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Demystifying the Different Types of Clear Aligners

By February 17, 2021August 12th, 2021Blog
types of clear aligners

Invisalign® was truly a revolutionary development in the world of orthodontics. While smile solutions had evolved from the animal intestines (eek!) Ancient Egyptians wrapped around their teeth and the big, bulky, gleaming metal braces that dominated much of the 20th century, there wasn’t an option to fix misaligned teeth that didn’t involve brackets and wires until Invisalign hit the market. With the system that facilitates different types of clear aligners, orthodontists could suddenly give patients’ amazing smiles in a way that was virtually invisible, comfortable, and convenient. 

These days, Invisalign is still an outstanding option and my preferred choice for clear aligner treatment at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics. However, there are even more brands cropping up, ranging from Clear Correct™ aligners and 3M™ Clarity™ aligners to DIY, at-home aligners. I know this can cause some confusion and, in some instances, unintended results. As an El Dorado Hills Invisalign provider, I thought I’d try to demystify the different types of clear aligners to give you a better idea of your choices. 

What is Clear Aligner Therapy?

First, before we start going over the Invisalign alternatives that have become available, let’s have a quick refresher on what clear aligner therapy is in general. Clear aligner therapy involves straightening teeth using removable appliances made from a BPA-free, thermoplastic material. Your orthodontist (because that’s who should be overseeing your treatment!), plans out your tooth movements on a computerized model of your mouth and sends the specification to the lab they’re using. The lab utilizes technology to translate your orthodontist’s instructions into a series of custom, 3D-printed clear aligners.

The clear aligners slip over the teeth and exert steady, gentle pressure. Each set is pre-programmed by your orthodontist to achieve certain tooth movements. You wear each tray for one to two weeks before swapping them out for the next set. As you make your way through the series, your smile gradually takes shape. 

Do clear aligners work? Yes, clear aligners do work well for the majority smile concerns. When Invisalign first came out, it was reserved for older teenagers and adults with mild cases. However, that’s no longer true. There have been advances in the design and materials used. Now, Invisalign for kids and teens is a possibility thanks to Invisalign Teen, and auxiliaries like attachments and rubber bands are available to help us facilitate more complex tooth movements. This means patients of all ages, even those with moderate and severe bite issues, can benefit from clear aligner treatment. 

It’s important to note, however, while clear aligners do work, there is one major caveat: The success of treatment depends heavily on your doctor’s treatment plan since Invisalign and the common Invisalign alternatives are printed based on your doctor’s specifications. Expertise is key, and it’s always best to see a certified specialist in orthodontics who has the training and experience to safely, efficiently, and effectively shift the teeth into place in a way that complements your unique facial features and creates a functional, healthy bite as well. 

What are the Different Types of Clear Aligners?

The most common types of clear aligners used by orthodontists are Invisalign, 3M Clarity aligners, and Clear Correct aligners. Like Invisalign, both Clarity Aligners and Clear Correct aligners are only available through a doctor. 

Some people also buy clear aligners online. I won’t call out any brands by name, but you’ve probably seen ads for them on social media. These at-home aligners are often made using generic material that relies on older technology, and the aligners aren’t crafted based on a certified specialist in orthodontics’ treatment plan. Instead, the treatment plans are based on DIY impressions the customer does at home, which, as I’ve talked about before in this post on the dangers of DIY orthodontic treatment, can have serious repercussions and lead to less-than-stellar results. 

Other Clear Aligners vs. Invisalign: Which Option is the Best?

Here are how the different types of clear aligners stack up:

  • Effectiveness – I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’ve mentioned in other posts: Your teeth don’t know or care what brand of plastic, or even whether it’s plastic or metal, that’s applying pressure to them. They’ll move in response to the force exerted by your appliance. So, when comparing other clear aligners vs. Invisalign, there actually isn’t much of a difference in terms of effectiveness, as long as your treatment is planned by an experienced provider. 
  • Cost – If you’re wondering about the Invisalign cost compared to the cost of other clear aligners, that’s also pretty similar. The clear aligners cost depends on the complexity of your case and doesn’t vary much by brand. At our El Dorado Hills orthodontics practice, we make sure orthodontic treatment works for every family, no matter which type of appliance you choose. We accept most insurance and we’ll work with your HSA or FSA, both of which can reduce the cost of aligners. We also have flexible financing options and perks like family discounts.
  • Treatment Time – What about how long the different clear aligners take to work? While many treatments tout the speed at which they whip smiles into shape and claim to work faster than any other option, this is a marketing gimmick. The efficiency of any treatment boils down to a number of factors, including how severe your case is, your orthodontist’s treatment plan, how well you stick to the treatment plan and wear your aligners, and even your own biology. So Invisalign itself isn’t going to give you a perfect smile any sooner than the other clear aligners. 
  • Flexibility – A benefit of the Invisalign system is that I’m able to offer Invisalign for kids and teens with Invisalign Teen, making it a more flexible option for my practice. Invisalign Teen works the same as regular Invisalign but the aligners have eruption tabs to accommodate erupting teeth and they’re designed specifically for younger patients. I know a lot of the parents that visit our office also love having the option of Invisalign for kids and teenagers, which isn’t a possibility with some of the other clear aligners yet. 

The bottom line is, I’m an Invisalign provider because I like the brand and the different features available with the treatment planning software. Overall, my choice to currently offer Invisalign instead of other clear aligners brands is really a personal preference. The most important factor is opting for an experienced orthodontist, regardless of the type of aligner. 

Having said all of that, when talking about clear aligners vs. Invisalign, I’m referring to the brands like Clear Correct aligners and 3M Clarity aligners that you get at an orthodontist’s office. Direct-to-consumer, at-home clear aligners are not comparable to treatment planned and directed by an orthodontist using aligners made from high-quality material. The types of clear aligners you can buy online can’t be used for moderate or severe cases; only address cosmetic tooth positioning, and not your bite; and can have painful, expensive consequences, including tooth loss and issues with the bite and jaw that will need to be corrected by a professional.

Now that you’re well versed in the different types of clear aligners, if you’re unhappy with your smile and want to find out if Invisalign is the best choice for you, schedule a complimentary consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics today! Not only were we voted “Best Orthodontist in El Dorado Hills and Folsom” by readers of Style Magazine, we also just moved into our brand new, beautiful office, which was designed with your comfort in mind, so come check it out!

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