Clear aligners are clear trays that gradually shift a patient’s teeth into place. They are virtually invisible, and patients can remove them for eating and cleaning. But some may not be aware that both in-office and at-home aligners exist, and both options may be available. Read on to learn how in-office and at-home teeth aligners work so patients can decide which option to choose:

What are in-office aligners?

In-office clear aligners are custom-made for a patient’s specific dental situation and treatment plan. The dentist or orthodontist will take X-rays, pictures, and impressions of the patient’s teeth, which will be used to create a 3D image of their teeth. This image is then used to create custom clear aligners.

Patients will need to wear the clear aligners for 20 to 22 hours daily for the best results. They’ll need to visit the dentist or orthodontist every 4 to 6 weeks so they can check the patient’s progress and give them the next set of clear aligners in the treatment plan.

The average treatment time for in-office clear aligners is 9 to 15 months, but this will vary depending on the patient’s individual case. In-office clear aligners are an effective and popular way to straighten teeth, and can be used to treat various dental issues.

What are at-home aligners?

Sometimes known as DIY aligners, at-home aligners are a type of orthodontic treatment that can be used by patients to straighten teeth on their own. Just like with in-office aligners, they work by gradually moving the teeth into alignment over time, and the patient may need to wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day. The average treatment time for at-home aligners is about 12 months, but this can vary depending on the individual.

At-home aligners are not monitored by a dentist or orthodontist. This means that the patient will need to be diligent about wearing them as prescribed in order for them to work effectively and avoid damage to the teeth.

Differences between in-office and at-home aligners

It’s worth considering the differences between in-office and at-home aligners when trying to decide which type of treatment is right for one’s needs. Here are four key distinctions:

  • Support: If patients have any questions or concerns about their aligners, it can be easier to set up an appointment with the doctor with in-office aligners. With at-home aligners, patients can try reaching out to the company’s customer support team, but it may take longer to get an answer.
  • Treatment complexity: In-office aligners can be better for treating more complex cases. For instance, the doctor can put attachments on some teeth if needed. With at-home aligners, on the other hand, a patient’s treatment options can be more limited.
  • Cost: In-office aligners are typically more expensive than at-home aligners.
  • Flexibility: In-office aligners require patients to schedule regular appointments with the orthodontist, whereas at-home aligners can offer more flexibility since the patient can undergo treatment from the comfort of home.

The bottom line

Both in-office and at-home aligners come with their benefits and limitations. Ultimately, the decision between the two comes down to personal preference and the orthodontist’s recommendation. Patients who are not sure which type of treatment is right for them should ask an orthodontist for their professional opinion.

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