What Are Clear Aligners?

You may have heard of a new, more discreet alternative to traditional braces and are wondering what they are all about. Do they work? Are they comfortable? And more importantly, are they a good choice for me?

What Are Aligners?

If you’ve ever had braces or know someone who did, you’re probably familiar with retainers. Aligners look and, in some ways, act very similar to retainers. Clear aligners are typically made of a clear plastic and are custom-shaped to fit your teeth. However, unlike retainers that are meant to keep your teeth in the same position, clear aligners are adjusted to move your teeth a little bit at a time.

These aligners are usually changed every two to three weeks until your smile is straight and aligned. For most people, straightening your teeth with aligners will take somewhere between twelve to eighteen months. However, more severe cases may take longer.

How Do They Work?

Similar to traditional braces, aligners place consistent pressure on your teeth to move them bit by bit. However, the difference between the two is how that pressure is placed. With braces, the teeth are pulled into position. With aligners, the teeth are pushed instead. A push force is regarded as gentler and less painful.

Since aligners are changed every two to three weeks, the adjustments made are minor. This allows for more precise movements to be performed and also leads to less discomfort with each change. However, with aligners, you must wear them twenty-two hours every day, or you’ll fail to see changes to your smile. Taking them out to eat or brush is expected, but you should wear your aligner for all other moments.

For more complex issues, aligners may be paired with other tools to achieve the desired outcome. These attachments tend to be either engagers, elastics, or spacers.


Made from dental composite, engagers are little bumps fixed to the teeth. These allow the aligner to get a better grip and result in more substantial pressure and better results.


Similar to elastics in braces, these tiny rubber bands help apply additional pressure to help correct more prominent issues. In many cases, it’s used to fix bite issues and align the upper and lower jaws.


For very crowded teeth, spacers are used. These are placed between teeth, helping push them apart so the aligner can get a better grip on the teeth. Without these, aligners can struggle to work correctly in some situations.

What Can Aligners Treat?

Aligners can help with most orthodontic cases. Aligners will do the trick for most people wanting to straighten their smile. Whether it’s a matter of overcrowding, spacing, or even bite issues, aligners have been shown to fix them all.

Of course, there are still scenarios where aligners might not be the best choice. For example, too large of gaps between teeth, teeth rotated more than thirty degrees, or even some tooth shapes will make aligners ineffective. If you’re contemplating aligners, it’s a good idea to reach out to your orthodontist and discuss what’s best for you and your teeth.

What Aligner Options Do I Have?

There are two types of aligners: at-home or in-office. Invisalign, a well-known aligner brand, is an in-office type of aligner. This means you’ll need to see your orthodontist to receive this treatment. Many people prefer in-office as it’s similar to what they expect with braces. It also ensures that your aligners will be watched over by a professional that can make adjustments as they come up. In-office tends to be more expensive compared to at-home options, however.

SmileDirectClub and Byte are some of the most popular and well-known at-home aligner brands. These are sold directly to you without the need for a doctor. With these, you take impressions of your teeth which are used to create the aligners mailed to you. These tend to treat more mild to moderate cases. The use of attachments such as engagers or spacers can’t be used with these. At-home aligners can be a great option if you need smaller adjustments to your teeth and need to save some money as well.


To summarize, clear aligners are a great option for people wanting to straighten their smile without the visuals of braces on their teeth. Aligners are great at correcting various issues and are just as effective as braces in many scenarios. Talk with your orthodontist today to see if clear aligners are a good choice for you.