Prior to 1997, we wouldn’t have even been talking about removable clear braces time scales and whether they work faster than fixed metal braces because they simply didn’t exist. Instead, it was fair to say that patients had limited options when it came to ways to straighten teeth.
Of course one of the orthodontic methods that could always be relied on were fixed ‘bracket and wire’ style braces which as the name suggests, were attached to a patient’s teeth for the duration of a treatment using metal brackets and wiring. They had their advantages (and still do) but they also had their drawbacks.
A typical treatment, for example, takes around 18 months to 2 years to complete and even with modern technology and materials, this figure hasn’t changed much at all. It’s no wonder then that many patients have a love/hate relationship with their metal braces.
Then in 1997, things changed when Align Technology introduced Invisalign. This was the first removable aligner to take the world by storm. Often referred to as ‘clear braces’ because of their barely visible nature, they consisted of a series of BPA-free plastic custom aligners (or trays) which were worn over the teeth in sequence.
Moreover, each aligner is designed specifically to be taken out when eating or drinking which meant that finally, a patient wasn’t tied to their orthodontic appliance 24/7.
But herein lies the dilemma…
To answer the question “do removable braces work faster than fixed metal braces?”it becomes obvious that for each appliance to straighten teeth it actually needs to be in the mouth. This puts fixed metal braces at an unfair advantage or so you’d think because they remain in the mouth all the time.
In effect, provided that clear braces are worn in the mouth for somewhere around 22 hours a day, they can work considerably faster than metal braces taking anywhere between 6 -12 months on average to complete treatment.
So why is this?
To answer this question, we need to look at how clear aligners work…
How clear braces move teeth
To understand how clear aligners work it’s important to know that our teeth aren’t as rigid as you might think. Instead, each tooth is attached to a periodontal ligament – a movable fibrous-like connection commonly known as the PDL.
When we apply pressure to the teeth, surrounding cementum and jawbone react to the changing forces. When the PDL feels tension on the tooth, for example, it causes tiny deposits of cementum to be made in the bone.
Alternatively, when the PDL senses compression, it triggers resorption or dissolution of the bone. These opposing factors are happening constantly and are what maintains balance or equilibrium in the mouth.
So how does this equate to moving teeth with clear braces?
What clear braces do is to take advantage of these natural processes by harnessing movement to manipulate the teeth. This is carried out using a series of aligners which apply exacting force across the teeth to move them into their new position.
Each custom aligner, for example, is designed to move a tooth approximately 0.25mm and after 2 weeks it’s removed and replaced by the next one in the series.This sequential process continues until the teeth have reached their final position.
So how does this differ from metal braces?
In all honesty, not much… The prime difference, however, is that metal braces utilise a series of brackets and wires which are connected to each tooth individually. When fixed metal braces are manually tightened, the archwire tenses and applies pressure to an individual tooth rather than the movement of the teeth as a whole.
So where one-piece clear aligners can force tension as a whole, fixed braces can only do this individually. As such, even though the same results are achieved, in terms of clear braces time scale, invisible aligners can typically move teeth quicker.
But speed isn’t the only benefit of clear braces here in the UK…
Naturally, there’s the obvious benefit of discretion. Because clear aligners are practically invisible, people don’t even need to know that you’re undergoing teeth straightening treatment unless you tell them.
Then there’s the little matter of comfort…
Living with fixed braces can be problematic because of the number of brackets and wires that could rub on the tongue or cheeks. Conversely, there are no sharp or protruding parts to worry about when opting for clear aligners.
Finally, there’s the cost factor…
In many cases, clear braces in the UK can work out considerably cheaper than metal braces in a like-for-like treatment situation.
Here at Straight My Teeth, for example, we provide Direct To Consumer (DTC) custom clear braces for an introductory offer of just £749. Patients can choose from affordable clear aligners designed to be worn in the mouth for 22 hours a day, or NightOnly clear aligners designed to be worn for 8-10 hours at night.