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What Can I Expect When I Get Clear Aligners? [Ask an Orthodontist]
A modern type of orthodontic appliance, clear aligners apply gentle pressure to the teeth to create a straighter, better-aligned smile. These aligners are considered by most to be more aesthetically pleasing than traditional braces and can be more hygienic as well. Although they are relatively simple to use, patients often have questions about what to expect when getting clear aligners.
Common questions about clear aligners
Some of the most commonly asked questions concern the length of time each aligner is worn, daily hygiene habits while wearing aligners and the total length of time for treatment.
How long must each aligner be worn?
There are two aspects to the length of time each aligner is worn: the daily amount of time spent wearing the aligner and the length of time each retainer lasts. The retainers typically need to be worn about 23 hours a day and should be taken out only for eating and performing daily oral hygiene habits. Usually, the retainers can be worn while drinking beverages but must be removed for eating in order not to crack them while chewing; this includes eating candy or chewing gum.
Each retainer is usually worn for about two weeks, at which time the patient sees the dentist to get the next set of aligners. This process continues until the desired orthodontic tooth movement is complete.
What are the recommended daily hygiene habits while wearing aligners?
One of the main benefits of clear aligners versus traditional braces is that the patient is better able to maintain oral hygiene. Unlike the bulky brackets used in regular braces, the retainers can be completely removed, so the patient can continue all normal hygiene habits. This includes brushing and flossing twice daily or more as needed. An added step is that the retainers should be brushed with a toothbrush as well to remove any plaque or debris. This prevents plaque from collecting in the aligners and creating problems for the teeth.
What is the total length of time for treatment?
Each patient's expected length of treatment is different, varying greatly by the type of orthodontic treatment that is necessary and the severity of the case. Some patients may see results as soon as six months while others may need much longer. For example, correcting minimal crowding will take less time than adjusting an entire bite.
The dentist can keep the patient informed of progress, and the patient can help reduce the need to extend treatment by wearing the aligners as recommended. Any lapse in wearing retainers can lead to extended treatment time.
Orthodontic treatment has made many advances in recent years, and the ability to change the position of teeth without traditional braces is one of those advancements. While using clear aligners is a relatively easy process for the patient, there must be open communication between the patient and dentist throughout. Patient compliance plays a large part in the treatment's success, so patients should fully understand the process before beginning.
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