According to ELLE Magazine, orthodontic treatments are very easy to find behind a “Hollywood smile”: their recent compilation of celebrities who had braces or retainers included huge household names like Emma Watson, Ryan Seacrest, and Prince Harry.
Most of them had braces while they were still kids. So what happens if you missed your chance at braces during primary school? Orthodontic treatments in adults tend to be longer and more expensive — so that could be a few years of dealing with metal peeking through your winning smile.
Fortunately, there are now popular alternatives that can offer similar results with less hassle, such as Invisible braces. Learn more about them below.
What are Invisible Aligners?
Invisible aligners are also sometimes known as invisible braces, clear aligners, or after the original brand name Invisalign©. Invisible aligners are clear trays made from medical-grade plastic that are attached directly on top of your teeth.
These will slowly push your teeth into the desired position. Unlike regular braces, invisible aligners don’t need any screws, metal, or frequent adjustments.
Does this sound like the right system for you? Here, we have gathered the most important information about them. You can also talk to your dentist to get a free consultation and a 3D scan.
5 Things to Know About Invisible Aligners
Here, we have compiled the basic information about invisible aligners and how they work.
1. Aligners work best if you’re young and need to push teeth around
Invisible aligners can’t correct the all same range of orthodontic cases as traditional braces. However, they work remarkably well for people with mild to moderate teeth alignment cases, in less time than standard fixed braces would.
Most of the time, they are used to correct cases that require pushing your teeth around your tooth line. This includes:
Minor or moderate teeth crowding.
Tooth gaps, or extra spaces between your teeth.
Mild to moderate underbite and overbites, which is when one of your rows of teeth falls behind the other one.
Overall, invisible aligners have no age limit. Biologically, teeth can be moved or aligned at any age, from childhood into adulthood.
That being said, there are some limits to what aligners can achieve: if you've already had major restoration work, such as crowns, bridges, implants, or active cavities, invisible aligners may not be your best bet. Your dentist will be the best person to consult on how to go about it.
2. They work at home while you do other things
Invisible aligners are custom-made based on an impression from your teeth. You will get a set of numbered trays, and you will have to wear them in the exact order they are numbered.
Start with the aligner tray labelled 1, and wear it every day for 1 to 2 weeks. Then, move onto the one labelled 2, and so on. The full treatment can include anywhere between 6 to 50 aligner trays. On average, the full treatment takes 20 to 30 trays and about a year, but it may take anywhere between three months to a year and a half.
You will have to wear these trays for 22 hours per day, and remove them only at mealtimes or when brushing your teeth. You can read more about how it works here.
So what makes them easier than braces?
They’re discreet: even people talking to you won’t be able to tell you are wearing them.
They’re less painful and more comfortable.
You won’t need as many control visits to the dentist as with metal braces.
Treatments with invisible aligners also take less time: about a year on average, as opposed to 18 months to 3 years for metal braces.
You will be able to eat anything you want — just take the aligner off before eating that toffee.
They make it easier to stick to your oral hygiene routine, with no special toothbrushes needed.
3. Getting started is easy and remote-friendly!
Thanks to technology, getting started is easy, and you can do it from home. Through the Adent Health app, you can check your eligibility for invisible aligners by snapping 5 good pictures of your mouth and teeth with your phone and letting the AI calculate an “eligibility score”. This is free!
If the initial scan looks good, you’ll need to visit a dentist to get a complete 3D scan of your teeth. This will help determine how many trays you will need and the exact progression between them. Plus, with a little bit of computer magic, the same scan will help you preview the expected results of your treatment. Just keep in mind that the visualization is “expected” so it may not be 100% accurate. However, it never hurts to visualize a goal.
4. The side effects are milder than with braces
There is a moderate “adaptation curve” when you first get started with invisible aligners. You will need to adapt to the feel of your aligner trays through most of the day.
Some people report experiencing some discomfort, especially during the first few days. Occasionally, this reappears for up to a day, whenever they switch to a new tray.
People who opted for aligners also report feeling less pain than those who had braces. Plus, you won’t have to deal with food getting stuck in the wires, or the frequent canker sores caused by the braces rubbing against your gum or inner cheek.
This might be why people who get invisible aligners are more likely to complete the full treatment than those with fixed braces.
5. There are different aftercare options
The full treatment with invisible aligners takes about a year, on average. After the treatment ends successfully, you may need to go through a "maintenance" phase. This could mean either:
Fixed retainers, bonded at the back of your front teeth
Removable retainers that you will wear while you sleep.
Either of these options will help you ensure that your newly straightened teeth won't move back to their original positions.
The Bottom Line
Invisible aligners are a great alternative to braces. They are less painful and almost completely invisible, which has made them very popular among adults -- they let you get on with your life as normal! This is why 98% of patients who tried out invisible retainers said that they would do it again.
If you are considering invisible aligners and want to explore your options, try out Adent Health’s free smartphone-powered scan or book a free consultation with your dentist here.
1.- Ke, Y., Zhu, Y., & Zhu, M. (2019). A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies. BMC oral health, 19(1), 24. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343314/
2.- Papadimitriou, A., Mousoulea, S., Gkantidis, N., & Kloukos, D. (2018). Clinical effectiveness of Invisalign® orthodontic treatment: a systematic review. Progress in orthodontics, 19(1), 37. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6160377/
3.- Cardoso, P. C., Espinosa, D. G., Mecenas, P., Flores-Mir, C., & Normando, D. (2020). Pain level between clear aligners and fixed appliances: a systematic review. Progress in orthodontics, 21(1), 3. Available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31956934/
4.- Bollen AM, Huang G, King G, Hujoel P, Ma T. Activation time and material stiffness of sequential removable orthodontic appliances. Part 1: Ability to complete treatment. American Journal of Orthodontic and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 2003 Nov;124(5):496-501 Available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14614415/.
5.- Azaripour, A., Weusmann, J., Mahmoodi, B., Peppas, D., Gerhold-Ay, A., Van Noorden, C. J., & Willershausen, B. (2015). Braces versus Invisalign®: gingival parameters and patients' satisfaction during treatment: a cross-sectional study. BMC oral health, 15, 69. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4478712/