The pandemic has complicated fixed orthodontic treatment on many levels. As clinics underwent a prolonged lockdown and patients could not be treated regularly the possibility for undesired side effects, pain and discomfort can increase for patients with fixed appliances, recent research indicated. Undesired tooth movements may occur with arch wire-guided mechanics in addition to problems with cut wires or removed brackets.
Teledentistry and clear aligner therapy have helped to present a solution for patients and orthodontists alike, especially when considered in the context of the pandemic. As dental clinics started to function again an overarching concern was infection control. Cross infection in clinics may lead to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded locally, as well as igniting the possibility of litigation from inadequate infection control measures. While vaccination is widely available now, teledentistry and clear aligner therapy have helped to reduce treatment delays and patient “round tripping” in some cases.
What are at-home clear aligners?
When considering clear aligner therapy it should be noted that there are two different kinds: in-office, such as Invisalign, and at-home. The difference is best explained by way of example, using Byte, although readers may make use of resources like Smile Prep to find alternative clear aligners.
The Byte process starts by making an impression of the patient’s smile at home. This is done through an impression kit that the patient receives through the mail. The kit includes instructions, directing the patient on how to use the kit as well as where to send the impression to. An orthodontist will then review the impressions and create a 3D visualization of the patient’s bite. Patients are able to see the before and after visuals of how their teeth should progress by logging into their account online. The patient will receive their custom-fit aligners in the mail four to six weeks later. The patient will receive guidance from a dental professional and may be required to upload photos at regular intervals.
Why clear aligner therapy?
Clear aligner therapy may offer some distinct advantages during pandemic times, however orthodontists should be fully aware of the limitations aligners have over tooth movement and control. Movements such as rotations, corrections of large overjets and extrusion have been found to be harder to treat with clear aligner therapy. However, for patients who are suitable candidates for clear aligner therapy this treatment option has proven to be effective.
Tena W. from Miami shared her Byte experience in a review: “Super easy, and great customer service. The at-home impression kit was a little bit challenging but if you read the instructions and watch the video, it’s all provided for you. My treatment plan was 15 weeks. The HyperByte and ease of transitioning makes the commitment a snap. Plus! The clearer is a whitener which is awesome and definitely an added benefit! I recently finished the plan and I’m transitioning to wearing my aligners only at night, which is comfortable and easy, AND, I’m still whitening!”
Who is a candidate for clear aligner therapy?
Clear aligners are a good treatment option for individuals who have crooked teeth, gapped or spaced teeth, crowded teeth, overbite, underbite or crossbite. While many patients may prefer to wear clear aligners over traditional braces, this treatment option is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Strides have been made with clear aligner therapy to accomodate the needs of more patients, but they are still not able to serve as a good treatment option for patients who have moderate to severe cases of malocclusion. It is best to consult an orthodontist to find out which treatment plan is best suited for each individual patient.
As a minimally invasive treatment option, clear aligners are not affixed to the patient’s teeth like traditional braces. Instead, they are slipped on over the teeth and worn for up to 22 hours a day, depending on the patient’s treatment plan and orthodontist recommendation.
A Few Closing Remarks
The Journal of Dental Education notes that before the pandemic teledentistry was in its infancy, officially only permitted in a few states. While no-one could have foreseen the pandemic situation beforehand, it has proven to be a stimulus in rapidly evolving treatment options available. As new treatment alternatives to Invisalign, braces and other dental concerns arise it is reasonable to think that a beautiful smile may become the new normal.