Aligners and retainers are often used interchangeably, but the truth is that they’re very different. From design to intended use, it’s important to note the differences between the two tray types in order to ensure proper treatment. Here’s what you need to know about clear aligners and retainers:
What are retainers?
Retainers come in a variety of forms and are designed to hold the teeth in place after a successful treatment plan. While metal retainers that fit snuggly against the roof of the mouth used to be the most common, clear retainers are on the rise. Generally, a dental professional will be able to help a patient choose the best retainer option for them, just as they helped with the treatment plan for the straightening process.
Benefits of retainers
Here are some advantages that come with retainers:
- Prevent relapses: Retainers can help to keep your teeth in their new, corrected position and prevent them from moving back to their old position.
- Boost of confidence: Wearing retainers can help to increase your confidence, as you’ll know that your teeth are being kept in their new, corrected position.
When to use retainers
Only use a retainer after the treatment process is complete. The retainer will help preserve that new smile with thicker, durable plastic.
What are aligners?
Clear aligners are used to help straighten teeth in the replacement of braces. More specifically, aligners are clear trays that are specially fitted to an individual’s teeth by using an impression. A sequence of aligners will then be created that help to guide the teeth into their new position. The patient will need to switch their aligner periodically, usually one to two weeks, in order to gently move the teeth and help them become accustomed to their new position over time.
Benefits of aligners
Here are some benefits aligners offer:
- Fast treatment: Average treatment times for clear aligners are significantly less than that of braces. When searching for a new smile quickly, aligners can be the perfect choice to effectively reach that goal. On average, aligners may take up to a year for treatment on average while braces often take a minimum of one year for treatment.
- Adaptability: Perhaps the biggest draw for aligner uses is that they can be adjusted to fit any lifestyle. Frequent movie-goer afraid to give up popcorn? Remove the aligners to munch away for the allotted time. Feel more confident without your teeth straightener when giving a big presentation? Simply remove it for the duration. This is a layer of flexibility no other teeth straightener can offer.
When to use aligners
Typically, patients should wear clear aligners 20 to 22 hours per day during treatment. The flexible plastic trays can help move teeth along gradually and effectively.
Can aligners be used as retainers?
Though often confused due to their appearance, clear retainers are different from aligners. Because aligners are not intended to last longer than a few weeks to a month at a time, the design is not nearly as durable and, thus, isn’t a suitable alternative to retainers. It’s best to only use any spare aligners as an emergency option in the case of a missing retainer. However, that is the last choice case scenario, and an appropriate retainer should be repurchased to maintain the teeth’s new position.
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