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NotJazzedAboutWearingBracesConsiderClearAlignersInstead

Wearing orthodontic braces brings challenges to daily life. During treatment a patient will need to avoid certain foods and habits, take more time to brush and floss properly, and may endure occasional discomfort. But the effect of metal braces on appearance can be especially difficult, especially for peer-conscious teens.

Clear aligners, though, offer an alternative to braces that could make some of these challenges easier, particularly with your appearance. Aligners are clear plastic trays that fit over the teeth to move them. They can be removed by the wearer for easier brushing and flossing or for special occasions. Best of all, they're much less noticeable than metal braces.

Clear aligners were developed thanks to advances in digital technology. An orthodontist uses a computer application incorporating the data from photographs, x-rays or CT scans of a patient's teeth and jaws to produce a series of clear plastic trays. The patient then wears each tray for about two weeks before changing to the next tray in the sequence.

The trays apply pressure much like metal braces to gradually move teeth to the desired position on the jaw. Each tray is slightly smaller in size than the previous tray in the sequence, so that the progression of tooth movement continues with each succeeding tray. The treatment time is about the same as with conventional braces.

This new orthodontic tool works well for many common bite problems, but until recently they've been limited in scope. But new designs in trays and attachments called buttons added to teeth to provide more leverage have greatly increased their use for more complex bite issues.

Clear aligners also have one other disadvantage, ironically due to one of their principal benefits, removability. Although they can be taken out, they must be worn consistently to achieve results. Some younger patients may not have the maturity level and discipline to responsibly wear their aligners as they should.

That's one issue you'll need to discuss with your orthodontist if you're considering clear aligners for your teen. But if they can maintain wearing consistency, and they have a bite problem that can be corrected with aligners, both you and your teen may find this choice more agreeable and attractive than braces.

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.”

By John Kelmenson, D.D.S.
March 18, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
DidYouKnowClearAlignersHaveBeenImprovedForTeens

Metal braces are often considered a rite of passage for teenagers whose teeth need straightening. While some teens have no problem with this, others are more self-conscious and would like a less noticeable and less restrictive form of orthodontic treatment (“ortho” – to straighten; “odont” – teeth). After all, traditional braces can sometimes require diet modification, regular tightenings can cause discomfort, and the hardware itself can irritate the inside of the mouth. All of these things can limit a teen's ability to function normally during an already difficult stage of life.

That's why many teens today are opting for removable clear aligners, which have been popular with adults for years. In this system of orthodontic treatment, transparent, flexible, plastic “trays” are custom-made to move an individual's teeth into better alignment in a step-by-step fashion. Each tray moves the teeth a little bit further, according to a precise plan developed with specialized computer software by an orthodontist, or a general dentist who has received special training. It's not available from every dentist, but we are happy to be able to offer it here.

It used to be that clear aligners were not recommended for teens for two main reasons. For one thing, because they are removable rather than attached to the teeth, it was assumed a teenager would not be as conscientious as an adult about wearing them nearly 24 hours a day, which is necessary to achieve the desired results. Now, however, clear aligners for teens have colored “compliance indicators” that fade over time. With this new tool, dentists and parents — and teens themselves — can monitor compliance and progress.

The other main problem in prescribing clear aligners for teens had been that their second molars are still growing into position. This problem, too, has been solved. Clear aligners now have “eruption tabs” that serve as space-holders for teeth that have yet to grow in.

Finally, in recent years, improvements have been made to the whole clear aligner system that allow it to be used for more serious malocclusions (bad bites). So it's actually a viable option for more orthodontic patients in general — teens as well as adults.

If you would like to learn more about clear aligners for your teenager, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also find out more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.”