If you are looking for the best way to straighten teeth, an orthodontist is the expert to talk to. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in teeth straightening. Teeth adjust their position when steady pressure is applied to them in a process called “orthodontic tooth movement.” The main tools used by orthodontists to achieve this movement are dental braces, dental aligners, and teeth retainers. Dental surgery is usually reserved for cases with severe bite problems.
Dental braces are the classic orthodontic treatment. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, braces typically take 90-120 minutes to put on and require follow-up adjustment visits every 6-10 weeks.
There are three major kinds of braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists:
- Metal braces: Broadly effective and cheap, but cosmetically poor
- Ceramic braces: Well hidden (with potential for staining), but may be a bit pricier
- Lingual braces: Nearly invisible, but expensive. Can potentially cause tongue pain and temporary lisp
Clear Dental Aligners
Clear dental aligners work best for mild to moderate misalignment. Here’s what to expect, according to the American Association of Orthodontists:
- Your orthodontist will take an impression of your teeth and use it to make an aligner tray.
- When you first wear your tray, you'll feel some pressure on your teeth.
- After 1-2 days, your teeth will shift and the pressure will diminish.
- You'll change your tray out every 1-2 weeks until your teeth reach the desired alignment.
Braces vs. Aligners
When is it better to use braces over aligners? “Compliance is the biggest issue with clear aligners,"Simon Shung, DMD, an orthodontist in Irvine, California, tells ishonest Connect to Care. "They need to be in the mouth for 22 hours per day for optimal results…the teeth need constant pressure to move.” If you feel unsure about whether you'll be able to use them exactly as directed, it might be better to go with braces.
What works faster, braces or aligners? “Teeth move at the same speed regardless of what you are using,"Shung explains. "Speed depends on the issues that you have with your bite and alignment.” In other words, each case is different, so ask your orthodontist what is best for your specific case.
After both braces and aligners, you will need to wear a retainer to prevent your teeth from relapsing. Braces and aligners move the teeth, but retainers keep them in place.
But how long after straightening do retainers need to be used? “I recommend full-time for six months, then nighttime for lifetime to guarantee the alignment of your teeth,” Shung explains. Retainers are for a lifetime, but after six months, you can wear your retainers at night to guarantee straight teeth so that you can be retainer-free during the day.
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