You may have noticed the huge surge in popularity of clear teeth aligners. All of a sudden we are seeing advertisements showing how you can skip the braces and still get the straight teeth you want. Um, yes, who wouldn’t want to NOT have to have metal brackets and wires in their mouths? Millions of people are biting (literally) on this somewhat recent new option in orthodontic treatment. Even gymnast Simone Biles and Ben Affleck are getting in on the alternative to traditional braces.
Does it work? Is it safe? Is it expensive? Clearly, we are happy to clear it up for you. Couldn’t resist.
TYPES OF CLEAR ALIGNERS OUT THERE
The general idea of most clear aligners on the market is the same: Customers wear a series of clear aligners custom made to gradually straighten their teeth. The details on how customers get their aligners and how long they wear the aligners varies, but overall the idea is to use the retainer-like piece to shift your teeth.
The benefits of clear aligners over traditional braces include convenience and comfort.
- Avoid the brackets and wires of traditional braces
- Remove the aligners to eat and drink
- Removable aligners makes using your favorite RADIUS floss easy
- Few interruptions and visits to doctor’s office
- Clear aligners are hardly noticeable
People considering clear aligners may have orthodontic relapse, meaning they’ve worn braces before but their teeth have shifted and are not straight anymore. If you are reading this as an adult who wore braces as a kid and now has crowded bottom teeth, you know the frustration. Clear aligners might be a great option to get those pearly whites back to where you want them.
We aren’t here to sell you on clear aligners or convince you one brand is better than another. Invisalign, Smile Direct Club, Candid, and Byte are among the options you have when it comes to researching the clear aligners right for your lifestyle, budget, and needs.
Each brand of clear aligners offers their own specific services and has their own process. Some use a 3D image, while some use putty impressions. For those who want hands on evaluation and service, choose a brand where you can set up an in-person consultation with an orthodontist or dentist. They’ll look at your bite and your teeth to determine what, if any, clear aligner treatment plan can work for you. They’ll map out a customized plan for you.
For those looking for more of a hands off approach, you can actually complete the entire process from your own home. You’ll receive an at-home kit showing you how to take your own bite impressions or 3D image. You send those impressions in or submit the images and your custom plan will be created without seeing a doctor.
Regardless of how you get past step one, once your aligners are created, you’ll receive a series of aligners in the mail with instructions on how often to wear them, how to care for them, and how often to change them out.
When we say change them out, we mean move on to the next set of aligners. You may receive 10 sets of aligners, for example, that are like a series of aligners slightly tweaked to take your teeth from crooked to straight as you wear them over time. You wear set 1 for maybe 7 days, then you stop wearing those and move on to set 2. You wear those for the determined about of time in your plan, then you move on to the next set.
On average you wear the aligners 20-22 hours a day and you change them out every 1-2 weeks. Each time you change your aligners, you’ll notice a tightness as your teeth almost immediately start to gradually shift to fit that aligner. Your teeth can move fast! Clear aligner companies offer the option to be seen at a doctor’s office during treatment, as well as virtual checkups from your phone.
One of the latest trends in clear aligners is the option to only wear them at night. Nighttime aligner treatment is designed so you wear them about 10 continuous hours. It does stretch out the overall treatment timeline, but this option is convenient for people not wanting to wear them during the day. Not having to leave the house wearing them means less likely to lose them (a great selling point for teenagers!).
You may be curious how complicated it is to be able to eat and drink with clear aligners. It’s not complicated or difficult at all. Rinse them off when you remove them to eat, and before you put them back in, brush and floss your teeth to help keep your aligners clean and clear.
You can actually leave your aligners in to drink liquids. Tea and coffee can stain them, so rinse those aligners often.
DO THEY WORK?
Do clear aligners straighten your teeth? Yes. They do. Aligners can fix common teeth-straightening issues and some bite issues. The most common reasons people use aligners include small gaps between teeth, a rotated tooth, or tooth crowding.
Aligners can work fast! Some aligner companies claim to straighten teeth in 4-6 months when worn the recommended 22 hours a day. Some aren’t as aggressive, claiming treatment plans in the average of 12-18 months. Some clear aligner companies have a guarantee that it works. After going through the treatment, if your teeth need straightening again, they’ll help fix it for free.
It does not work for everyone. Here are reasons clear aligners wouldn’t be a good option:
- Bite issue is beyond the range of moderate
- Severe alignment issues
- Dental work is scheduled
- Oral care needs need to be addressed before treatment can start
- Permanent retainer is in the mouth
There’s debate about whether the process of at-home clear aligner treatment is safe. The aligners themselves are considered medical devices and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They aren’t as new and trendy as you might think. Invisalign received FDA clearance in 1998.
But, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have issued consumer warnings against at-home braces.
The main reason for the complaints is the argument that without orthodontists or dentists treating you, there could be serious oral health concerns. Cavities can form during treatment, or gum disease may develop if you aren’t being treated by a dentist.
The rub isn’t necessarily that all clear aligners are bad. It’s more about the service and being seen by a doctor versus being treated at home exclusively. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that consumers only receive clear aligner therapy from an experienced, licensed orthodontist.
It’s important to note that orthodontists do not just straighten teeth. They correct many serious problems, and those problems might not be treatable by looking at a putty impression or at-home 3D scan. If there’s an issue below the gum line or in your jaw, an aligner might actually make it worse.
Further, the groups saying at-home braces options are not safe note that because the plan is created based on an initial scan or impression. They say serious damage to your teeth and gums can occur if the treatment needs to be altered throughout the plan. It may be smart to go with a aligner brand that does allow for monitoring during your treatment. Some do this with in-person visits, and some offer virtual check ins as often as every 14 days.
IS IT CHEAPER AND FASTER COMPARED TO BRACES?
Don’t pick clear aligners specifically to save boatloads of money. Treatment plans vary depending on the type you use and the condition of your teeth, but overall, the cost is slightly lower than traditional braces. Insurance may cover the cost of clear aligners and almost all aligner companies have payment plans so you don’t have to pay for the entire treatment up front.
Traditional braces range in price from $3,000-$5,500 on average, with monthly payment plans available for as little as $100. Clear aligners range in price from $2,000-$3,300 on average with monthly payment plans available for as little as $83.
Remember, aligners are best for simple fixes to straighten teeth, and they do it faster than braces. It’s not a true comparison to compare a simple clear alignment treatment plan to a complex orthodontic plan one may need to correct severe bite or jaw issues.
Here’s a look at some common payment scenarios for clear aligner brands as of 2021:
- Pay $125 a month for 24 months totalling $3,000
- Pay $99 a month for 24 months or one time payment of $2,100
- Pay $89 a month or a one time payment of $1950
- Pay $83 a month for 29 months + $349 down payment totalling $2,756 or pay a one time payment of $1,895
There can be a few additional costs on top of the treatment quote. The kit to get the impressions or 3D image can cost anywhere from $39-$99. Some plans include a retainer you wear after your treatment is complete, but some retainers cost about $99 to order.
Hopefully now the curiosity of clear aligners isn’t as clouded as it was before you read this. Are you clear about needing or wanting aligners?
It’s natural to want to improve your smile. RADIUS understands the desire to have the happiest mouth possible, and that may mean loving and embracing your imperfections or wanting to straighten them. Either way, keep brushing your beautiful teeth for a happy, fresh smile!