Are you looking for straight teeth to give you that perfect smile?

Article by Dr Andrew Wallace

Would you like to have perfectly straight teeth giving you that perfect smile? Who wouldn’t? Today there have never been more options for the large number of people seeking straighter teeth.

How do you get perfectly straight teeth?

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One great option for straight teeth are clear aligners. These discreet clear plastic trays allow you to have a wide range of orthodontic corrections with minimal discomfort. In addition, you will have the added benefit of being able to remove them for short periods.

There are many brands of clear aligners available in the UK. Examples of these are ClearCorrect and Clearsmile. Invisalign is one of the most popular and versatile of the brands.

Can you straighten adult teeth?

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Orthodontic treatment is becoming increasingly popular with adults as well as children. Most people want straight teeth to give them a perfect smile. This being the case, adults mostly prefer more discreet and less visible options. Clear aligners are only bettered in terms of visibility by lingual braces. (This is where the appliances are glued to the back of the teeth). You may have had braces when you were younger, but few of us appreciate the need for lifelong retainer use. As you get older your teeth move and crowd-up over time. This is particularly the lower incisors and it causes staining and discolouration. It also increases wear and enamel loss on the edges of the teeth.

Science backs up what we dentists have found in practice: most patients find clear aligners more comfortable and easier to manage.

Who are Invisalign?

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Align Technology are the American company behind Invisalign. They have been a pioneer in the development of clear aligners. Using innovative materials and computer technology they can improve outcomes and patient comfort. They are even using machine learning to make better and more accurate predictions of the orthodontic possibilities. More and more patients can be treated with this innovative technology.

How has the technology to achieve perfectly straight teeth changed?

To achieve straight teeth, modern aligner systems use CAD/CAM technology to plan the outcome. This allows dentists and orthodontists the ability to preview the result. With the help and input of the patient and technician everyone involved can have a clear idea of how the proposed new smile will look. They will also know exactly how the teeth will function. Never before have we had such an accurate way of planning orthodontic treatment.

What is involved in straightening teeth for that perfect smile?

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All orthodontic treatment starts will a full and thorough examination with regard to the dental and gum health. It takes into account the  shape of the jaws and their relation to the position of the teeth. It normally includes some x-rays and photographs. Once completed, the dentist will be able to better appreciate the suitability of the patient for any type of orthodontics including clear aligners. Dental and oral health is a must before orthodontics and only a dentist can ensure this is the case for you.

Impressions

Impressions (moulds) or a digital scan using a special type of camera is the next stage. This records the positions of your teeth. Again, new technology can even give you an initial preview of possible straight teeth outcomes there and then on the scanner screen with the latest scanner technology.

Laboratory

Your impressions or scans will now be sent off to the lab. They go through a series of steps with the guidance of the dentist or orthodontist. The technicians will move the “virtual” teeth on the computer screen to get to a point where dentist and technician are happy. The length of your treatment can be more accurately calculated. This more accurate digital preview, sometimes called a clincheck, can then be shown to the patient. This allows the you and the dentist to discuss and ensure the predicted outcome is going to make everyone happy with the new smile and bite.

When everyone is happy and understands the potential outcome, the lab can start producing the aligner trays. Importantly, you can get started on your treatment.

When do you wear your clear aligners?

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There are differing approaches to clear aligner therapy but most involve you wearing aligners almost full time during the day and night. You only take out your aligners for short periods to eat, brush and floss. Aligners work in a different way than braces. They apply a slight pressure to the teeth, pushing them in a gentle fashion towards the desired position. Because of this, it is normally part of the treatment to temporarily bond small pieces of tooth coloured “composite” filling to the surfaces of some of the teeth. This is how to make sure that your teeth are nudged most predictably into place. Don’t worry – engagers, or attachments as they are called, are polished off again at the end of the treatment!

Normally, you will wear your aligner for 1-2 weeks. It guides the teeth into position before you switch to the next in the series to move your teeth to the next position.

What are the reasons for needing aligners?

There a many reasons why we may need aligners to make teeth straight and achieve a perfect smile. Perhaps your teeth are crowded? If this is the case, space can be created to line up and straighten your teeth by rounding the teeth out. This is done by polishing the enamel at the sides. Sometimes you will need some teeth removed, but this is much less common with adults.

Do you have gaps between teeth? Aligners treat this problem beautifully. It will close the spaces and bringing the teeth together.

What other treatments might I be looking at for that perfect smile?

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Many adults will have worn their teeth somewhat with age and will typically require some additional minor procedures. This can be dental whitening (bleaching) and some additive recontouring (bonding) done. This ABB (Align Bleach Bond) approach can rejuvenate a perfect smile and improve the bite and giving confidence like never before.

Probably the most important part of the whole process is the retainers. Anyone wishing to have any sort of orthodontics needs to commit to retainers afterwards. This is because your teeth will always have the potential to move again so you need to wear retainers for as long as you wish to have straight teeth. Retainers come in different forms. For example, some retainers are only worn at night. Another type involves a thin wire glued or bonded to the back of the teeth. Whichever type your dentist recommends to keep your teeth straight, make sure that you are okay with this for the long term.

About the author: Dr Andrew Wallace

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Andrew Wallace qualified in Queens University Belfast in 1998. He gained his MClinDent in fixed and removable prosthodontics in 2015 from Kings College London. He works in Private and referral practice in Belfast and Lisburn in Northern Ireland. Andrew has a special interest in Orthodontics. He has completed the IAS advanced course with Professor Hobson. In addition, Andrew teaches in the UK and internationally with the IAS Academy teaching anterior alignment orthodontics using fixed and removable orthodontics Bleaching and anterior edge bonding.

Andrew works with Philips as KOL and educator in tooth whitening.

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