Compared to traditional braces, orthodontic clear aligners seem miraculous in many ways, almost too good to be true. You may be wondering if they really work. The answer is yes — but they are not for everyone.
Clear orthodontic aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are used to move your teeth and transform your smile without much interference to your daily life. They are removable trays made of a clear plastic material that is essentially invisible.
When using aligners, a sequence of slightly different trays is custom-made to fit over your teeth. You must wear each one 20 hours a day for two weeks before changing to the next in the series. The aligners are computer generated, designed by state-of-the-art techniques based on models and images of your own teeth. They work because slight changes in the sequential aligners gradually shift your teeth. If they are worn consistently, the process takes from six months to two or three years.
Advantages over traditional braces are:
Clear aligners are a good solution for correcting mild to moderately crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth. They are most effective if your back teeth already fit together properly. Clear aligners are usually effective in correcting simpler or tipping movements of teeth in two dimensions. For more complex movements, traditional braces may be required. Clear aligners are usually recommended for adults whose teeth and jaws are fully developed, and not for children.
Traditional braces are fixed brackets attached to the teeth through which narrow, flexible wires are threaded. They may be necessary if your teeth do not meet properly, creating too much overbite or underbite. Closing spaces where teeth are missing, rotating teeth, or other complicated situations probably make you a better candidate for traditional braces.
Each particular situation is unique. To find out if clear aligners are right for you, make an appointment with us for an assessment and diagnosis of your own situation. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”
OK, so you've been getting orthodontic treatment for what seems like a long timeâ??and finally, your braces are about to come off! Now you're home free, right?
Well, almost… but now comes the final part of your treatment: the retention phase. That means you'll need to wear a retainer. Most people find that a retainer is more comfortable than braces — but because it is often removable, there's the temptation to just leave it off. Don't do it! Here are the top five reasons why you should always wear your retainer as instructed:
1) A retainer helps to make your teeth stable in their new positions.
Your teeth aren't rigidly set in stone (or in bone) — instead, they are held in place by a hammock-like set of ligaments, and the bone that surrounds them is somewhat pliable. That's a good thing… because, otherwise, they would be even harder to move! But it means that it will take some time for the bone and ligament around the teeth to re-form and stabilize in its new position. A retainer holds them in position while that is happening.
2) If you don't wear it, your brand-new smile may not stay looking the way it should.
Did you know that your bone and gum tissue have some “memory?” Unfortunately, it's not the kind that could help you on a science quiz — but teeth can “remember” where they used to be located… and, if you leave them alone, they may try and go back there! A major goal of the retainer is to keep your new smile looking great! If you don't wear it, and your teeth shift back, you risk losing all the time (and money) you invested.
3) There are different types of retainers available; one of them might be just right for you.
At one time, all retainers were made of pink plastic and silvery wire, and were removable. That kind is still available, but now you may have a choice of different colors or patterns — you might even be able to customize yours! Another alternative that may be appropriate is a clear retainer that fits over your teeth, making it nearly invisible. In some cases, you can have a thin wire bonded to the inside of the teeth instead of a removable retainer. It doesn't show, and you don't have to worry about taking it out.
4) As time goes on, you'll probably need to wear your retainer less and less.
At first, you'll probably need to wear your retainer all the time, but after a while you may only have to wear it at night — a lot easier to manage! Think of it as a way of easing yourself out of orthodontic treatment — and into a brand-new smile. The retention stage also helps your teeth avoid damage by allowing the process to end slowly and gently.
5) Lots of celebrities wear them.
If we know who, we aren't telling — but let's just say that several young entertainers and a recently married British Prince have worn retainers, or are still wearing them. So, you're in good company!
If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
Is there a single orthodontic appliance that can help your child get a wider, better-looking smile, correct problems with the bite, make room in a crowded upper jaw for new teeth to erupt (come in)... and shorten the overall time he or she will need to wear braces? The answer is yes: It's the palatal expander, a device that works with the natural growth patterns of a child's mouth, and offers dramatic results.
What's a palatal expander? Basically, it's a custom-made orthodontic appliance that fits between the rows of back teeth at the top (roof) of the mouth, close to the palate. After it has been put in place, it can be tensioned with a special key. Because it is contained inside the mouth, it's invisible when worn — but its benefits are easy to see.
How does it work? The palatal expander takes advantage of the fact that the left and right halves of a child's upper jaw bone don't completely fuse (knit together) until sometime after puberty. Until that happens, the upper jaw is relatively soft and easy to manipulate. When tension is applied, the palatal expander gently moves the bones apart, just like braces do for teeth. Then new bone tissue naturally fills in the space.
The appliance is tightened daily for a few weeks — while spacing improves dramatically — and then it's left on for several weeks more to stabilize the expansion. The total time a child needs to wear it is generally 3-6 months. After that, a set of braces can be put on if needed. So, what's so great about a palatal expander?
For one thing, the device can correct a crossbite, which occurs when the back top teeth bite inside (instead of outside) the bottom teeth. For another, expanding the upper jaw can relieve the condition known as crowding, which happens when the jaw isn't big enough to accommodate all the teeth. A related situation — impacted teeth — occurs when a tooth that hasn't yet erupted is blocked by another tooth above it. Both these conditions formerly required tooth extraction: an invasive and sometimes complicated procedure. Both can now be remedied by a palatal expander.
But maybe the biggest plus to a youngster — where a month can seem like an age — is the prospect of having to wear braces for less time. And that alone is a good reason to smile.
If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
We all know Madonna, Seal, David Letterman, Anna Paquin and Michael Strahan (of the talk show Kelly and Michael). What do all of these celebrities have in common? Each has a “signature gap” between their front teeth. Given that they have been in the public eye for quite some time, it's not likely that these famous faces will choose to change their well-known smile. In fact, Michael Strahan has publically stated that he will never close his gap.
However, it is not uncommon for people to desire to fix a small gap in their teeth, particularly in advance of important events, such as weddings. Often times, fixing this small gap requires relatively simple orthodontic movements or tooth straightening. Since the teeth don't have to be moved very far, we can usually use simple appliances to correct the issue within a few months.
In order for us to determine your course of treatment, you'll need to make an appointment with our office for a thorough examination. When we examine you, we'll be looking for a number of items that will affect our treatment recommendation:
Based on our assessment and your individual needs, we may recommend one of the following options:
Regardless of the method we choose, once your teeth have moved into the new position, it is important for you to remember that they must be kept in this position until the bone stabilizes around the teeth. We may therefore advise you to wear a retainer for a few months to a few years, depending on your situation.
If you would like more information about orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Minor Tooth Movement.”
You've probably heard of the relatively new method of straightening teeth with thin, plastic orthodontic appliances (“ortho” – to straighten; “odont” – teeth) known as clear aligners. Here are some reasons you might want to consider them for your orthodontic treatment:
While there are some cases in which traditional braces are still the best option, clear aligners have more applications than ever before. They also have some clear advantages that are worth considering.
If you would like more information about clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about clear aligners in general by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.”