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How Do Clear Aligners Work?

Different Orthodontic Treatment, Same Great Results!

So you’ve decided you want to straighten your teeth with clear aligners – congratulations! But you may be wondering: how do they actually work? After all, they seem rather different than the metal braces with which you might be familiar, where your teeth are guided into place by metal brackets attached by a wire.

If there’s no wire or brackets, how do clear aligners work? Well, first things first: even though the process is different, the results are the same – a healthy, beautiful smile that lasts for years to come!

With this form of braces, orthodontists straighten your teeth using a series of translucent plastic aligners that gently and safely guide each tooth into its correct position. Treatment generally lasts between six months to two years, depending on your case and the severity of your diagnosis. Each treatment is tailor-designed for your mouth, teeth, and jaw, and your supervising doctor* will closely monitor your progress to ensure the aligners are guiding your teeth properly.

Beginning Your Clear Aligner Treatment


* Tele-dentists using mail-order clear aligners do not directly supervise your case in-person. For the most reliable results, you should see a licensed orthodontist in an office.

At your initial consultation, you’ll have your teeth examined. Depending on the provider you select and their treatment methods, they will either take X-Rays, 3D-images, or dental impressions.

In the case of tele-dentists who don’t actually see you in person, you may be mailed a putty kit to take impressions at home. Designing an entire clear aligner treatment around an at-home putty kit is discouraged by orthodontic experts: putty kits are much more likely to result in ineffective treatment and unintended consequences. X-Rays or 3D-scans are much more effective at developing a comprehensive diagnosis of your teeth, so orthodontic experts recommend selecting a treatment that includes one of these.

The orthodontist will use this comprehensive information for two purposes:

  • To diagnose your case and develop a unique treatment plan
  • To create your custom clear aligners
You will then be outfitted with a series of clear aligners, one set at a time, with each set consisting of a top and bottom aligner. You will wear each set for 1-2 weeks, and they will fit snugly over your teeth. There may be some discomfort in the beginning as you adjust, but the vast majority of patients find they adapt nearly right away and aren’t bothered by their aligners. The design of each set of aligners helps gently guide teeth towards their correct positions, with each set further progressing treatment.

For the aligners to be effective, it’s important to wear them as much as possible: 20-22 hours a day. This ensures continuous progress towards your treatment goals, and helps you achieve your dream smile as efficiently and effectively as possible!

Attachments Give Your Aligner Treatment the Grip it Needs

If necessary for your treatment, your orthodontist may use attachments to improve the outcome of your smile**. Attachments are small fixtures that adhere to a few of your teeth and help give your clear aligners extra grip, to better finesse the movement of your teeth.
Not all cases require attachments, but many do, and they provide critical supplementary support for your aligners. The attachments are very small and nearly invisible, especially when you are wearing your aligners.

Your orthodontist will be able to answer any questions you have about your attachments, and explain your unique case to you, so you can feel confident that you understand your clear aligner treatment every step of the way towards your winning smile!


** This supplement is not available with tele-dentistry, only in-office with a licensed orthodontist.

Caring for Your Clear Aligners: Cleaning, Maintenance, and Replacement

It’s not difficult to maintain your clear aligners – but it is important! Keeping your aligners clean and using them properly helps ensure effective results.

Always remove your aligners while eating or drinking anything but water. When you’re finished eating or drinking, brush your teeth before putting your aligners back in to make sure food does not remain on your teeth. Even though they’re liquids, it’s important to avoid beverages while wearing your aligners because they can stain the plastic – and hot drinks can warp the shape, which is specially designed to adjust your teeth.

Clean your clear aligners every day by rinsing them in clean, cool water and brushing them gently with a toothbrush to remove build-up and debris. Don’t use toothpaste or mouthwash. Most aligner brands offer specialized cleaning solution to properly care for your aligners.

When you get your next set of aligners, keep the set you’ve just completed as a back-up set. That way, if you lose the set you’re currently wearing, you’ll still be able to keep up with your treatment while you wait for your replacement.

Lost an aligner? It’s ok! Because you’re removing them during meals, it can happen that you accidentally throw it out or misplace it. And aligners can break or bend out of shape, which may also require a replacement aligner. Don’t panic! Simply schedule an appointment with your orthodontist right away, and they will fit you for a new aligner. Wear your back-up aligner while you wait for the new one. Be sure to call your orthodontist right away to minimize the interruption of your treatment!

Treatment You Can See and Feel, With Results That Make You Smile!

You may be surprised how quickly you will notice the results of your clear aligner treatment! The aligners begin shifting your teeth nearly right away, so you will be able to feel your teeth moving into place quickly. As you get used to the aligners, it will become second nature to use them properly – and before you know it, you’re finished, with a beautiful smile to last a lifetime!

Take a look at some of these results from our clear aligner treatments – with ease and convenience, you’re sure to be pleased with your smile! Start your journey to a dream smile today with clear aligners.

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