What Are Clear Plastic Aligners?

Whether you're a parent helping your child get an orthodontic appliance, or you're an adult considering which braces are right for you, you may have questions about clear plastic aligners. Knowing the details of what these dental appliances are and how they work can help you decide whether or not plastic aligners are right for your needs.

What are clear plastic aligners?

Clear plastic aligners are a form of invisible orthodontics. Aligners are made from a mold of the patient's teeth. Aligners fit directly over the teeth and are worn for the majority of the day. When they are clean and well-maintained, they are virtually invisible.

What are the advantages of clear plastic aligners?

There are many advantages to clear plastic aligners, including:

  • Removable for easy cleaning. Unlike standard braces that fit on the teeth and never come off, clear plastic aligners can be removed, which make it easier to clean the teeth. This also makes cleaning the appliance itself relatively easy.
  • Minimal discomfort. Clear plastic aligners don't have wires or rubber bands, which means that they don't produce cuts inside the mouth like many other orthodontic appliances.
  • Discretion. Clear plastic aligners allow patients to wear braces discretely. For patients who feel self-conscious about their braces, clear plastic aligners achieve the results of traditional braces, without giving the appearance that the patient is wearing braces.

Are there any downsides to clear plastic aligners?

Because clear plastic aligners are removable, the patient must be committed to wearing them. Patients who take out their braces and regularly forget to put them back on will not benefit from having them. For younger patients, clear plastic braces may require the patient to have a certain amount of personal maturity in order to be effective.

How are clear plastic aligners maintained?

Clear plastic aligners are cleaned twice daily every time the patient cleans his or her teeth. These orthodontic appliances are not cleaned with normal toothpaste, because normal toothpaste can scratch the surface of the aligners. To clean the aligners, patients use toothpaste formulated for cleaning dentures and soft-bristled toothbrushes that scrub the aligners without doing damage to the plastic.

For more information about clear plastic aligners, or for information about other invisible orthodontic appliances (such as ceramic braces or inside braces), contact your orthodontist. He or she can answer your questions, compare the different types of invisible orthodontics available on the market, and help you decide which type of dental appliance is right for your needs.