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Clear Aligners

A relatively new way of moving teeth, aligners are removable braces as opposed to the normal fixed ones. Invisalign is a proprietary name for aligners that are made in the USA by Align Technology, but there are now an increasing number of other systems that utilise the same technology, mainly because 3D printers are more available and cheaper. I use aligners made by JJ Thompson Orthodontic Laboratory in Sheffield.

How they work:

An aligner is a thin, transparent, plastic sheet that fits closely over the teeth. A single aligner is often used as a retainer at the end of treatment with braces to hold the teeth straight. To move the teeth you need a series of aligners, each one slightly different from the next. The patient gets a box with the aligners in it, each one numbered and to be used in number order. Each one is worn for 3 weeks, starting with number one, until the last one is reached; they are worn full time except for cleaning and eating. Each aligner pushes the teeth slightly so that the next one will fit, so will feel tight at first and then loosen off.

How they are made:

An impression (same as for a sports guard) is taken of the teeth and this is used to construct the aligners. At Witney we use digital scanning technology for any impressions taken. The digital image of your impression is sent in an email to the laboratory, which they can print out using 3D printing. Before printing, the 3D image is manipulated so that the teeth are straight and then the stages between crooked and straight are created on the computer screen. These stages are printed out and a plastic aligner made on each one. This system is basically the same for all types of aligner.

What they are good at:

Generally the best cases are those with milder amounts of crookedness, for instance in adults who have had braces when younger but whose teeth have just moved slightly. Aligners have the advantage that they look good and they can be a cheaper alternative to normal braces in the right case (see cost below).

What they are not good at:

Problems often occur with aligners when trying to correct more severe crookedness. Personally we would not use aligners if the teeth are so crooked that removal of teeth is indicated (in roughly 50% of cases), also if teeth are trapped behind other teeth or need moving vertically. This is because the aligner is not attached to the teeth you cannot get very precise alteration in tooth position so they are best used when absolute perfection is not desired. More crookedness will mean more aligners and an increased cost (see below). At about 10 aligners the cost becomes similar to fixed braces so, personally, we would prefer to use fixed braces if the number of aligners is above 10. In fact most cases that would need over 10 aligners would not suitable for aligners anyway.

Cost:

Each aligner costs the patient £90.

If aligners are possible then we would take an impression of the teeth to be moved and ask the lab to tell us how many aligners it will take. We would then phone you, the patient with the exact cost of treatment.

Ask your dentist to arrange a referral if you are aged under 18,

or phone to arrange a private appointment without a referral.

Site updated 27-06-2019