Aligners: A New Way to Straighten Up and Smile Bright
by Dr Richard Barry
It’s a cliché: a summertime photo of happy children with rumpled hair and sun-reddened noses…and braces on their teeth. Shiny metal braces. Of course, kids are still “cute as the dickens” (as their grandparents say) even with a mouth full of steel. Adults generally aren’t. That’s why adults who are unhappy with their crooked teeth, an off-kilter bite, or gaps between their teeth usually shy away from correcting the condition. Getting braces just doesn’t seem an appealing option when you’re all grown up.
Not anymore. Adults seeking a better smile, straighter teeth, or a more comfortable bite, now have a solution that gives them want they want, without leaving them looking like a 5th-grade photo: custom-fitted aligners.
What is an aligner and why is it better?
Aligners are a modern alternative to braces for conditions such a slightly crooked teeth or a mildly misaligned bite. Where traditional metal braces are bulky, uncomfortable, and obvious to anyone, plastic aligners are nearly unnoticeable. They’re removable for eating, brushing your teeth, flossing, and cleaning; and, with the use of our 3D scanner, at Lifetime Dental, they are easier to get and more affordable than ever.
Aligners work the same way traditional braces do: by using a gradually increasing force to move your teeth. Like traditional metal braces, they are designed to straighten crooked teeth, push teeth together to eliminate gaps, and adjust your jaw to help correct an over-, under-, or cross-fit bite. Your aligner is fabricated to fit your mouth, without metal wire or brackets. It applies a small amount of pressure to your teeth, which causes them to move, ever so slightly, while you are wearing it. (You won’t notice the movement. You’ll just notice the nice result.)
How does an aligner work and how long will I need one?
Aligners are worn about 20 hours a day, every day, in periods of up to two weeks. For the process to achieve maximum effectiveness, the specific time depends on how much adjustment your teeth need. After each period of use is complete, your teeth will be checked to see how the aligner is working, and a new device will be made to fit where your teeth are at that time. Each aligner adjusts your teeth a little bit, generally without your noticing. Though most patients require a series of several devices over a period of months to achieve the outcome they desire, overall, the time for aligners to work their magic is less than that of traditional braces.
Aligners make getting the smile you’ve always wanted easier than with traditional metal braces. So, how do we make an aligner that will work for you? And how does our 3D intraoral scanner help?
What does a 3D scanner do and how does it help create an aligner?
The first step in creating an aligner for you is to capture an impression of your teeth to use as a basis for fashioning the aligner. We use this impression to identify the teeth positions that need correcting or where, exactly, your bite is not matching. Moving teeth is a somewhat complex process. That’s why you will need a series of aligners, and we will need a series of pictures to create the appropriate device. This is where scanning comes in.
To make sure we are creating the most accurate possible impression of your teeth, we use a specialized tool called an intraoral scanner. This tool is inserted into your mouth and moved around to “scan” all of your teeth. Like scanning a magazine page on your home scanner/printer, our scanner receives an impression of your teeth, which is then processed by device-specific scanning software. (You’ll be able to watch the scanner as it works from the monitor next to the dental chair.) The result? A perfect 3D surface model of your teeth. In about two minutes.
The speed and accuracy of a 3D scanner is immensely helpful, both to us and to you:
Taking an impression of a mouth in the traditional manner can cause discomfort, due to the materials that are used and the trays that hold them. A gag reflex is often activated, and your mouth may be sore for a time after the impression is made. Using our 3D scanner eliminates the need for impression trays or materials to enter your mouth.
With a 3D scan, there’s a direct link from the scanned impression to where the aligner will be made. No casts to pour. No molds to make. The scans we make of your mouth are sent directly to the lab, electronically. This saves time and lessens the costs.
Best of all, the overall accuracy of the realignment is significantly increased. We can look at the image as it is created. This means we can adjust the settings of the scan in real-time to make the impression as accurate as it can possibly be. And that’s important because the more accurate our scan is, the more accurate the model is, and the better your aligner will fit your mouth. Because the aligner is what is actually moving your teeth, it has to be correctly suited to achieve a good result. Starting the process with a highly accurate scan means fewer corrections later. And that can mean a shorter time from start to sparking smile.
What should I do if I’m interested?
Is an aligner right for you? Our professionals can help you decide. So, when you’re ready to take the first step, simply make an appointment with us by phone or by sending in an appointment request online. Aligners are covered by most dental insurance, but if yours is an exception, be sure to ask us about how we can help. We’re ready and waiting to assist you in achieving the smile you’ve always wanted.