Despite the fact that many people have been wearing masks in public for much of the last 12 months, there has been a steady rise in the demand for clear aligners such as Invisalign™. An alternative to orthodontic braces, Invisalign™ is a great way to straighten your teeth and improve your smile.
But what causes crooked teeth to begin with?
Your teeth may not line up like fence pickets because, essentially, they don’t have the room. If there is a difference between the amount of space in your jaw, and the width of your teeth, they simply won’t align, and can rotate or become crooked. If you needed another reason to blame your parents for something, then crooked teeth can also be added to the list, as there is a strong chance you inherited a similar sized pair of jaws and teeth. There are also some issues such as thumb sucking as a child (if stopped before the age of 6 then the issues may resolve) or mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction.
Narrow jaws can be another cause of crooked teeth, forcing them out of alignment and also impacting on how the top and bottom teeth work together as a team. Orthodontic braces are more commonly used to straighten children’s teeth, typically from about the age of 12. This is when most of the permanent teeth have come through and allows the brackets and wires to be placed onto them to control their movement. Traditional orthodontic braces have been used successfully for decades and have several advantages. A significant one is that they are not able to be removed during the course of treatment. The patient also needs to return for regular visits and adjustments so their progress is closely monitored by the orthodontist or dentist. Adults of any age can also get orthodontic braces to align their teeth, but many are self-conscious of their appearance or comfort. Traditional braces also make cleaning much more difficult as the brackets and wires trap food and plaque under them, and it is more challenging to clean in between teeth.
In more recent years, clear aligners such as Invisalign™ have provided an alternative and are growing in popularity. There is also the emergence of direct-to-consumer clear aligners which have some significant limitations and issues around the types of tooth movements possible and the accuracy of the “at home” impressions. Additionally, there is less, or sometimes no screening of general dental health prior to commencing which can have significant negative outcomes.
Clear aligner providers such as Invisalign™, Smile Styler or Clear Correct provide alternatives to typical orthodontic braces and are provided via dentists or orthodontists who take a lot of care to assess, discuss, plan, implement and track your progress to deliver more predictable results.
Clear aligners may not be able to perform all of the complex movements of traditional braces, but do have some very notable advantages.
The main bonus is that they are discrete, and for most of the time it is hard for others to tell if you are wearing them. They are a series of thin, removable plastic trays that are designed to move your teeth a small amount at a time. Because clear aligner treatment is computer modelled, you also get a 3D simulation of your predicted outcomes which is fantastic to help visualise your smile before you commence. Aligner systems provided by dentists and orthodontists can also use features such as attachments (small blobs of white filling material – removed at the end of treatment) to enable a much larger range of movements.
Your dentist can also assist with whitening or other cosmetic procedures such as composite bonding that may be required in addition to aligning to achieve a desirable aesthetic outcome.
Each aligner is worn for 1-2 weeks before being changed for the next one. There is discomfort during the first few days of each aligner change while the crooked teeth are being moved the most. Depending on how much your teeth are required to move determines the number of aligners, and the cost of your treatment. It is also likely that some additional refining is required beyond the original plan if your teeth don’t track.
Other advantages are that you can take them out which allows for much more thorough cleaning and flossing of your teeth. You must take your aligners out to eat, or when you consume hot drinks to avoid damage and distortion.
The main downsides of aligners are that you must wear them for 23 hours per day in order to get a successful outcome. This means that much of the responsibility is on the individual to ensure they wear them as prescribed. They can also impact your speech and can increase salivation rates, however many people adapt to this within the first few weeks.
No matter what causes crooked teeth, there are options available if you ever wish to straighten them at whatever age. The use of new technology provides a compelling option for those who felt traditional braces were not for them.