It seems as though recently, aligners are everywhere. Most of us are unable to scroll down our newsfeed, open our inbox or even walk down the street without seeing an advert for some form of teeth straightening. At-home kits, self-impression sets and, the most prominent, Invisalign treatments – aligners seem to be broadcast far and wide for all to see.
With the teeth straightening market seeming to take off overnight, with so many companies, brands and alternatives, it can be tricky to find out which option is best for you. Clear aligners can sound pretty straightforward, so surely any company can produce the same result as Invisalign, right?
Fortunately, we’ve researched the options and weighed up the differences for you, so that you can spend less time browsing and more time straightening!
First, let’s look at the basics of aligners.
What are clear aligners, what do they do and how do they work?
In 1997, Align Technology produced a state-of-the-art alternative to chunky, metal braces. This new product, Invisalign, emerged on the market to straighten teeth in a faster, more comfortable and practically invisible way. Since then, hundreds of other companies have created their own versions of these clear aligners, using similar methods.
Clear aligners work by gently pressuring any out-of-line teeth into the desired position over a period of time, usually between 4 to 18 months, depending on how much movement is required.
Patients will get a series of aligners, or trays, designed to be worn for a couple of weeks before moving onto the next set. Each tray moves the patient’s teeth that little bit closer to the finished product. These trays are custom made to perfectly fit the patients teeth, created using a mould, or ‘impression’ of their teeth before starting the treatment, plus a bunch of clever, computer generated 3D images.
Clear Aligners can help with multiple issues
Clear aligners can not only help to straighten wonky or crooked teeth but can even help with issues such as overbites, underbites or twisted teeth.
The idea is, by the time you finish with your final tray, your teeth will be in the desired position – aka, wonderfully straight and perfectly aligned.
Sounds great – so, where do I start?
Now, here is the tricky part. Where do you go? Who do you choose? How much do you spend? These are all big questions and important factors to think about. Not only are you spending your money, but you’re putting the health and appearance of your teeth into a company’s hands. That in itself can be quite daunting.
Both Invisalign and other brand clear aligners offer similar products using the same methods for teeth straightening. The main difference between the two however, is that Invisalign is sold, administered and monitored by qualified dentists or orthodontists.
Are home kits an option?
A majority of other brand aligners are at-home kits, where you receive your impression kit (to create your moulds) through the post, perform an impression by yourself and post these back. You’ll then get your range of trays through the post within a few weeks and begin the treatment independently.
Over the last few years (especially in the last 18 months, with Covid 19 encasing many of us in our own homes) being able to do things from home can be super convenient and saves us time and travel. You’ll probably notice too, that at-home kits are often cheaper and have lots of discounts and sale prices – who doesn’t love getting a bargain?
Is at-home self-treatment right for you?
However, patients need to consider whether self-treatment is the right option for them. A bargain price and being able to start your aligner journey in your pajamas might be attractive, but consider the risks of teeth straightening without any supervision or monitoring.
What if you are feeling pain, or your teeth begin to move in an unexpected way? What if you are unhappy with the results, or break a tray? Without a dentist or orthodontist assigned to your specific case, you might not have anyone to turn to for advice for help if you need it. On the other hand, some at-home brands do advertise 24/7 online support, via call, email or even instant chat, which can certainly help in these situations.
But bear in mind that there will not be a person physically at hand to support you. For those patients that are also seeking results before a set date, for example, a wedding, having the in-person monitoring would help you get the best efficiency out of your aligners and hopefully get you to the end of your treatment before the big day.
A qualified practitioner can make a big difference in your end result
Having a professional there, in-person, assessing your case, progress and final result has for some been a life-saver. Not everyone is suitable for clear aligners, something that is difficult for companies to tell without seeing patients in person.
Many dentists will take an oral x-ray of patients before creating a customised teeth straightening treatment plan, to see how the movement will affect your jaw bone and the roots of your teeth. Especially for those with complex cases, such as wide gaps, twisted teeth or overbites/underbites, an at-home kit has the potential to actually make your teeth worse, by attempting to move teeth that aren’t that simple to fix.
There have been some horror-story style reports of at-home aligners creating more problems than patients started out with. Some have caused so many issues for users that they end up spending thousands to pounds to rectify the complication, or worse. When looking at these kits, you really need to weigh up the risks and decide whether you believe you can get your desired result without any professional input.
Is aligner technology and process a contributing factor to your decision?
Another factor to consider is the materials themselves and how the aligners are created, and how they look and feel. Every brand creates aligners slightly differently, from the way their impressions are made, to how the aligners are cut.
Most companies, including Invisalign, create impressions using a wide tray filled with a putty compound. If you opt for Invisalign, this will be performed by a fully qualified dentist or orthodontist, so the impressions will be precise and correctly positioned.
Most other brands will require you to mix the compound yourself with a powder and water combination and take this impression yourself. You’ll need to ensure you do this correctly or your customer made trays will not fit to your specifications and could be ineffective.
Many dentists agree that it takes years to master the art of a good impression and even in-practice impressions sometimes need to be repeated to get a fully fitted mould. It’s also worth enquiring with any competitor about whether you would need to repay for a second impression kit, if your first impressions are unusable or fail.
Do Invisalign Clear Aligners come with superior technology?
After the impression is taken, the mould is shipped off, to either an Invisalign lab or back to the aligners hub. Both invisalign and other brand aligner companies will then use the impression to create your aligners. One clear difference at this stage is Invisalign uses laser-cut technology to precisely cut the trays to your gum line, meaning the aligners do you go above, or rub on your gum line.
This is something that can cause quite a bit of discomfort, as your gums are very sensitive and easily irritated. A majority of other brands use standard cutting techniques which are not as accurate. All aligners are created using plastic, more precisely, polyurethane resins.
They should be free of BPA, toxic materials, but if you are opting for an off-brand alternative, particularly from overseas, it’s important that you enquire and confirm that this is the case. BPA is an industrial chemical that can cause a wide range of health issues if ingested, so you certainly do not want it present in your aligners, that you’ll be wearing for a minimum of 20 hours per day!
So, what should I go for?
Ultimately, the decision is down to every individual, but there are elements that undeniably point towards Invisalign being the better contender. For a cheaper but riskier alternative, at-home kits can certainly save the user some cash. But the results might not be great (or could even be worse!) and there are points, particularly at the start during the impression stage, where user error could cause some problems.
Is Invisalign Clear Aligners the best choice?
For a higher-end, but guaranteed result, Invisalign would certainly be a patient’s best bet. The absence of an in-person professional certainly lets down many Invisalign alternatives, and isolates a lot of patients that start out with complex tooth issues.
The Invisalign aligners are created to a higher-quality finish than most competitors too and, because they are the original aligner company, their technology and patient journey seems to be more advanced than other competing brands.
Overall, clear aligner competitors offer a lower cost alternative, but with often inadequate results, a high risk element and the need for the user to do a large portion of the labour. Invisalign is the original, leading clear aligner company, with advanced technology, personalised support and top quality results with very little effort from the patient.
Invisalign Clear Aligners at Oradent Dental Care
If you’d like to see whether Invisalign is the treatment for you or to start your journey toward getting your perfect smile, get in touch with your local Oradent Dental Care practice today, and one of our dedicated Treatment Coordinators will be happy to speak with you.