If you're new to straightening teeth the clear way, you'll definitely have some questions.
If you’re striving for that perfect smile, dental aligners could be the ideal solution.
Good teeth can make a smile more radiant. Bad teeth can have a serious effect on your self-confidence and cause you health problems in later life. So, it’s no wonder more and more Americans are turning to dental aligner treatment to perfect their pearly whites.
Dental aligners are an affordable and inconspicuous way of treating your teeth. Here we address some of the most frequently asked questions about dental aligners.
What are dental aligners?
Dental aligners are a lot like a mouth guard you’d wear when playing sports, except you wear them for most of the day. They’re custom-molded to your teeth, and they’ll slowly move your teeth and manipulate them into shape.
By wearing dental aligners you’ll see the shape of your smile improve. You’ll get straighter teeth, which will look fantastic and be better for eating with too.
Do aligners really work?
Yes – aligners really do work. The science is quite simple – they are designed to gently push your teeth into a new place, where they will settle over time. Any reputable aligner manufacturer will be able to show you plenty of real customer stories and testimonials so that you can see the results for yourself.
Why choose aligners?
Aligners are an evolution of traditional braces. Braces would be fixed in place, and clearly visible to anyone you were talking to.
Instead, aligners are clear and almost invisible, so there’s no need to feel self-conscious when you’re wearing them. There’s no sharp wires that could cause you to cut your tongue or cheeks, and they can be taken out when you’re eating, so they’re more comfortable and easier to keep clean.
If you want to straighten your smile without the world knowing, aligners are ideal.
How do teeth aligners work?
A custom-mold is made of your teeth. Sometimes you’ll do this yourself or you may visit a clinic to get it done for you professionally. It’s not always a physical mold either, and can sometimes be a 3D image.
From the mold, you’ll be sent aligners designed to start slowly adjusting your teeth. You’ll regularly need to change to keep pushing the teeth, usually every 4-6 weeks. Every aligner is made from medical-grade plastic and is perfectly safe to use.
Are aligners the same as clear braces?
Aligners are not the same as clear braces. Clear braces are fixed and can have many of the same problems as metal braces, including cutting into you or making it uncomfortable to eat. They can also be harder to clean. Meanwhile aligners are removable, and just covers that you place onto your teeth when you wear them. Make sure that you understand the difference and question your dentist if they suggest one treatment so that you know which you’re paying for.
Are aligners better than braces?
There’s no straightforward answer on whether aligners are better than braces, as it will depend on your current smile. Generally speaking, braces will act faster than aligners and can fix larger problems, but they have the drawbacks of being much more visible and harder to clean, and so you risk also damaging your teeth if you don’t practice impeccable dental hygiene.
Most people prefer aligners because they are clear, more comfortable and they still do the same job, albeit over a slightly longer time.
How long are aligners needed for?
With most dental aligners, you can expect to start seeing results in the first 1-2 months, but your treatment will likely last between 6 months and 2 years. It depends on how much adjustment your teeth need, and some people may require less time. Anyone with severe cases may need to use aligners for up to 4 years to get the desired results.
Do dental aligners produce long-lasting results?
Yes – dental aligners will give you long-lasting results. However once your aligner treatment has completed, you’ll need to wear a retainer to stop them shifting back for a short while.
Your retainer will feel the same as an aligner, and it can usually just be worn overnight, and taken out during the day. It won’t be permanent, and once your teeth are firmly set you can stop wearing it.
Can teenagers use aligners?
Some aligner providers will offer products to teenagers but it’s important you wait until all of your teeth are in place.
For most people, wisdom teeth can come through any time from your 13th to your 25th birthday. Only once they’re in place, and your mouth is settled, should you use aligners or you could undo the work they did.
Can dental aligners fix a notable overbite?
Dental aligners should be able to fix an overbite, but it’ll take time.
If you have a significant overbite, you might need to wear dental aligners for up to 4 years.
Do you need a full set of aligners?
Even if you think your top teeth are flawless but you need to correct your bottom row, or vice versa, you’ll still need a full set of aligners. The set on the ‘good’ teeth won’t do anything except for protecting them from movement while your other teeth are nudged back into the right position.
Do aligners affect your speech?
At first yes, it’s likely that you might find it a little awkward to speak with dental aligners, but the vast majority of users report that this ends after just a few hours. Aligners are robust but also thin, so with a bit of practise you’ll soon be used to them and you’ll be talking as normal.
Are aligners worn at mealtimes?
No – you shouldn’t wear your dental aligners during mealtimes. You do need to wear them for around 20 hours per day, but they aren’t suited to eating, particularly hard foods, and it’s easy for food debris to get caught behind them.
You should remove them for every meal, and then clean your teeth before you reinsert them, otherwise you could trap food which could accelerate decay.
How do you clean dental aligners?
You need to clean your dental aligners every time you remove them for meals, and also when you brush your teeth. Otherwise, the plastic can trap food and drink against your teeth. If you get some soda stuck, you could end up with rotting teeth fast.
You can clean your aligners with your toothbrush, and then rinse them with water. You can also place them in a glass of water to help clean them, as you would dentures. There are also specialist aligner cleaners you can purchase which clean and sanitize, as well as preventing them from going off-color.
Is it safe to sleep in dental aligners?
Not only is it safe to sleep while wearing your dental aligners, it’s an absolute must. Take them out at night, and your teeth will ‘rest’ back into their original positions. Removing them for short amounts of time, like for eating, is fine. But most manufacturers of aligners will tell you to use them for at least 20 hours a day, sometimes 22.
Are online or at-home teeth aligners safe?
When you order aligners online to use at-home, you’ll need to use a kit to take a mold of your teeth. They’re cheaper than having to pay for a visit to a clinic but, naturally, are open to human error.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t safe, as long as you follow the instructions carefully. Make sure you take your time, otherwise you may need to pay out for another mold before you can get started.
Do teeth aligners hurt?
Aligners work by putting pressure on your teeth in order to move them into the desired place. Naturally, this means they can be a little uncomfortable, with mild aches and tenderness around the gums.
However, they shouldn’t actively hurt – it should be very mild and you likely won’t pay it attention after a couple of hours. They may hurt slightly more when you first wear them, just as they fit into the right place.
If your aligners are causing you a lot of pain, you should speak to the manufacturer, but this normally wouldn’t happen unless you have a pre-existing dental condition.
How do you know if aligners are worthwhile?
Dental aligners do cost a lot – which for many can make it less attractive as an option. But you’re paying for a high quality treatment.
If you need a little more reassurance, most reputable aligner companies will be able to show you an estimated result, using either computer imaging or at the least, examples from previous customers with smiles similar to your own.
If you’re choosing an at-home kit, make sure you use a company with good reviews and an established name.
How long will it take to see results?
You’ll start to see the first results within the first few weeks, although it’ll be a small difference initially.
Make sure that you follow your treatment plan through to the end, even if you think your teeth look perfect – otherwise they could recede and go back to their original positions. You also will need to wear a retainer once the plan is complete for a set period of time.
Are teeth aligners covered by insurance?
Many dental insurance plans will cover the cost of aligners treatment. Remember they’re essentially an evolved form of braces, and so most insurance plans will include scope for these treatments. Some insurance plans will pay the full amount, but most will offer either a percentage of the treatment or a certain dollar amount.
How much do teeth aligners cost?
Dental aligners start at around $1,200 but can reach much higher, depending on the length of treatment plan you require, often into the thousands of dollars. There’ll also be an initial fee for the impression or mold kit, which is often $100 or less.
Many people choose not to pay upfront but to split the cost over a number of instalments. This usually involves paying interest and so you’re likely to end up paying more than you would if you paid in full. Always make sure to check the fine print before you sign up.
Where can you get teeth aligners?
There are many companies offering teeth aligners. You could speak to your dentist, or just look for some of the companies offering aligners from home. Make sure you compare providers and find out which is the best option for you.
Are aligners suitable for everyone?
Aligners aren’t always suitable. Usually, if your teeth are mildly or moderately misaligned, then aligners can be a good solution. Aligners can’t solve more severe issues, so if you have large gaps or your mouth is overcrowded, you may need to look into alternative treatment options. Your dentist will be able to offer help.
Sometimes, you may need to have some teeth removed in order to create space for dental aligners to work, in certain bad cases of overcrowding.
Are there times when dental aligners are completely unsuitable?
For most people, dental aligners are suitable. However, if you have issues with osteoporosis, receding gums, gingivitis or you have existing dental implants, it may be that aligners aren’t suited. Check with your dentist and they can advise you further.
Are aligners FSA or HAS eligible?
Yes, you can use your FSA or HAS to pay for teeth aligners, and any retainers you need as part of your treatment too.
Why do my aligners feel loose?
Your aligners should fit comfortably to your teeth. If they feel slightly loose, it probably means that they aren’t quite in the right position, so you’ll need to adjust them to make sure they’re being effective.
Sometimes, simply biting down on the aligners can be enough to shunt them into place.
Is it bad to bite down on your aligners?
Occasionally biting down on your aligners won’t cause any issues. They’re made from medical-grade plastic and so are designed to be durable. However, you should remove them for eating, as consistently biting down on them can cause you to damage them, which may make them less effective.
Can I drink through a straw while using aligners?
You can drink through a straw while you’re using aligners. While its recommended that you remove your aligners every time you drink anything that isn’t water, using a straw and gently sipping can help protect them when you’re drinking coffee or a soda. It’s still safer to remove them, and brush your teeth afterwards, but if that’s not an option (if you’re at a coffee shop) then a straw can help.
Can I whiten my teeth while using aligners?
Technically, it is possible to whiten your teeth while you use aligners, and some people use their aligners to help fix whitening strips or solution to their teeth. However, it can interfere with your aligner treatment and isn’t recommended.
If you want to whiten your teeth, wait until your aligner treatment is complete, and you’ll get the best results.