Aligners are dental devices that are used as an alternative to the traditional braces to help position the misaligned teeth to their real or desired positions. The aligners are usually made of plastic that are used for medicinal purposes and are designed to fit perfectly inside the patient’s mouth. The aligners are usually made out of an elastic thermoplastic material and they apply pressure to the teeth to move into the aligner’s position.
In some cases, the dentist might suggest the use of a couple of aligners to provide a gradual shifting of the teeth before it reaches its final position. These aligners are usually aligned a little from each other to push the teeth slowly to their final position, each time they are replaced. Each aligner is worn for nearly 2-4 weeks, depending on the dentist’s recommendations, before being replaced by a new one.
The patients will have to wear the aligners at last for most of the day for the best results but can take them off when they are eating, brushing and flossing. The duration of the treatment depends on the complexity of the case. The treatment might last from 3 months to 48 months in some cases.
Some Aligners like the Inman Aligner have coil springs made of Nickel Titanium that will power two aligner bows that are placed gently opposing each other, thus helping to guide the teeth to their final desired position. These forces act over a large range of movement.
Let us take the case of a Inman Aligner that is attached to the front teeth. The aligner works on the principle of the squeeze effect of the two aligner bows. The teeth are pushed forward by the inner bow while the outer bow pulls the teeth back.
Aligners have the following advantages:
The dentist will initially start the treatment by first examining the teeth and then taking X-rays and photographs, a bite impression of the bite position of the upper and lower teeth and also the impression of the patient’s teeth and gums.
The dentist will then proceed to make a 3D representation of the teeth and then decide on the final position of the teeth and then chalk out the treatment plan. The dentist will then create a separate aligner for the different stages of the teeth from their present position to the desired final position. Each aligner will move the teeth around 0.25 to 0.33 millimeters towards its final position.
The dentist will then conduct the initial fitting of the aligner. The patient is advised to wear them for 16-20 hours daily and to remove them only for eating, brushing and flossing.
The dentist will ask the patient to visit the clinic every 2-3 weeks for checking and for fitting the new aligner. Once the final aligner is removed, the doctor will prescribe retainers for the patient to use to prevent the relapse of the teeth to its earlier position.
Authored By Dr Sanjay N - Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Bangalore