adult teeth might be in need of a little help to achieve their optimal position and best aesthetic outcome. I was one of those children who had braces for most of my adolescent life. If you’re in this boat (or if you’re trying to straighten your teeth after they’ve relapsed), you’ve probably discovered the technological sorcery referred to as ‘aligners’.
They are the answer to the prayers of every braced-face past or present, and promise a world of discrete, stealthy dental wizardry.
Orthodontic treatment is the dental specialty which addresses tooth and bite alignment issues. Traditionally, the practice of orthodontic therapy involved cumbersome headgear, which then evolved into more ‘elegant’ braces. These braces were then shrunk down further, given self-ligating brackets, and positioned to create a less obvious visual intrusion.
Technology has ensured that braces are no longer the most effective and easy way to straighten teeth. Over the past 15 years, aligners have become more sophisticated and more common, with a range of orthodontists and dentists (such as this dentist in South Melbourne) now opting to treat patients exclusively using aligners.
So, what exactly are aligners? Simply put, aligners are a series of clear plastic trays designed to gradually shift teeth into position. Unlike traditional braces, aligners are designed to be removed so that eating, drinking and brushing can be completed effectively. Aligners can also be provided by dentists, meaning that referral to a specialist orthodontist isn’t necessary. This leads to greater accessibility of service within areas without access to an orthodontist.
Aligners work in a similar way to traditional braces; through the application of constant pressure and through incremental movements designed to create space in the jaw and create better bite mechanics. Unlike traditional braces, they are removable, meaning that they can be removed for occasions where you might want to look your best and feel unencumbered (eg; a wedding, a date, a passport photo or headshot).
The ability to remove them means that it’s important to establish ground rules regarding compliance. For maximum efficacy, aligners should be worn for around 22 hours per day, with breaks only for eating and brushing. Better outcomes are associated with compliance to these hours, so it’s important to consider whether this is likely to be an issue for you or your family if you choose to proceed with aligners.
There are other elements to undergoing orthodontic treatment with aligners. Common accompaniments to aligners include elastic bands (for bite mechanics) and the use of LPR (tooth shaving) to create extra room between teeth and to reshape teeth for improved aesthetics and function.
Small tooth-coloured bumps known as ‘buttons’ are usually created on certain teeth in order to create a point of anchor and pressure for the aligners to adhere to. In cases where there is significant overbite (or crossbite), a small titanium implant known as a TAD (temporary anchorage device) can be placed in the mouth in order to create a more predictable movement in order to improve jaw function and alignment.
Brighter Than Bright
Many people undertake orthodontic treatment with aligners to improve the aesthetic appearance of their teeth. Aligners are particularly useful to anyone needing an excuse to improve their overall dental health. As teeth are fully encapsulated with the aligners, it’s important to make sure that all other dental health concerns are up to date, and that dental hygiene is optimal before undertaking orthodontic treatment.
They can also act as trays in which to undertake whitening as your teeth align, meaning that your teeth will not only be healthier and straighter at the end of treatment – but also whiter and brighter.
Aligners provide suitable candidates an incognito orthodontic option without the need for a set of obvious, metal braces. Their removability, simplicity and improved hygiene makes them an attractive option for adults, professionals, and for anyone feeling a bit jaded about undertaking the full-metal experience.
Make sure you keep your teeth nice and clean too, get a good routine from an early age with your children and they will always be nice and bright. If you have any good ideas I would love to hear them in the comments below.