Thankfully, conventional braces are no longer the only way to straighten your teeth.
Clear aligners are one of the newest—and most discreet—teeth-straightening options available. They don’t require you to walk around with a mouthful of metal or go to a million orthodontist appointments and are much easier to maintain than conventional braces.
After learning what clear aligners are, how they work, and how they stack up to conventional metal braces, you can make an informed decision about your teeth-straightening journey. Ready? Let’s get started.
What are clear aligners?
Clear aligners are transparent, molded plastic trays that fit snugly over your teeth and slowly shift them into place. Also called “invisible braces,” they blend in much better than the metal kind and are usually way more comfortable (think: no stabby wires or painful rubber bands).
Clear aligners are also removable, which means you can pop ‘em out when you’re ready to eat or drink (hooray for no stuck-in food!). Same goes for brushing and flossing. Unlike with traditional braces, which make it tough to clean your teeth, you can simply take out the tray and follow your normal routine.
How do clear aligners work? Clear aligners work by putting subtle pressure on your teeth, encouraging them to move wherever you want them to go. To create your aligners, your doctor will start by looking at your teeth, come up with a plan to reposition them, and take a scan or impression of your mouth. Every two weeks or so, you’ll switch out your tray with a new one that will further shift your teeth based on your doc’s road map.
How long do I need to use clear aligners? Treatment can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months, depending on how much your teeth need to move, as well as your provider. Different clear aligner providers use different timelines, and some require more office visits than others.
You also have to be super disciplined about wearing your clear aligners for the full 22 hours a day, otherwise it can take a lot longer and you may not get the results you’re looking for.
Clear braces vs. metal braces
All braces work by putting pressure on your teeth, but unlike aligners, which can be popped in and out, conventional braces are attached to your teeth and require regular adjustments by your orthodontist.
There are three common types of conventional braces:
- Metal braces: These are to blame for the terms “brace face” and “metal mouth.” Metal braces consist of metal brackets that are glued to your teeth and connected together via metal wires called archwires, which put pressure on the teeth and jaw. They may also have rubber bands to keep the archwires in place and apply further pressure.
- Ceramic braces: The only difference between ceramic and metal braces is that ceramic braces are slightly less visible, thanks to clear or tooth-colored brackets and wires.
- Lingual braces: Lingual braces are basically the same as metal braces, except the brackets and wires are placed behind the teeth.
Compare your teeth-straightening options
- Can talk, eat, or drink freely
- Cheaper than conventional braces
- Easy to maintain regular dental hygiene
- May not be suitable for serious dental problems
- Most appropriate for adults and older teens—not ideal for younger teenagers
- Can be easy to lose and expensive to replace
- Colored bands and brackets provide an opportunity to customize look
- Best for more severe crowding or spacing issues
- Most noticeable
- Regular dental hygiene is difficult to maintain
- Less noticeable than metal braces
- More expensive than metal braces
- Invisible from the outside
- Difficult to clean
- More expensive than metal or ceramic braces
- Not appropriate for severe cases
- Can be more uncomfortable at first
- Adjustments take longer and are more difficult
If you’re looking for a straighter smile but don’t want to suffer through painful, obtrusive metal braces, clear aligners can be a subtle, convenient alternative. Get started with Dandy clear aligners today.