Dentistry has been with us for a long time. Cavities were being filled 6,500 years ago. Braces for straightening teeth were introduced in 1819. But, like almost every other modern convenience, both procedures have evolved over time, even though the reasons for needing them remain unchanged. Read on for the Stiles Dental Care overview of braces vs clear aligners.

woman deciding between traditional braces and clear alignersWhat Do I Need to Know Before Getting Braces?
Almost everyone who visits an orthodontist or who is considering orthodontic treatment has a list of questions about braces. And at the top of that list is — traditional metal braces or clear plastic aligners? How do I choose?

There’s much for you and your dentist to learn before you need to choose braces or aligners. The first step is getting an accurate and complete diagnosis. Through an analysis of X-rays, photographs, and models, we can assess the overall condition of your teeth and gums, what’s causing the need for braces, and whether or not an appliance — of any type — will give you an acceptable outcome.

There is no one right way for everyone. Certain problems are not well served by aligners, and some activities, such as contact sports, are not well suited to braces. Which device we ultimately prescribe for you will be based on the condition of your teeth, what you hope to achieve, and how the treatment will fit with your daily life. Some aspects are universal, though. No matter which device you choose, you will have to brush and floss regularly, and likely wear a retainer after the braces are gone.

Braces have been around for 200 years for a good reason: they work. Constructed of metal brackets that are attached to your teeth with dental cement and held together by wires and tiny rubber bands, braces are strong and hard to damage. On the downside, they are visible whenever you open your mouth. Even with the latest less conspicuous versions — tooth-colored brackets and braces behind your teeth — the wires, gold-toned brackets, and rubber bands can still be seen. You can choose the color of your rubber bands, though, so pick your favorite!

While you’re wearing braces, you’ll have to adjust what you eat and drink. Hard, sticky, chewy, or crunchy foods can actually break a bracket or pull a wire out of place. If that happens, the braces will need to be repaired, or possibly replaced. You’ll want to drink plain water instead of carbonated drinks, flavored water, or sports drinks, too. These beverages usually contain acids and sugars, which are bad for tooth enamel, even if you don’t have braces. And you’ll need to brush and floss after every meal to be certain no food particles — they can carry bacteria — are caught amid the metal.

To provide a stable and appropriate result, braces have to stay in place for the duration of the treatment, and you will need to see us about once a month. The upside of this, of course, is that you can’t lose them or accidentally break them.

Getting braces can be a bit uncomfortable during the original placement and follow-up adjustments, and the brackets and wires can temporarily irritate your gums. But don’t worry. The discomfort is usually minimal and short-lived. In fact, some patients get so used to braces that they forget they’re wearing them.

Clear Aligners
Commonly available only since the late 1990s, an aligner is, essentially, a plastic replica of your teeth made into a tray that fits over them and gently pushes them into better alignment. Aligners are very nearly invisible to most people who look at you. Even the attachments placed on your teeth to guide the aligner are tooth-colored. You know they’re there, but hardly anyone else will.

Just as with braces, when your aligner is in, you need to stay away from carbonated and sports drinks, as well as flavored waters. The liquid can seep under aligners and, the acids and sugars in it can lead rather quickly to stained teeth or even decay. Fortunately, you can remove an aligner when you need to, so you can eat or drink what you like. Just be sure to brush and floss before you reposition the aligner. Your teeth need to be spotless before the aligner goes back in your mouth. You’ll need to be particularly diligent in keeping track of your aligner, too, since it’s easy to lose or damage. Take care when putting it in a pocket or purse, and never wrap it in a napkin. A napkin’s too easy to inadvertently throw away.

Though aligners are not permanently affixed to your teeth, they still need to be in place for the prescribed amount of time your dentist has determined is needed. A typical prescription is 22 hours a day, with a specific sequence to follow. You’ll also get a new aligner about every two weeks, so you’ll be seeing us more often.

Lightweight and clear, aligners contain no metal brackets or wires, but their fit is tight, and there can be some discomfort when they’re placed or replaced. The discomfort is usually minor and manageable, and you shouldn’t remove the aligner because it’s uncomfortable. It only works when it’s in your mouth.

So…How Do I Choose?
Choosing between braces and an aligner is the last step toward getting the straight teeth and great smile you dream of. What’s the first step? A visit to the professionals at Stiles Dental Care. We invite you to contact us as soon as you’re ready for a consultation to determine how we can help.