Do Clear Aligners Really Work? This, And Your Biggest Questions, Answered

Clear aligners (like Invisalign and 3M Clarity, among others) are often the top choice for teens and adults seeking more perfect-looking smiles. Unlike traditional metal braces, clear aligners are practically invisible, and you can remove them while eating or drinking. While they are a convenient choice, do clear aligners really work?

The short answer is yes. Treatment with clear aligners can straighten your teeth, and there are plenty of benefits to choosing this option. However, it’s important to understand their limitations — and know that they aren’t right for everyone — to avoid disappointment.

At Newtown Dentistry, our orthodontists, Dr. Heather Albert and Dr. Guy Coby, are committed to providing patients with the best, most effective treatments possible. They want you to have a healthy, beautiful smile that you can’t wait to show off, and clear aligners are one way of achieving that. To help you consider your options, they’ve answered some of the most common questions about this orthodontic treatment below.

How Do Clear Aligners Work?

Much like metal braces, clear aligners straighten your teeth gradually. Using images of your teeth along with impressions, orthodontists develop a treatment plan to gradually reposition your teeth using a series of clear plastic aligners worn over the teeth. The aligners apply gentle pressure to your teeth, guiding them into position.

An orthodontist demonstrates to a teen patient how clear aligners will correct his bite.

To start treatment, the orthodontist will place tooth-colored “attachments” on your teeth to help the aligners guide them into place. As your teeth move into their new positions, you’ll switch to a new set of aligners every few weeks. You need to wear aligners for at least 22 hours a day, every day. You’ll only remove them to eat, drink, and brush your teeth. Most people complete treatment in one to two years, at which point the attachments are removed.

Are Clear Aligners Effective?

So now that you know how they work, you’re probably wondering, “Do clear aligners really work?”

According to a review of several studies published in the journal BMC Oral Health, clear aligners are proven effective for treating malocclusion, the medical term for crooked or misaligned teeth. If your teeth only require certain, limited adjustments, invisible braces can be effective and provide dramatic results in less time than other treatments. Some of the issues that can be corrected with invisible braces include:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Crowding
  • Gaps or spaces between teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite

For more complex orthodontic concerns, Dr. Albert and Dr. Coby typically recommend traditional metal braces or other treatments.

Are Clear Aligners Bad for Your Teeth?

When you’re thinking about getting clear aligners, you might be tempted to skip the visit to the orthodontist and opt for mail-order aligners instead. Those products are alluring, with promises of convenience, affordability, and results.

A set of clear aligners on a model of teeth.

However, Newtown Dentistry, in line with the AAO, cautions against choosing mail- order aligners. While clear aligners are not bad for your teeth when treatment is supervised by a qualified orthodontist, using them without that oversight can do more

harm than good. Some of the potential problems include:

Problems go untreated. Clear aligners are not designed to correct issues with your bite and can worsen them to the point where your gums bleed and chewing is painful. Treatment based only on impressions, and not imaging tests, also will not correct orthodontic issues below the gum line.

No adjustments to treatment. With traditional clear aligners, you still need to see the orthodontist every few months to gauge the progress and make adjustments. The doctor needs to evaluate your progress and make changes as necessary to ensure the best outcome.

Not everyone is a candidate for aligners. If your teeth need more extensive orthodontic work, using clear aligners can be painful or make the problem worse. It may not be immediately apparent what you need based on impressions alone, and using alignerscould cause damage that needs further correction.

Orthodontists are experts in teeth straightening and alignment and will ensure that your treatment is as safe and healthy as possible, so think twice before choosing mail-order aligners.

Getting the Most from Clear Aligners

When your treatment is supervised by an orthodontist and you follow instructions for use and care, clear aligners really work for straightening teeth. To ensure the best results, it’s critical that you:

  • Wear your aligners at least 22 hours per day. Removing them for long periods can cause your teeth to shift back to their original locations, setting your treatment back weeks or even months.
  • Wear your retainer as prescribed after finishing treatment. As with traditional braces, you’ll need to wear a retainer at least part-time to ensure your teeth remain in their new positions.
  • Avoid sugary drinks while wearing aligners. This includes soft drinks, sports drinks, and juice. Liquid can seep behind the aligners and speed the process of tooth decay, as well as cause stains.
  • Practice oral hygiene. Your teeth must be clean before putting your aligners in each day to prevent tooth decay. Take the aligners out to eat and drink, and thoroughly brush your teeth before putting them back in. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions for cleaning the aligners themselves.
  • Expect some discomfort. Many patients report mild discomfort or soreness when switching to a new aligner. This usually only lasts a day or two and is normal. Do not remove the aligners if they are uncomfortable. If you experience ongoing pain, bleeding, or other problems, talk to your orthodontist.

If you follow these tips and your orthodontist’s instructions, you’ll find invisible braces are effective for correcting teeth alignment.

Clear Aligners Really Work! Schedule Your Consultation Today

If you are unhappy with the appearance of your smile or suspect you might need braces, schedule a consultation with Dr. Albert or Dr. Coby at Newtown Dentistry today. They will evaluate your teeth and recommend the best teeth straightening option to help you meet your goals for a beautiful smile.

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