You’ve seen the commercials for clear aligners that promise to straighten your teeth over time. You may be interested in getting fitted for aligners to get the beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of. But in a world where it seems like getting braces is the traditional first step, you have only one question: how do aligners straighten the teeth?

This article will detail what aligners aim to do, how they work and why someone may choose aligners over braces.

What do aligners do?

Aligners are generally offered as an alternative to braces. They are typically transparent plastic shells that users wear for up to 22 hours per day. When worn on schedule, they move the teeth over time to a new position. An orthodontist creates a virtual model of your teeth and sends the results to a manufacturer, who mails you however many sets of aligners are necessary to meet your teeth-straightening goals.

How do aligners work?

Aligners are intended to force the teeth to make small movements over time by putting gentle pressure on each tooth. This pressure is distributed across the teeth, through the roots and into the jaw through the aligners’ design. In most cases, the jawbone responds to the force by shifting the socket.

Braces attach directly to the teeth. Aligners can’t do that, so each set comes with pressure points known as attachments that apply pressure from the aligner to the teeth. 

The aligners work when the patient adheres to a comprehensive treatment plan over a prescribed time period. 

Orthodontic treatment plan

The product only works if you consistently follow the treatment plan laid out by your orthodontist. You and your oral health professional will work together to evaluate your oral health, take impressions or scans of your teeth, implement a customized treatment plan and discuss the changes to your oral health routine. This plan will also cover costs and how long you’ll wear the aligners. 

Multiple sets of aligners

Many patients may need up to three series of aligners to see optimal results, with each series typically containing 10-50 aligners. People who need minimal teeth straightening may need only 15-25 trays, while more severe treatment could mandate the highest amount. 

Aligners work slowly. It may be frustrating to wear them 22 hours a day for months at a time. But think about braces: they work the same way, except you can’t remove them. Aligners need to essentially simulate braces, which means eating and brushing are the only realistic times to give the teeth a break. Treatment is different for everyone, but you should expect to have to wear your aligners for 9-12 months.

Aligners or braces?

The debate between aligners and braces comes down to personal preference. You can consider factors such as comfort and convenience – but at the end of the day, both options are equally effective in most cases. In some scenarios, clear aligners cost less.  If you’re worried that aligners will lack the same efficacy as braces, rest assured you won’t get lower-quality care with the removable option.

Bottom line

Remember: aligners are the same as braces, repackaged in a way that may be more palatable to certain people. They work in almost the same way, intending to straighten your teeth to give you the smile of your dreams. Now that you know the nuts and bolts of aligners, consider scheduling an appointment today to get fitted.