Clear Aligners vs. Traditional Braces — Six Key Benefits of Clear Aligners
Dr. Palleck is a two-time graduate of the University of Western Ontario (UWO), having completed her dental program in 1993 and her masters in orthodontics in 1999. In private practice for 15 years, she is also a clinical instructor at UWO and has served three terms as president of the Oxford County Dental Society. She has a special interest in office systems, digital orthodontics, specifically Insignia Advanced Smile Design, and has lectured in the U.S. and Canada on digital orthodontics, practice management and staff issues. She is working with micro-pulse technology to study its effect on custom appliance treatment.
It is truly an exciting time to be an orthodontist — and a patient! With advances in the technology, materials, and products, orthodontists can now move teeth in a less forceful and more discrete way than ever before. I have the ability to treat my patients so much more comfortably and in a manner that makes them more comfortable with how they look during treatment, from day one.
When people hear that I am an orthodontist, or when prospective patients come into my office for a consultation, the first two questions I usually hear are: “Do clear aligners work?” and “What are the advantages of clear aligners?”
For starters, yes, clear aligners really DO work very well for most patients. And, with improvements in materials and products, today’s options are even better than just a few years ago. Secondly, there are many advantages of clear aligners over conventional braces.
The Top-Six Advantages of Clear Aligners
- Barely There: Clear aligners, like their name, are nearly invisible plastic trays that, when worn, are very discrete compared to metal braces.
- Removable: Aligners are much more flexible than braces, which are affixed to your teeth permanently until removed, because they are removable. Although they should be worn 22 hours a day, they can be removed for that essential interview, first date or other key moments, as long as these are the exception.
- Greater Comfort: Although there is some discomfort in moving teeth from one location to a more desirable location, clear aligners can be more comfortable than conventional braces because of how they consistently apply gentle pressure to move the teeth and the fact that there are no uncomfortable brackets brushing up against lips or the inside of the mouth.
- Dental Hygiene: Brushing is difficult with braces. Because aligners are removed for brushing and flossing, proper dental hygiene is easy to maintain, so patients have much less gingivitis and inflammation, improving overall oral health.
- No Food Constraints: Patients with aligners can eat and drink what they want because aligners are removed for eating. With braces, patients should not eat anything that easily can break a bracket, such as chips, popcorn, or chewy or hard candy — or biting into an apple, for example. And sodas are a no-no, too, for those wearing traditional braces, due to the effects of carbonation. There are no limitations with aligners.
- Fewer Office Visits: Clear aligners work by applying continuous, gentle force on the teeth. A series of aligners, or plastic trays, are custom designed to incrementally move your teeth into a desired position. These custom aligners are developed using a 3D scan and software that creates a series of slightly different aligners that are replaced every one to two weeks depending on the treatment plan. Because there are no wires or brackets, office visits are less frequent and are dedicated to ensuring your treatment is progressing as planned.
Advances in Aligner Therapy
When Invisalign (the original clear aligner) came out more than 20 years ago, I saw some of the immediate advantages, such as a being a less visible way to straighten teeth than metal or even ceramic braces. But due to the material in this product and how it worked, I did not feel clear aligners were the best treatment modality for all patients, especially those with more complex malocclusion. Orthodontists had to build a knowledge base and gain experience using aligners to properly correct the issues we had previously used only braces to correct.
Today, I have found that there are very few cases that I cannot achieve outstanding results with a clear aligner system. But that is because materials and technology have evolved, as has my comfort level in my abilities to prescribe aligners and deliver a quality result for my patient. The preferred aligner used in my practice is the Spark™ Clear Aligner System, which has been available for a couple of years now. I was one of the first doctors in Canada to be trained to use this innovative product for my patients, and both my patients and I have loved the outcomes and the treatment journey for many reasons. Depending upon the patient’s diagnosis, treatment time is usually about the same as with braces for most patients. But how the treatment works and how often my patients need to come in for an in-office checkup is different with clear aligners because there are no wires to change out, or brackets to attach, tighten or repair. I usually see my patients every 8-10 weeks for an appointment and to give them their next set(s) of aligners.
As a doctor, I like the efficiency and effectiveness of Spark clear aligners, as well as the treatment planning process that happens behind the scenes. My patients like that they are comfortable, discrete and produce great smiles for almost every type of orthodontic issue, even some of those more complex issues. Spark clear aligners are truly different from other aligners on the market.
Below are Some of the Reasons I Find Spark Clear Aligners Superior:
- More Efficient Tooth Movement: Spark aligners are made with a new material called TruGEN™, the latest innovation in clear aligner material, which has been proven to provide advanced sustained force retention and better contact surface area with the teeth, for more efficient and effective tooth movement when compared to the leading aligner brand.*
- Greater Clarity: Compared to the leading aligner brand, Spark material is clearer than the leading aligner brand. It is a nearly invisible aligner.*
- Greater Comfort: With scalloped, polished, and smoother edges, Spark is more comfortable than the leading aligner brand.*
- Stain Resistance: The material used in Spark stains less than the leading competitor from residues associated with coffee, tea, red wine, etc.*
- Patient Satisfaction: A study from the manufacturer shows 100% of Spark patients would recommend Spark to a friend, and my patients feel the same way.*
While every patient treatment should be based on a thorough examination and diagnosis, Spark can address most clinical needs as well as patients’ personal treatment, lifestyle, and aesthetic goals. However, it is important to note that not all orthodontists use the same treatment methods or individual products. Some doctors only use aligners. Some do not use aligners for patient treatment at all. Some use Invisalign, while others use Spark. To find a doctor skilled in using Spark, this tool is helpful. I encourage you to learn more about Spark and see before and after cases here.
If you are considering clear aligners vs. braces, I think you will be pleased on how advanced they have become. My only caution is to select an aligner treatment that involves a doctor’s diagnosis, customized treatment plan and regular visits with a skilled orthodontist over a mail-order product that does not involve oversight from a trained orthodontist.
Dr. Sonia Palleck is a paid consultant for Ormco.
The opinions that are quoted in this material are those of Dr. Sonia Palleck. Clinicians use your own judgement when treating your patients.
*Data on File.