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What are clear braces?
Clear aligners, also called clear braces, are an alternative to metal or porcelain braces for people who want an inconspicuous way to treat orthodontic issues. Usually made of acrylic, a type of plastic, clear braces can help straighten your teeth, fill in gaps, and correct bite issues. They provide a discreet alternative to conventional braces, specifically because they don’t use brackets or wires.
Using a transparent and removable aligner tray, clear braces like Invisalign straighten teeth by making small adjustments to the position of teeth over time, much like traditional braces do. You take them out to eat, brush, floss, and properly clean your teeth, but other than that, you’ll need to wear them at all times during your treatment.
Many adults prefer clear aligners over traditional braces. While metal and porcelain braces are still more common for young adolescents, adults generally prefer a more hidden option.
If you’re working directly with your dentist or orthodontist, they will likely create a digital visualization of your post-treatment smile and develop a treatment plan to reach your goal.
Each set of aligners applies a small amount of pressure onto the teeth, forcing them to gradually move. For the first few days after you switch to a new set (usually every two weeks), the aligners may feel uncomfortable, like your teeth are being squeezed. Over time, the pressure becomes less and less, meaning your mouth is ready for a new set of aligners.
It’s important to wear your clear aligners as much as possible. Dentists recommend wearing them for at least 20 hours per day—ideally, 22 hours. You can take them out to eat, drink or brush your teeth, but the more you wear the aligners, the better results you’ll see faster. Be careful not to wear your clear braces while eating or drinking anything other than water or other cool, clear liquids. Food and colored drinks can stain the aligners and may stain your teeth. You’ll also need to regularly clean your aligners, using a special cleanser and gentle brushing.
If you have several teeth that need repositioning, your bite is misaligned, or you don’t have ample space to move your teeth properly in your mouth, you might need a longer treatment period, with additional treatments like arch widening or tooth filing, to further create space.
Dr.M Raghid Alolabi, a Dental Surgery (DDS) from the University of Toronto, explains that “Sometimes, it is necessary to ‘file’ or slim a tooth or teeth to create space to rotate or align the teeth, which is called interproximal reduction [IPR]. The reason for doing this is that the teeth are larger than the space allotted for them, so space needs to be created by making the teeth slimmer or broadening your arch.
Some people notice a difference in as little as two weeks of treatment, while others need up to six months to start seeing results.
The length of your treatment will be determined by your doctor, but most cases average 12–18 months. Treatment with metal braces typically takes two and a half years.
It’s important to remember that every patient is different. If you need a significant amount of work done, you’ll probably require more extended treatment. If you’ve had braces in the past but your teeth have moved slightly, you may require just 10 weeks of treatment.
Additionally, your dentist or orthodontist will likely provide you with a retainer to wear post-treatment. This should keep your teeth from moving back to their original position.
Clear braces offer a metal-free, inconspicuous alternative to traditional braces.
You can remove clear braces to clean them regularly.
Previewing your post-treatment smile can offer some additional motivation to wear your aligners as often as possible.
Treatment time can often be shorter than with conventional braces, depending on the amount of work needed.
Each aligner can feel uncomfortable for the first few days since the pressure against the teeth is more significant.
Clear braces may not be able to fix large overbites, and some patients may need metal braces for a short while after treatment.
At first, you may experience difficulty adjusting to the aligners and speaking, but this typically subsides within a few days.
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