Who Is a Good Candidate for Invisible Braces?
For many people, invisible braces offer a convenient and appealing alternative to conventional systems that rely on metal or ceramic brackets and wires to pull teeth into place. Invisible braces work differently, guiding teeth into new alignments with a gentle combination of pushing and rotational action, which reduces pain, eliminates bleeding, and helps patients avoid many other unpleasant and undesirable side effects.
However, certain factors make some people better candidates for invisible braces than others. Let’s take a closer look at them so you can determine whether clear aligners might be an option for treating your dental issue.
Factor #1: The Patient’s Age
Invisible braces were developed with adult patients in mind. Specifically, they are meant for people ranging in age from 18 to 75. To some degree, this is because they provide a discreet and practical alternative to conventional braces. People in this age range who want to correct cosmetic issues with their smiles also tend to feel self-conscious about wearing traditional bracket-and-wire systems.
Clear aligners are:
- Easy to clean
- Discreet and difficult to notice
They also support better dental health, since patients do not have to work around brackets and wires as they brush and floss. This is particularly valuable to older adults, who are at increased risk of hygiene-related problems like gingivitis.
That said, there are clear aligner systems specifically designed for younger patients. However, these alternatives typically have teenagers in mind. Among dental professionals, conventional wisdom suggests that patients younger than age 12 or 13 are usually better off with conventional braces for compliance reasons.
Factor #2: Tooth Condition and Dental Health
Certain factors related to dental health and the overall condition of your teeth may impact your candidacy profile. First, people who have had certain dental treatments in the past may not be able to use invisible braces. Bridges and crowns are common examples.
Bridges fuse multiple teeth together to address gaps and spaces, while crowns are restorative treatments for partially or fully missing teeth that still have intact roots. Both dental technologies have compatibility issues that must be carefully considered from an orthodontic standpoint.
Having bridges or crowns does not necessarily disqualify you from using invisible braces, but you will need to visit a dentist for a thorough assessment. If you’re in this situation, it’s a good idea to seek out an orthodontic specialist with experience in such cases, as bridges, crowns, and certain other types of permanent dental work require cautious, carefully monitored treatment plans when clear aligners are involved.
Invisible braces also have some limitations with respect to the physical characteristics of your teeth. Most systems cannot be used to treat:
- Issues related to tooth alignment that demand a total tooth rotation of greater than 20 degrees
- Spacing- and gap-related issues that require closures exceeding 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch)
If your objectives include tooth rotations beyond 20 degrees or closing off gaps of more than about ¼ inch, conventional braces may be the only way to achieve them.
Factor #3: The Nature of the Issue Being Treated
Invisible braces are a breakthrough technology, but they are not a magic wand to solve any and every cosmetic issue related to the appearance and alignment of teeth.
You are a good candidate for invisible braces if you are seeking to address:
- Crooked teeth that are misaligned less than 20 degrees
- Overbites or underbites
- Open bites
- Gaps or spaces of 6 millimeters (¼ inch) or less
However, invisible braces cannot correct certain issues and flaws. These include:
- Crooked teeth that are misaligned more than 20 degrees
- Issues related to the shape of individual teeth
- Large gaps or spaces that exceed 6 millimeters (¼ inch)
- Treatments intended to raise the entire profile of your top or bottom teeth (intrusion)
- Treatments intended to lower the entire profile of your top or bottom teeth (extrusion)
Problems that clear aligners cannot address can usually be solved with conventional braces or other cosmetic dental treatments.
Factor #4: Will You Comply?
Unlike conventional braces, invisible braces are removable. Dental professionals use the term “compliance” to describe patients who wear their invisible braces as intended. The best candidates for clear aligners are people who have the willingness and physical ability to comply with their treatment plans.
Most professionals recommend that you wear your invisible braces for at least 22 hours per day. Failing to do so is not likely to disrupt your treatment plan to a dramatic degree if it happens once in a rare while. However, if you can’t or won’t wear your clear aligners for at least this length of time day in and day out, you are not a good candidate for them.
Similarly, people with physical limitations or conditions that impede their ability to remove their invisible braces and properly clean their teeth may also not be strong candidates for clear aligners. Accelerated rates of tooth decay can introduce complications that make invisible braces an undesirable treatment option.
Who Should Not Use Invisible Braces?
Beyond the aforementioned considerations, there are a few other situations in which clear aligners do not make a good match:
- Tobacco users should abstain from smoking while using invisible braces, especially if they are made of ceramic. Smoke can stain their surfaces, causing discoloration that will make your clear aligners much more noticeable. If you’re a smoker and you’re not willing to stop, you might want to consider another option.
- Invisible braces require regular care and cleaning. If a patient is too young or otherwise unable to follow important maintenance instructions, conventional braces are usually a better, safer alternative.
- People who are forgetful and/or prone to losing things risk misplacing their clear aligners or neglecting to replace them after removing them for eating or cleaning. Both scenarios can disrupt your treatment, increase your costs, and introduce potential complications that may negatively impact results.
Have a Dentist Assess Your Suitability for Invisible Braces
Even if you appear to match all the criteria of a qualified candidate, it is still a good idea to consult a dentist or orthodontist to confirm that you indeed make a good match for invisible braces. Along similar lines, every person using clear aligners to correct a cosmetic or structural dental issue should remain under regular, careful dental supervision for the duration of their treatment.