There are many new innovations in orthodontics, and they happen at a relatively fast pace. Even dutiful cleaners only see their dentist once every six months, some even more rarely unless something is terribly wrong. That is why sometimes patients will hear about innovations that can make their life easier well after these innovations have become standard practice. So, you might not have heard about aligners.
What are they?
The marketing seems to suggest that they are an alternative to fixed braces, able to provide the same benefits with the added extra of being invisible and removable, requiring a much shorter treatment time (on average 6 months). This is partially true.
Aligners are clear, see through plastic devices that realign teeth in monthly increments. A study model is made, a treatment plan proposed, and a bunch of aligners are manufactured out of a special material, each one being a little bit closer to the desired outcome. By wearing them for the allotted time, your teeth will be shifted to the desired position.
If you are in need of orthodontics because your smile is mildly out of line, then it is true that aligners are an aesthetically pleasing, removable alternative. If, however, your teeth need aligning that is a bit more extensive, or involves the back teeth, aligners are not an option as they only go over front teeth and the premolars, ie the teeth that are visible when you smile.
The term removable is a little bit misleading. Yes, you can remove them, indeed you must in order to eat. But you have to wear them for 22 hours a day, basically meaning that you do not take them out except for meals and cleanings. Any less and they cannot do their job.
All in all they are very good for certain kinds of orthodontry, and they are indeed much quicker and more comfortable for mild corrections, but they are not a cure all nor can they entirely replace traditional fixed braces.