A Closer Look At Clear Aligners in The Era of Teledentistry
The global market for clear aligners was valued at 2.6 billion USD during 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 27.3%. But what is driving the growth? According to research factors such as a growing patient population suffering from malocclusions (misaligned teeth), technological advancements in the dental space and a growing demand for customized clear aligners can be considered the driving force behind the market growth.
Multiple studies have shown an association exists between malocclusion and our psychological well-being, with the psychosocial impact becoming greater as the condition worsened. Interestingly a correction of the malocclusion seemingly helped to improve the psychosocial impact, with studies finding a decreased impact after orthodontic treatment.
What Are Clear Aligners?
Metal and ceramic braces may cause long-term gum sensitivity. A discreet and removable alternative to braces, clear aligners are developed through virtual digital models, computer-aided design, and thermoformed plastic materials. Most clear aligners are capable of incremental tooth movement of 0.25mm to 3mm over a fortnight and are typically worn for up to 22 hours a day. According to the Dental Tribune, clear aligner technology has rapidly become a popular alternative for tooth straightening, since it is an aesthetically appealing and more comfortable choice. Invisalign is considered to be the largest producer of clear aligners, other brands include Byte, Candid and AlignerCo.
How Do Clear Aligners Work?
Clear aligners are used by many orthodontists to correct crooked teeth and overbites as well as various other oral flaws. Advances in technology now made it possible to use clear aligners to treat Class 1 and 2 cases of malocclusion. Class 1 is the most common, where the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth, whereas Class 2 is diagnosed when the upper jaw and teeth severely overlap the bottom jaw and teeth. In both cases an orthodontic provider will need to be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, work by having the patient wear a series of plastic, removable aligners that are worn in incremental sequence. The process starts with the orthodontist creating a customised treatment plan based on patient needs. This treatment plan typically involves photographs, a 3D scan of patient teeth, X-ray examination, determining if the patient is a candidate for clear aligners, and finally writing a recommendation.
If the orthodontist determines that a patient is a good match for clear aligners, he or she will create a 3D computerized model in order to plan the aligners. This step helps the orthodontist determine where the patient’s teeth ought to move to. Each patient’s unique situation will determine the treatment length as well as how many aligners will be needed.
What Is The Patient’s Role in The Treatment Process?
Treatment requires supervision by an orthodontist, to ensure best results. However, once treatment is underway the patient has a certain amount of responsibility as well. For optimal results it is recommended to fully commit to the customized plan and follow the orthodontist’s recommendations. The duration of aligner treatment varies from person to person, but on average patients will need to wear their aligners for around 22 hours a day throughout the treatment process. Aligners can be removed for short periods, to eat, drink, brush and floss, however it should be noted that failure to comply with the orthodontist’s directions can impact how long aligners will take to work.
How Does Home Teeth Straightening Kits Work?
One reviewer, Megan M, points out that she had overcrowded and overlapping teeth, which impacted her self-esteem. After doing research on home teeth straightening kits and settling on a brand of her choice, she stated: “All steps went painlessly and my teeth moved! I now only wear the retainer at night and couldn’t be happier with my smile.”
The first step of an at-home aligner treatment is to take a candidacy quiz online. If it is determined that you are a candidate, the next step would be to order the straightening kit which will normally be delivered straight to your specified address. Once you’ve taken impressions of your teeth (from the materials that the kit provides) and sent it back, an orthodontist will create a 3D model of your teeth, showing the treatment process from start to finish. If the patient approves the treatment plan, a dental technician will create the aligners. Some brands, such as Candid, require remote check-ins every fortnight via an app to ensure the patient’s teeth are moving correctly.
Candace L. from Georgia has this review about Candid: “I would highly suggest Candid clear aligners as an alternative to braces. They have affordable repayment plans and the progress was amazing! I am very happy with my smile! Once you’re on board(ed) with the process you can visually see how your teeth shift and progress. One piece of advice is that it can be painful and takes some getting use(d) to as your teeth are literally shifting. But, (it’s)100% worth it!”
In recent years there has been growing interest in online companies that have innovated the traditional orthodontic model. There have always been underserved areas when it comes to dental care, however it would seem that teledentistry is advancing dental care in affordable and effective ways to combat certain access to care issues.