How and why aligners work: An orthodontist’s perspective

It’s rather remarkable that our teeth can be moved from crooked to straight when you consider that teeth are the hardest part of our bodies, moving within bone, the 2nd hardest part. And that can be done with a thin little piece of plastic. How is that possible? I'm Dr Richard Schechtman and I'll explain how aligners work and what makes them an effective alternative to braces.

How do teeth straighten?

Our teeth have two parts: The crown (the pearly-white part you see in your mouth) and the root, which is hidden beneath the gums. The roots of teeth are anchored to the bone around them by a network of microscopic fibres (the periodontal ligament) surrounding the roots. When pressure is placed on a tooth, the ligament transfers that force to the bone which in turn triggers the bone to reshape to allow the tooth to move in the applied direction.

Teeth miraculously respond to very light, gentle forces applied over a period of time.

Braces and clear teeth aligners apply pressure to teeth in a precise, controlled manner, and pressure results in tooth movement. And compared to braces, aligners do it invisibly.

What are the alternatives to braces for teeth?

Braces have been around for about 100 years. While they have gone through many evolutions and improvements, they have always worked the same way. Braces are customised handles that attach to teeth and wires act as the guide rails that “tell” the teeth where to move. Braces are very effective for straightening teeth but have some considerable downsides: Braces require dietary restrictions because they are prone to breakage; can be uncomfortable; get food stuck in them and are hard to clean, and require many more office visits for adjustments by an orthodontist.

Clear aligners compared with braces, on the other hand, are more comfortable to wear, easy to clean, and allow wearers to eat anything they please. While braces have been the gold standard of orthodontics, over the last 20 years clear aligner technology has made tremendous strides and now rivals the power of braces for many orthodontic problems.

Wondersmile aligners are designed from sophisticated computer software that pre-programs your entire sequence of teeth straightening movements, dividing up the movements into stages, each like the freeze frames of a movie, or time-lapse photography. Each frame represents a visual of a moment in time, and the tooth positions change with each frame. And, each frame also represents an actual aligner that you will wear, which will bring about the tiny changes seen in the frame of the movie. You can find out more about what to expect at the 3D scan here.

WonderSmile Invisible Teeth Aligner
Wondersmile's clear teeth aligners are custom-made and delivered to your door

The aligner puts gentle pressure on your teeth while you wear the aligner for just 2 weeks. That’s enough time to assure that the roots will move, and the bone will reshape to accommodate the new tooth positions. Then you simply repeat the process with the next successive aligners. This is all sent to you in one simple aligner kit with each aligner that's custom-made for you, clearly marked with the date and time you need to change it.

On average, Wondersmile clear aligners can transform your smile with a sequence of only 14-18 aligners*. Typically, no orthodontist office visits are required. Your treatment is monitored remotely by the team of orthodontists to assure the best results. Compare that with traditional braces, where the teeth movements are not preprogrammed by software but require several periodic office visits to make the necessary sequential changes, which makes clear aligners a great alternative to braces.

When you reach the end of your aligner sequence, you’ll see the difference! Sometimes additional aligners are needed to achieve the best finish, and that only requires a new scan of your teeth at one of the Wondersmile clinic locations. It's easy and painless.

*The number of aligners will vary with the difficulty of the orthodontic problem treated.

How is it possible to straighten teeth without going to an office?

Orthodontists have learned that certain tooth movements are predictable and can be monitored remotely rather than requiring visits to an orthodontist’s office every few weeks. Braces require periodic wire changes to move treatment along.Clear aligners have the “wire changes” already programmed into the sequence of aligners you are given. This creates convenience for patients without sacrificing control of the treatment.

Teledentistry, the use of technology to support and provide dental care delivery, has created this convenience that is very attractive to patients seeking an easy and affordable teeth straightening option. As an orthodontist with decades of experience seeing patients for monthly visits, I am confident with what can be achieved with clear aligner treatment that is remotely monitored. While not every orthodontic problem is amenable to this kind of treatment, over ten thousand of our satisfied patients have enhanced their smiles with no clinic visits after their initial scan at a Wondersmile clinic.

Are clear aligners a safe treatment method compared to braces?

Yes. With clear aligners, straightening your teeth is safe provided your teeth are healthy. I advise patients to see a dentist for an examination, cleaning and x-ray images within a year before starting Wondersmile's clear aligner treatment. This assures that there is no dental decay, gum disease or other abnormalities which could compromise the success and safety of orthodontic clear aligner treatment. The small precise movements planned by Wondersmile orthodontists are carefully directed at correcting problems of the front teeth. These treatments are safe and effective, and patients absolutely love their new smiles! Read more in my article on how to achieve a great smile with clear aligners.

How do I know clear teeth aligners will work for me?

Easy answer: Just book an appointment at one of the Wondersmile locations for a comfortable, scan of your teeth. Alternately some patients prefer to have an impression kit sent their home to take their own impressions, and mail these back to Wondersmile. Then the digital version of your teeth created will be reviewed by the orthodontists. In a week you will receive a digital simulation that looks like a movie of how your teeth will transition and finally look after clear aligner treatment.* Once you approve the future “new you”, your aligners will be ordered and shipped to your home for you to start your smile makeover.

*Some cases may be too complicated and ineligible for treatment.

Wondersmile's Clear Aligners Before and After

Wondersmile patients take real, unfiltered photos of their before and after clear aligner treatment. See what they're smiling about.

Wondersmile clear aligners are an affordable, safe and effective way to straighten your teeth from the comfort of your home. To begin your new smile journey, book a scan at one of our Wondersmile locations or order a teeth impression kit straight to your door.

Wondersmile is committed to teeth alignment and the results our aligners have and offers a Treatment Guarantee.

Find out if you're a candidate today, it takes a minute.

Written by Dr Richard Schechtman.