The traditional brace has a great reputation for efficacy, its long use in clinical practices showing it to be effective, treating a wide range of orthodontic issues with predictable reliable results. With the change of the demographics of orthodontic patients now focused on working adults with higher requirements for practical and less intrusive orthodontic treatment methods, there has been a drive towards non-brace based treatment, with clear aligners like Invisalign Fulham taking the lead.
Clear aligners of old were made out of dental splints and were a different way of moving teeth, but were based on the same fundamental idea as braces. The positioning of teeth is flexible and with consistent force in a precise direction, they can be realigned and straightened.
In a traditional brace, that force is stored in the tension of the archwire and delivered to the teeth via a bracket. Modern clear aligners have neither metal wires or brackets. Instead the tension is stored in the elastic properties of the plastic aligner itself and delivered to the surface of the tooth through the contact of the aligner with the tooth. Therefore, they have to be tight fitting with minimal a gap between the tooth surface and the inside of the aligners.
From an orthodontic perspective, the colour or translucency of the aligner is irrelevant and therefore a crystal clear aligner gives you all of the functions required, but is far more subtle than a standard brace in appearance. Many patients forget they are wearing their aligner during the day and those who they interact with are highly unlikely to ever notice it either, making it suitable for working professionals.
Are clear aligners as effective as braces?
There has been some controversy about the effectiveness of clear aligners; the origin of this seems to be in the way they are provided to patients. Traditional braces have only been available through local dental clinics and therefore have only been used under the guidance of a qualified dental professional. That not only increases the chances that the treatment will be effective, it also means that only patients who actually require and could benefit from the treatment are directed towards using a brace.
This is not true with clear aligners which can work through dental partners, especially branded aligners, but there are other providers of clear aligners who will operate directly with the public and provide aligner based systems at home, using moulding kits and mobile phone apps to monitor progress. This business model has been questioned by the British Orthodontic Society, because of its bias on seeing patients as customers meaning they may be introduced to a product that might not be truly appropriate for them, and with less oversight than they would get from a local dental clinic.
When you undertake treatment with clear aligners, the vast majority of cases can be resolved more quickly than with traditional options, with treatment ranging from 12 to 18 months varying according to the severity of the misalignment involved. Patients also report progress with far less discomfort or impact to their everyday lives, dietary choices and routines when using clear aligners, so if you are curious if they could help you, talk to your dentist.