The Ultimate Guide to Braces and Clear Aligners

Jun 28, 2024

Welcome to Daia Orthodontics & TMJ Orthopedics’ comprehensive guide to braces and clear aligners! Whether you’re considering orthodontic treatment for yourself or a loved one, this blog will provide you with all the essential information you need to make informed decisions about your smile journey. From understanding the different types of braces and aligners to learning about eligibility, treatment processes, aftercare, and more, we’ve compiled everything you need to know in one convenient place.

Understanding the Science

Orthodontic treatment involves the precise corrections of teeth and jaw structures to correct malalignment and achieve optimal dental health. They work by applying controlled forces to teeth, guiding them into proper alignment over time. Braces use stainless-steel brackets and wires to apply controlled forces to teeth, guiding them into proper alignment over time. Ceramic braces offer a discreet alternative, utilizing tooth-colored brackets for a less noticeable appearance. Lingual braces, placed on the inner surface of teeth, provide maximum discretion. Clear aligners like Invisalign® and Spark Clear Aligners utilize custom-made trays to gradually shift teeth into alignment, leveraging principles of biomechanics and dental anatomy to achieve desired results.

Types of Braces and Clear Aligners

Orthodontic treatment has evolved significantly over the years, offering patients a variety of options to straighten their teeth and achieve a beautiful smile. Braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, clear aligners like Invisalign® and Spark Clear Aligners, self-ligating brackets, and temporary anchorage devices (TADs) are just a few examples of the innovative solutions available. Each type has its unique benefits and considerations, catering to different preferences and treatment needs. So, let’s go into the top braces and clear aligners that Daia Orthodontics & TMJ Orthopedics offers:

Braces: Composed of stainless-steel brackets and wires, remain a reliable and effective orthodontic option for correcting malaligned teeth and bite issues. They offer precise control over tooth movement and are suitable for patients of all ages, providing comprehensive treatment for a wide range of orthodontic concerns. Unlike clear aligners, which require patients to switch out aligners and maintain wear time, braces offer a more convenient option for individuals who prefer a treatment method that requires less active maintenance.

Ceramic Braces: Ceramic braces offer the same reliable technology as metal braces but utilize polycrystalline alumina instead of stainless steel. Ceramic braces are often better suited for those that have metal allergies, individuals that need medical imaging tests, and those that need a faster option than clear aligners but still require treatment for serious alignment problems. This material can be clear or match the color of your teeth, providing a nearly invisible treatment option. Additionally, metal archwires can be customized in silver, white, or frosted materials to further enhance discretion. For an aesthetic alternative, polymer cosmetic braces also use clear or tooth-colored brackets and wires for an incredibly discreet treatment. Polymer braces are also smaller yet strong and more comfortable than metal braces, reducing friction and mouth irritation during treatment.

Lingual Braces: Lingual braces comprise of wires and brackets positioned on the inner surface of the teeth (known as the lingual surface), offer a discreet orthodontic solution. Lingual braces do typically cost more than regular braces and are harder to clean. We recommend using a water flosser due to how close the brackets are typically positioned. They are particularly suitable for adult patients seeking discretion, especially if clear aligner therapies like Invisalign or Spark are not viable options. Dr. Daia will evaluate during your initial consultation whether lingual braces align with your treatment needs.

Self-Ligating Brackets: Self-ligating brackets have been a staple in orthodontics for some time, but their popularity is rising as technology advances. Unlike traditional brackets, which utilize elastic bands to secure the archwire, self-ligating brackets feature a built-in metal door that allows the wire to move more freely. This innovation reduces the need for frequent adjustment appointments, saving time and often yielding faster orthodontic results. However, self-ligating braces will face adversities when dealing with severe malalignment issues as they may apply too much pressure on the braces, resulting in potential breaks. On the other hand, due to the constant pressure and lack of elastic ligatures, patients often experience less discomfort and easier cleaning compared to regular braces. At Daia Orthodontics & TMJ Orthopedics, we utilize the Damon Ultima self-ligating bracket, known for providing precise control over orthodontic movement and enhanced comfort for patients. The Damon Ultima system uses a specialized bracket design with a unique rounded rectangular wire and parallelogram-shaped slot in the bracket. This design helps eliminates the need for elastic or metal ligatures (ties) to hold the archwire in place. Instead, the brackets have built-in mechanisms that secure the wire, allowing for smoother tooth movement and potentially faster treatment times compared to braces.

Invisalign: A popular clear aligner system, offers a discreet alternative to braces, using custom-fitted, removable trays to gradually shift teeth into alignment. Thes aligners have a unique feature unlike other clear aligners called ‘buttons’ that are essentially tiny bumps that are positioned on the teeth to allow for a better grip to the teeth. With virtually invisible aligners and the flexibility to remove them for eating and oral hygiene, Invisalign is a preferred choice for individuals seeking a more aesthetically pleasing and convenient orthodontic solution. Duly note, customized aligners are a tool that is used in the hands of a skilled orthodontist. With over a million smiles corrected, Invisalign is often a preferred choice by many that allows you to work closely with your orthodontics for the best results.

Spark Clear Aligners: Another clear aligner option, utilize advanced TruGEN™ and TruGEN XR™ materials for enhanced clarity and resistance to staining. Due to the material composition, Spark aligners are designed to bring more comfort than your typical clear aligners. With similar treatment protocols to Invisalign, Spark Clear Aligners offer patients a comfortable, nearly invisible orthodontic experience, helping them achieve a confident smile with minimal disruption to their daily lives.

Benefits of Braces and Clear Aligners

Beyond aesthetics, braces and clear aligners offer numerous benefits for oral health and overall well-being. Straightening malaligned teeth can improve bite function, reduce the risk of oral health problems such as cavities and gum disease, alleviate discomfort associated with malocclusions, and enhance confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, orthodontic treatment can address various medical conditions, including temporomandibular disorders (TMJ), sleep apnea, and speech impairments, providing holistic care for patients. By enhancing oral health, orthodontic treatment lowers the likelihood of gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental problems. Moreover, a beautiful smile boosts confidence and self-esteem, positively impacting social and professional interactions. From improved oral function to enhanced aesthetics, investing in orthodontic treatment is an investment in overall well-being and quality of life.

Eligibility and Considerations

Orthodontic treatment is suitable for individuals of all ages, from children to adults. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should have their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This is because by this age, certain dental and skeletal issues can be identified, future orthodontic plans can be made, and early intervention can be initiated if necessary.

Moreover, factors such as age, dental health, medication interference, severity of malalignment, and lifestyle preferences may influence the choice of treatment. While some patients may benefit from braces due to compliance concerns or complex dental issues, others may prefer clear aligners for their discreet appearance and convenience. Our experienced team will assess your unique needs and recommend the most suitable treatment plan tailored to your goals.

Before, During, and After Treatment

Preparing for orthodontic treatment involves comprehensive evaluations, including dental examinations, X-rays, and treatment planning sessions. During treatment, patients will undergo bonding appointments or receive their first set of clear aligners, followed by periodic adjustments to monitor progress. After treatment, retention is essential to maintain the results and prevent teeth from shifting back to their original position. This includes wearing retainers as prescribed, attending regular check-ups, and following proper oral hygiene practices. Let’s dive deeper into each phase of the treatment process:

Before Treatment: Before embarking on orthodontic treatment, patients undergo comprehensive assessments, including dental examinations, X-rays, and treatment planning sessions. These initial consultations allow orthodontists to assess the severity of malalignment, jaw structure, oral health, discuss treatment options, and address any concerns or questions patients may have. Patients are encouraged to actively participate in the decision-making process, collaborating with their orthodontist to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to their unique needs and goals.

During Treatment: During treatment, patients experience the transformative process of orthodontic intervention. Bonding appointments for braces or the initiation of clear aligner therapy mark the beginning of the journey toward a straighter, healthier smile. For some patients, separators are required and will be worn for approximately two weeks prior to their bonding appointment. At the bonding appointment, typically last about one hour, the team will isolate and prep each tooth individually by drying the tooth surface and carefully adhering each bracket. After the bands and brackets are placed, an archwire is inserted and “tied in” with small elastic bands that go around each metal bracket. Check out our what to expect after getting your braces on blog for more details on the bonding process.

Regular adjustments/tightening and development monitoring helps ensure the treatment progresses smoothly, with patients gradually witnessing their smiles transform. Throughout this phase, open communication between patients and orthodontic teams is essential, enabling adjustments to treatment plans as needed and addressing any challenges or discomforts that may arise. See below on more information on how to maintain your braces.

After Treatment: After completing orthodontic treatment, patients enter the crucial retention phase, aimed at maintaining results and preventing teeth from shifting back to their original positions. This involves wearing retainers as prescribed by the orthodontists like Dr. Daia, attending follow-up appointments, and practicing proper oral hygiene habits. Retainers help stabilize teeth in their new positions while surrounding bone and soft tissue adapt to the changes. If you want to know more about retainers check out our blog on The Importance of Wearing Your Retainers. Patients are provided with detailed instructions on retainer wear and care, including how to clean and store retainers effectively. Additionally, patients must adhere to strict oral hygiene habits, including brushing, flossing, and attending routine dental check-ups, to preserve their newfound smiles for years to come. Regular check-ups with the orthodontist like Dr. Daia ensure that treatment outcomes are maintained over time, allowing patients to enjoy the long-term benefits of their investment in orthodontic care.

Overall Recommendations on Maintaining your Braces and Clear Aligners.

Proper care for your braces ensures effective treatment and oral health. Here are essential tips to maintain your braces and achieve successful results:

  • Oral hygiene: Brush after meals, floss daily, and use interdental brushes. Rinse with antibacterial mouthwash and use fluoride products.
  • Clean aligners regularly: For clear aligners, gently brush them with a soft toothbrush and anti-bacterial soap each time you remove them. Soak them in a denture cleaner or retainer cleaner once a week.
  • Diet and hydration: Avoid hard and sticky foods, cut food into small pieces, and limit sugary snacks. Drink water to flush away debris and bacteria.
  • Soak aligners in Steraligner: Soaking clear aligners in Steraligner can help remove built-up plaque and keep them fresh. Daia Orthodontics & TMJ Orthopedics offers various Steraligner products.
  • Use a proxabrush: This specialized tufted brush can help clean under wires and between brackets more effectively.
  • Use a water pick or Platypus Ortho Flossers: Water picks are perfect for those hard-to-reach areas with or without braces. You can also use the Platypus Ortho Flossers which are specifically designed flossers for those with braces.
  • Avoid nail biting: Nail biting can bend or break the wires on braces, causing discomfort and prolonging treatment time.
  • Use orthodontic chewies: These soft cylindrical chewies can help seat aligners or wires properly by gently biting down.
  • Always use your rubber bands: Wear rubber bands (elastics) as directed by your orthodontist to apply the proper forces for moving your teeth into the desired positions.
  • Use orthodontic wax: Use wax for discomfort and to avoid potential mouth wounds.
  • Use mouthguards: Wear a mouthguard during activities especially during physical activity such as sports, outdoor activities, etc.
  • Avoid staining foods/drinks: With braces, limit coffee, tea, red wine, and other deeply colored beverages that can stain brackets and wires.
  • Use travel cases: For clear aligners, always store them in a protective case when not in your mouth to prevent loss or damage.
  • Regular check-ups: Attend appointments for monitoring and adjustments.

If you want to learn more, check out our frequently asked questions page, our oral hygiene page, or our blog Comprehensive Orthodontics and How to Maintain New Braces for more tips and answers.

Embarking on an orthodontic journey is a significant decision, but with the right information and guidance, you can achieve the smile of your dreams. Whether you’re interested in braces or clear aligners, Daia Orthodontics & TMJ Orthopedics is here to help you navigate the process with confidence and ease.

Schedule a consultation with us today and take the first step toward a healthier, more beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime.

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