Most dental patients share one aim - to have a beautiful, healthy smile - and yet 40% of the people are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth, and only 35% of adults are able to boast well-aligned teeth.
Fixed metal braces, implants and veneers were once considered the only options for patients to achieve the straighter teeth, but as technological innovation continues to advance, the invisible braces market is forecast to grow globally at a rate of 12.16% by 2021.
Clear aligner therapy consists of a series of clear dental appliances, formed to the shape of a patient's teeth, that gradually improve the appearance and function by applying gentle, consistent pressure. In recent years, the number of patients pursuing this type of treatment has risen by 177% with figures showing that adult dental appliances are more popular than ever.
Keen to extend their offering from ‘traditional’ dental treatment - dentists are adopting removable aligners for patients wanting an alternative to fixed orthodontic appliances to correct mild to moderate orthodontic problems.
Thanks to widespread media advertising, clear removable aligners are the highest profile orthodontic appliance and celebrity patients have helped boost the profile of clear aligner therapy, proving it is never too late to invest in straighter teeth.
Improved Dental Hygiene
However, straightening teeth goes beyond simply looking better and boosting confidence.
Unlike traditional braces, patients wearing removable aligners can take them out to eat and to clean their teeth, allowing them to pursue their normal hygiene routine of brushing and flossing, thus reducing the longer-term chances of gum disease and tooth decay.
Minimally Invasive Treatment
Clear aligner therapy is a much less invasive process for patients. From the very start of the process, a patient will have their mouth scanned so they can avoid the discomfort that comes with traditional techniques to obtain impressions.
Rather than patients spending a prolonged length of time with a mouthful of extenders and putty, advanced 3D scans can be carried out quickly, comfortably, and accurately. These scans also allow patients to see their predicted end result using virtual 3D technology.
Ravreet Sahota, a general and implant dentist from Kent, introduced clear aligner therapy, into his practice more than ten years ago.
“We were fairly early adopters of clear aligners, with demand mainly driven by our existing patients – in particular young professionals, many of whom had seen television adverts and wanted to try the treatment,” says Dr Sahota.
Today we’re seeing many more patients of all ages opting for clear aligners - even those in their seventies. Since introducing clear aligners into his practice, Dr Sahota has seen a steady uptake of patients opting to try the treatment. “Demand has continued to grow as we treat more patients, often friends and family coming in as a result of seeing a friend or family member’s improved teeth,” he says.
Putting Patients in Control
Aligners can be removed for eating and brushing teeth, giving the patient a level of control over their treatment. “However, it is very important that they are worn at all other times”, explains Dr Sahota. “If the aligners are not worn for the appropriate time, then the teeth won’t move as planned. This can sometimes pose a problem, when compared to fixed orthodontic treatments - such as conventional ‘braces’ which are non-removable - and we occasionally treat patients who are not fully motivated and may not wear the aligners for long enough.”
Preparation is Key
If you think introducing clear align therapy would benefit your practice, the first step is to assess your patient base and decide whether it would be a valuable treatment option for any of your existing patients. Research suggests that 75% of the population could benefit from teeth straightening.
Dr Sahota is clear that the initial training opportunities and ongoing support have been critical to successfully integrating clear align therapy into his practice. “As with all dental treatments, aesthetic dentistry is heavily regulated, so keeping up to date with CPD is vital. There are numerous courses as well as online seminars, and the ongoing support is invaluable, with technicians readily available to discuss individual cases and to make any specific changes that you feel are necessary to benefit the patient.”
What Does the Future Hold?
“Feedback from patients is that clear aligners are comfortable to wear and in general patients prefer them to fixed orthodontic appliances as they are less noticeable”, continues Dr Sahota.
“The technology behind clear align therapy is evolving at such a pace that patients can complete their treatment and enjoy an improved smile much more quickly. We also see patients with improved teeth moving on to other non-surgical treatments such as teeth whitening and occasionally treatments such as fillers and Botox.”