It used to be that the only option for straightening a teenager's teeth involved lots of shiny hardware. Besides the esthetic downside, traditional orthodontic devices (braces) can interfere with the enjoyment of certain favorite foods, irritate the inside of the mouth, trap food particles (potentially another esthetic embarrassment and sustenance for cavity-causing bacteria), and complicate dental hygiene routines.
These aren't causes for concern with clear orthodontic aligners, however, which consist of a series of transparent plastic, removable trays that fit over the teeth and gradually move them into better positioning. About every two weeks, the teen proceeds to the next aligner in the progression (or set of aligners if treatment involves both the upper and lower teeth) until the improved alignment goal is reached. The trays are meant to be worn 22 hours a day, but they can be removed for eating, brushing and flossing, and, on a limited basis, special occasions.
Thanks to relatively recent developments in the design of clear aligner systems, teens who previously were not considered good candidates for this modality may now have this option available to them. This includes:
- Teens whose second molars (the last to come in except for wisdom teeth) haven't fully emerged. Aligners now come with “eruption tabs” that serve as place-holders for teeth that are still growing into position.
- Teens with severely rotated teeth requiring complicated movement. Tooth-colored attachments called “buttons” can be temporarily bonded onto teeth to provide additional leverage, and elastics (rubber bands) can also be used to promote movement.
Compliance is always a concern with any orthodontic treatment — whether it be gum chewing with traditional braces or wearing clear aligners for the requisite period of time each day. Aligners now come with built-in colored “compliance indicators” that fade with use over time. This makes it possible for orthodontists, dentists, parents and teens alike to monitor both compliance and treatment progress.
If you would like more information about clear orthodontic 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.”