Headgear, braces, retainers -- everyone has dreaded the fateful trip to the orthodontist's office where they're prescribed one of these glorified torture devices. Sure, they help you get a gorgeous smile, but they can be painful and are almost always awkward.
If only there was an easier method of aligning your teeth. Too bad there isn't. Or is there? Yes. Yes, there is. Today, there is another method of orthodontic treatment rising in popularity. One that is much more discreet than the metal wires of the past: aligners. Coming as both daytime and nighttime clear aligners, these devices can change a person's life for good and are stylishly subtle. Read on for a crash course to figure out if they are right for you.
The History of a Healthy Smile
To explain what a clear aligner does and what the differences are between the daytime and nighttime varieties, you first need to take a look at how humans have handled dental health in the years before the 20th century. You have to go far back, further than you might think. It's hard to believe at first, but humans have always had a love of straight teeth, no matter the culture. Archaeologists have even discovered Ancient Egyptian mummies with their teeth posthumously straightened. With metal bands or strings of animal organs, embalmers ensured the wealthy would enjoy straight teeth for millennia to come. It was the early 19th century that saw the appearance of the first "modern" braces. By wrapping thin bands of metal around teeth, they would become straight by force. Braces went through many minor adjustments over the years but saw no real change. This was until the 1970s when adhesive to secure the braces to the teeth came into use. To say such an invention was game-changing would be an understatement. Finally, in 1997, a pair of Stanford students, neither with any experience in orthodontics, got to work. By modifying the design of clear plastic retainers, they created the first commercial clear aligner, releasing it to the world in 2000. Today, with 2/3 of Canadians having dental insurance, millions of people pursue a variety of orthodontic methods to get the smile of their dreams. All it may take for you to get yours could be something as simple as a set of clear aligners.
What Are Clear Aligners Exactly?
You now know some of the statistics and history of orthodontics, but what makes clear aligners so different? For starters, clear aligners are a new invention compared to more traditional orthodontics. The first commercial set appeared in 1997, only becoming available to the public during the 2000s. A clear aligner on its own may not look like too much at first glance. Using an impression of your teeth created with a mold, an aligner forms a nearly identical but modified copy of them. It might not look like much, but it's the work it does that makes aligners stand out from the crowd. While you are wearing clear aligners, they behave like a second layer to your teeth. They get to work, straightening your teeth for as long as they are in use. They are a lot like a cast iron pot or a leather jacket in that sense: the more use they get the better they work (thankfully there aren't so many rules about cleaning aligners, unlike cast iron or real leather). Thanks to their similar design to retainers, clear aligners can be removed at any time, though keeping them on at all times unless eating or brushing your teeth is a sure-fire way to let them get to work as quickly as possible. Another difference between clear aligners and traditional metal braces or headgear is comfort. Not only do they not irritate your mouth with harsh metal, but they're gentle on your wallet as well. An ordinary set of braces in Canada can cost between $3,000 and $10,000. This is by no means a small chunk of change and can easily dissuade a person from pursuing orthodontic treatment. Even with dental insurance, this number isn't very affordable. An ALIGNERCO clear aligner package can cost as little as $1,285 by comparison. Another neat perk clear aligners have that isn't often considered is the privacy of the procedure. By sending the impressions and receiving your new aligners in the mail, everything can be done in the comfort of your own home without the need to visit a clinic.
What Makes Nighttime Clear Aligners So Special?
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional orthodontics is the finality of them. While yes, after a while a person will have their braces or headgear removed, it takes a long time and brings about many lifestyle changes. Having a bunch of metal stuck to your teeth or jaw isn't the most appealing of sights, and many people dread not being able to snack on what they used to. Daytime clear aligners can rectify this problem since they're much harder to spot at a distance if you don't know to look for them and can be removed to enjoy popcorn, gum, or taffy. Still, for some, this isn't a perfect solution either. They can be awkward to speak with in the beginning, and there's always the worry of losing track of them after removing them in a public place like a restaurant. Some people will always feel self-conscious while wearing a corrective device, no matter how subtle. Nighttime clear aligners can eliminate all the problems of a daytime aligner since you only wear it while you sleep. You won't be having any important meetings, eating, or worrying about what you look and sound like to others since you'll be fast asleep. Another bonus is that, since you only need to wear these while you sleep, they are only on for about 10 hours a day, much less than the recommended 22 for daytime aligners.
What Are the Drawbacks to Nighttime Clear Aligners?
There has yet to be a "perfect" form of orthodontics invented. None of the currently used straightening techniques are absolutely faultless in their designs. Improvements to the designs of braces, aligners, headgear, and retainers are being made just about every day, and maybe one day the technology will be perfected. Perhaps in the future, there will be a device that seems like magic. One that straightens teeth instantly with no pain for free. Until that day arrives, it is important to understand that every method of teeth straightening will come with its own drawbacks, and clear aligners are no different. Both forms of clear aligners work well to straighten teeth, but they do have their limits. Severely misaligned teeth such as those rotated around in their sockets or those with massive gaps between them need more intense work done. Over and underbites as well as issues within the jaw itself cannot be fixed with clear aligners, and it is recommended to speak with a medical professional about your best course of action should your problems be serious. When looking at the pros and cons between daytime and nighttime clear aligners there isn't a clear winner on which is "better" as everything comes down to a matter of preference. While nighttime aligners are to be worn for 10 hours a day they can take up to 18 months to fully straighten teeth. Daytime aligners on the other hand must be worn for twice as long during the day, up to 22 hours daily, thus shortening the overall wear time to as little as 6 months. Any orthodontist will tell you that teeth have good "memories," and they don't like moving. When an aligner is not in, it will seem like they are taking advantage of the fact to move around back to their original positions. This happening is more likely with nighttime aligners thanks to their daily wear time being shorter, which is one of the reasons for 18 months of treatment being not unusual. To avoid the drawbacks that come with nighttime clear aligners, it is important to practice proper use and care of them.
Are Nighttime Clear Aligners Right for You?
You can get that perfect smile with either daytime or nighttime clear aligners. They both serve the purpose of straightening your teeth without the need for more intrusive gear or a trip to the orthodontist. The biggest difference between the two is which fits your schedule and way of life the best. Whether you want to straighten your teeth as fast as possible or gradually over time. By taking this simple free assessment and answering a few questions about your oral health and history you can easily figure out which form of clear aligner is right for you.
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