Everything You Need to Know About Clear Teeth Aligners

Rightly or wrongly, Americans perceive people with straight teeth as more attractive, successful, and employable than those without, according to studies. Hence, an investment into treatments for teeth straightening has the potential to really pay off in the long run. One such treatment that has been gaining significant traction is the use of clear teeth aligners.

A clear teeth aligner is a removable tray made of plastic that is almost completely invisible when worn. The device is custom-tailored to fit your teeth, as it is 3D printed based on your dental scan. You wear one set of trays 20 hours per day for two weeks before replacing it with a slightly different device that's the next in the series.

This slight change in sequential aligners gradually shifts your teeth to produce a straight smile. The treatment period can last anywhere between six months and three years.

Woman smiling while holding clear teeth aligner.

Image source: Getty Images.

What are the advantages of teeth aligners?

There are many advantages to clear teeth aligners. Patients can remove the device whenever for eating, drinking, brushing their teeth, and flossing. Clear teeth aligners don't have edges or wires (unlike traditional braces) that can harm the gums or make chewing unpleasant. Patients see rapid improvement within a matter of weeks. 

Clear aligners are part of the growing teledentistry industry. Patients provide an impression of their teeth and receive their aligners through the mail. Perhaps most importantly of all, clear teeth aligners are very affordable and could save you thousands of dollars. Clear teeth aligners are recommended for adults, and not children.

How much do teeth aligners cost?

Among several leading brands from providers such as SmileDirectClub (NASDAQ: SDC) and Align Technology (NASDAQ: ALGN), clear teeth aligners can cost between $1,749 to $7,000 for a full treatment. Insurance covers anywhere between $1,100 to $3,500 of the cost. Luckily, there are payment options available starting from $66 per month to $99 per month. With all that in mind, clear teeth aligners are still generally cheaper than conventional braces, which can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 total.

What are the risks involved?

However, there are considerable disadvantages to clear teeth aligners. Firstly, the device cannot treat certain complex misalignments in the teeth and is limited to adjusting simple or tipping movements on a 2D level (left or right, back or forth, but not up or down). Secondly, patient compliance is a significant issue, as clear teeth aligners can be removed at any time. If not enough time is spent wearing them, then treatment costs could go up significantly due to delays.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, treatment with clear aligners occurs without a licensed orthodontist to evaluate and supervise treatment progress at a clinic (Although a licensed orthodontist oversees the creation of the aligner). Hence, patients can't get much help from aligner companies if the treatment goes seriously wrong and requires treatment at a clinic.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. If you are looking for a fast, convenient, and cost-effective way of achieving a great smile (without much protection if anything goes wrong), clear teeth aligners are probably a good option. On the other hand, if your teeth require complex re-alignment or you think you will have significant concerns during your treatment process, then getting braces at an orthodontic clinic is probably the right way to go.

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Zhiyuan Sun has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Align Technology. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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