Many people would love to have a straighter smile. Whether it’s crooked teeth, gaps between your teeth, overlapping teeth, crowded teeth or other imperfections, there are a number of options available to correct your teeth alignment – without having to get a full set of braces.
Orthodontic work is a type of dental treatment that deals with adjusting the alignment of the teeth. The most common type of orthodontic treatment is braces – which is a rite of passage for many young people during the teenage years.
But what if you don’t want braces, or don’t have time for braces, or can’t afford braces, or are no longer at a time of your life where braces are socially acceptable?
Fortunately, there are other ways to correct certain minor imperfections with the alignment of your teeth. Here are some of the main options that might work for your situation:
- Removable Retainer: A removable retainer is a small mouthpiece – usually made of plastic and/or metal, that you wear over your teeth. Retainers can keep teeth from moving and can also be used to “train” teeth to move in a new direction. Retainers are one of the most common orthodontic appliances – if your teeth can be corrected without having to get braces, a retainer is usually the solution that will be recommended to you.
- Permanent Retainer: A permanent retainer is a metal bracket that is cemented to the backs of your teeth – usually after the successful completion of treatment with braces. A permanent retainer does just that: it “retains” teeth “permanently” in the position where they were moved to during the braces treatment. Depending on your situation, a permanent retainer might be an option to keep certain troublesome teeth from moving any further out of position – for example, if you have a growing gap between your front teeth, a permanent retainer can be put on those teeth to hold them in place and stop the gap from increasing.
- Invisalign treatment: Invisalign is a type of orthodontic treatment that is a popular alternative to braces – especially for adults. With Invisalign treatment, your dentist will fit you with a customized plastic mouthpiece that you wear over your teeth. The Invisalign “aligner” system will gradually move your teeth into their new positions – giving you a straight new smile without the inconvenience and discomfort of traditional braces.
- Braces: Okay, I know you said that you didn’t want braces…but have you seen some of the new advances in braces technology these days? You might be surprised at how comfortable – and how nearly invisible – braces can be. And you don’t need to be embarrassed about being an adult with braces. More adults than ever before are getting braces to improve the look of their smiles and help maintain the long-term health of their teeth and gums. So don’t be too quick to give up on braces – you might be surprised at how “do-able” braces can be for you.
As always, be sure to talk with your dentist about all of the options available to you. Some people need more complex treatment that can only be provided by an orthodontist – if needed, your dentist can refer you to qualified orthodontists in your area.
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So you’re trying to decide whether or not to get braces. Perhaps you’ve heard about Invisalign braces and you’re intrigued.
“Wow,” you might be thinking, “It sure would be nice to straighten my teeth without going through the hassle of wearing braces…and they’re invisible, too. So, is Invisalign right for me?”
Here are a few things to consider (and discuss with your dentist or orthodontist) as you make your choice.
- How old are you? Are you an adult (over age 18)? If not, have you already lost all of your baby teeth? And have your second molars already erupted? (Don’t worry – “erupted molars” are not a bad thing; your dentist will be able to tell you whether or not you qualify.) The reason is – Invisalign can only be used by adults or older teenagers who have lost all their baby teeth and who have erupted second molars. Younger teenagers who do not meet these criteria will have to get traditional braces. (Sorry, kids.)
- How much orthodontic work do you need? Invisalign cannot do everything that traditional braces can do – only certain kinds of tooth movements can be carried out with Invisalign. If you need more wide-ranging orthodontic work – for example, major tooth movements, or complicated bridge and crown treatment, or if you have certain abnormalities with your jaw and bone structure – then Invisalign might not be the right choice for you. Talk to your dentist and find out if you are a good candidate for Invisalign straightening, or if your orthodontic needs would be better served with braces.
- How responsible are you? Invisalign can be a great choice and it offers a lot of convenience – but as Spiderman says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If you have Invisalign aligners, you need to be really careful not to lose them. You need to be responsible enough to make sure that you wear your Invisalign aligners for the full duration of the day – 20-22 hours a day is preferable (removing them only for meals and cleaning). You need to learn how to properly clean and take care of your Invisalign aligners, and follow all of your dental professional’s instructions for completing the treatment. Are you ready for all of this responsibility? (Parents – is your teenager ready for this responsibility?) Traditional braces have their drawbacks, but at least you can’t lose them – they’re stuck right there in your mouth the whole time!
- How much are you ready to pay? It’s a fact of life that cost is a factor in most people’s decisions about braces. Invisalign treatment tends to be more expensive than traditional braces. (NOTE: Every individual patient’s situation is different, and you should consult your dentist or orthodontist before making a final decision – sometimes Invisalign will be more cost-effective than you might expect. However, it’s fair to say that in general, most patients pay more for Invisalign treatment than they would pay for traditional braces.
Getting braces (or Invisalign) can be a big commitment of time, money and effort. Make sure to think through the various advantages and disadvantages of each course of action, and talk with your dental professional. Hopefully you will find a good solution that will leave you smiling!
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