Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners

“Invisible braces” are here. Orthodontists call them “clear aligners.” Consumers may call them “Invisalign” (a brand name that’s become a generic term, like Kleenex, even though several companies make clear aligners). Aligners are one of many technological advancements that have made orthodontic treatment less conspicuous, and one of many “appliances” orthodontists use to move teeth and align jaws to create a healthy, beautiful smile.

How Aligners Work

Like traditional braces, aligners are designed to move teeth a little at a time. Before treatment begins, the orthodontist will examine the patient, and take diagnostic records including x-rays, photographs, and impressions or digital scans of the teeth. From that information, the orthodontist can arrive at a diagnosis, and then work within the aligner software to design your smile and plan the treatment process – which tooth moves where, and in what order – guiding teeth into healthy positions. Remember, this is all of the teeth – not just the few that are seen when someone smiles. The goal is a healthy “bite” – top and bottom teeth that fit together properly. Moving teeth is a complex biological process and needs start-to-finish supervision by an orthodontist who is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Most people see their orthodontist for a check-up about every six-to-ten weeks. With the end goal in mind, a series of plastic aligners are created using the patient’s initial impressions or digital scans as the starting point. The aligners are plastic replicas of your teeth. Wearing them puts gentle pressure on the teeth, ever-so-slightly repositioning them. It is recommended aligners be worn 22 hours a day, or as prescribed by the orthodontist. Each set of aligners is worn for a week or two before going to the next set. Over time, teeth reach their ideal places, according to the orthodontist’s plan. The total number of aligners will vary by the needs of each patient.  As with traditional braces, patients will need to wear retainers after their teeth reach their new positions.

Pros and Cons of Aligners

Besides being next-to-invisible, many patients appreciate that aligners are removable. Take them out to eat, to brush and floss, or for short periods for work or social situations. Aligners may not be the right “appliance” to correct every kind of orthodontic problem. Braces may be necessary for certain kinds of corrections. With clear aligners, tooth-colored attachments will be placed on the teeth to help the aligners move the teeth. These attachments are removed once treatment is complete. Care needs to be taken regarding drinks when aligners are in, and anything but tap water should be avoided. Liquid can seep into the aligners, and it stays there, in contact with the teeth, until aligners are removed. This can lead to staining of the aligner and the teeth, and if the liquid contains sugar and/or acid, as found in regular and diet soda pop, cavities can develop. So avoid soda pop, along with flavored water, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks. Even some bottled water can be acidic! If you drink something sugary or acidic (a pH below 7.0), be sure to brush thoroughly before putting your aligners back in. And use fluoride toothpaste – it strengthens teeth. Because aligners are removable, patients might be tempted to remove them if they experience some discomfort. Aligners can’t work unless they are in the mouth! They can be lost or misplaced when out of the mouth. Make it a habit to slip aligners into their case when they come out of the mouth. Do not place aligners in napkins, in a pocket or a purse. Also keep aligners out of the reach of pets. If you should lose or damage an aligner, contact your orthodontist immediately for advice on next steps.

Are Clear Aligners Right for Me?

The best way to answer that question is to consult an orthodontist who is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Because of orthodontists’ extensive education and familiarity with the many types of “appliances” (devices used to move teeth/align jaws) available, they can knowledgeably suggest what is right for you, based on your treatment goals and lifestyle needs. Many AAO orthodontists offer complimentary or low-cost initial consultations, as well as a variety of affordable payment plans. Trust the professional who is dedicated to creating your healthy, beautiful smile: an AAO orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists – only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.
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Six Must-Haves for Cleaning Teeth with Braces or Aligners When You’re on the Go

Patients with any type of orthodontic appliance should be cleaning their teeth multiple times a day. Situations inevitably come up when you’re on the go and need to freshen up.

Do your teeth a favor and be prepared. Stash portable items in a backpack, purse, school locker or briefcase. You’ll be rewarded with a healthy and beautiful smile when treatment wraps up. Here are six must-haves for cleaning teeth on the go. 1. Water. It’s your friend. And it’s readily available at bathroom sinks. After eating, or after drinking a sugary and/or acidic beverage, if you realize your toothbrush is nowhere to be found, give your mouth a thorough rinse with plain water. Swish it around to get rid of food particles or traces of beverages. Water even helps to decrease the decay-causing acidity of your mouth. A water rinse is not as good as brushing, but it’s much better than allowing materials to remain on, and in between, teeth. 2. A toothbrush. Even without toothpaste, brushing removes food and plaque and will help you keep your teeth healthy. A travel toothbrush takes up about half the space of a regular toothbrush. But if you prefer a full-sized toothbrush, we won’t argue with you. 3. An interproximal brush. This is a remarkable little tool. It’s small and very easy to carry along. Use it to get at food that’s stuck around brackets, between the archwire and teeth, and in between teeth. It’s effective at attacking plaque, too. You may develop such a great appreciation for your interproximal brush that you continue using it after you complete your orthodontic treatment! 4. Floss. Also for cleaning between teeth, the space between the archwire and the teeth, and especially under the gumline. If you have braces, be sure a floss threader is stowed with your floss. That is, unless you are using “pre-threaded” floss, pre-cut to length and with an aglet tip (like a shoelace). Some brands come in single-use packets, which take up next-to-no space. Those with aligners may be able to use a flosser, if that’s the tool you prefer. A bonus: minty floss freshens breath, too. 5. A mirror. A pocket mirror can be handy when you brush. A post-brush check will reveal whether anything unwanted is still there. An alternative: use the selfie camera in your smart phone. 6. Toothpaste. Travel-sized tubes are convenient. Consider these “nice-to-haves,” too:
  • Orthodontic wax – if a bracket or wire rubs a sore spot, wax quickly puts a stop to the irritation.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen – great to have on hand. Students may be required to leave such medicines with the school nurse.
A little extra effort at home and away pays big dividends in shaping your new smile! The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists – only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Teeth

You use your teeth to bite, chew and talk countless times throughout your day. Unless something is bothersome, you probably don’t give your grill a second thought. So, with our compliments, gnaw on this enlightening list of ten things you didn’t know about your teeth – but guess what – your American Association of Orthodontists member orthodontist did!

1. A tooth can come into the mouth with a cavity.   2. A cavity is one of the few things the body cannot heal. It just gets larger with time, unless a dentist removes the decay and places a filling.   3. A tooth can grow in upside down, sideways or backwards.   4. Baby teeth hold space for the permanent teeth that follow – it’s important to hang onto them until they’re ready to come out on their own.   5. While we’re on the subject of baby teeth, they’re also called “deciduous” teeth – from the Latin word “decidere,” which means to fall off or be shed (like leaves from a deciduous tree).   6. Teeth by the numbers: we get two sets of teeth – 20 baby teeth and 32 (usually) permanent teeth – unless you get extra teeth (supernumerary teeth), or some teeth never develop (congenitally missing teeth). Thank your genes for extra or missing teeth.   7. Research suggests that some sweet flavors in e-cigarette liquids may increase the risk of getting cavities. (As if nicotine addiction wasn’t enough already.)   8. Back teeth are called “molars.” They are used for grinding food when you chew.   9. Diet soda and sports drinks can be just as tough on teeth as regular soda. Both contain acid. Acid attacks the enamel surface of your teeth and can lead to cavities. Some bottled waters and flavored bubbly waters can be acidic enough to cause cavities too!   10. The part of the tooth you see, the crown, is only about a quarter to a third of the entire tooth. The rest of the tooth is under the gums. Now that you have mastered these tidbits about teeth, you can amaze your friends and family with your trivial knowledge. But your teeth are anything but trivial. Healthy teeth and gums are critical contributors to your overall good health. AAO orthodontists are ready to help you align your teeth and jaws for a healthy and beautiful smile. Visit an AAO orthodontist. When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a highly skilled specialist. Orthodontists are experts in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

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