Once upon a time, braces were the only way to give a teen a straighter smile. It was a given that wearers would endure a couple of years of restricted foods, hygiene difficulties and a “full metal” smile.
But times have changed and teens, as well as adults, have more teeth straightening options. One of the more popular of these options are clear aligners. These removable trays make it easier to eat and perform oral hygiene. And best of all, they're much less noticeable compared to braces.
These series of removable trays are created via computer based on detailed impressions of a patient's mouth and bite. The patient wears an individual tray for two weeks before changing to the next tray in the series. Each slightly different tray continues to place pressure on the teeth to move them in the desired direction.
Clear aligner treatment takes about the same amount of time to complete as braces. But unlike braces, which can only be removed by an orthodontist, patients can take the trays in and out to eat or brush and floss. And although they need to remain in the mouth for at least 20 to 22 hours each day, they can be removed for special occasions.
Braces are still a viable option, though, and may be necessary for more complex bite problems. But the range of poor bites clear aligners can correct has expanded in recent years with improvements in aligner technology. For example, additions like “power ridges” or buttons within aligners can target individual tooth movement, often necessary with difficult cases.
There's one other factor for deciding between braces or aligners: the patient's maturity level. Because they're removable, wearing the trays for the necessary period each day falls on the patient to maintain that wear schedule. Some young patients may not be mature enough to maintain that discipline, and braces may be the better alternative for them.
The latter issue is something you as a parent must consider along with your teen and orthodontist in deciding the best treatment option. If you're able to choose aligners, though, the benefits will certainly help make the treatment time much more pleasant and bearable.
If you would like more information on clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”