How Aligners Work – The Science Behind Clear Aligner Treatment

Mar 13, 2024
woman inserting a clear aligner
Clear aligners offer a discreet method of straightening teeth, but how do aligners work? We discuss the science behind clear aligners like Invisalign to help you decide whether they might be right for you.

Have you ever wondered how aligners work? Most of us know they’re worn over the teeth a bit like a mouthguard, but how do they move teeth into their correct positions? This article explains all you need to know about clear aligners such as Invisalign.

Since its inception in 1997, Invisalign has helped more than 12.8 million people straighten their smiles. These virtually clear trays are a hit with people wanting a low-key effective treatment to get a straight, beautiful smile without causing discomfort.

It may seem as if Invisalign has magical powers but in reality, the science behind the treatment is the biomechanics that facilitate gradual and comfortable teeth straightening. Let’s explain what that means.

A winning combination of materials and design

Invisalign aligners utilize a blend of state-of-the-art materials and meticulous design and are typically crafted from a special thermoplastic material, selected for its flexibility and strength. This material ensures a snug fit over your teeth while applying gentle pressure to guide them into place.

The design process is equally impressive. Utilizing advanced computer-aided design (CAD) technology, orthodontic dentists create a detailed 3D model of your teeth. They then map out the precise movement of each tooth, step by step, utilizing Smile Design technology, until the desired alignment is achieved. The outcome? A tailor-made set of clear aligners that gradually shift your teeth into their ideal position.

How biomechanics works in clear aligners

Clear aligners rely on the principles of biomechanics, which study mechanical functions in living organisms. This technique works by applying controlled force to your teeth and observing their predictable response. Unlike traditional braces, clear aligners prioritize gentle, controlled movements of approximately one-third of a mm over several weeks.

Each set of aligners is worn for a specific period, typically two weeks, before moving on to the next set. This steady transition enables the teeth to move gradually, allowing the surrounding bone and tissues to adapt and reshape. It's a delicate interplay between science and nature, ensuring a comfortable and efficient teeth-straightening journey.

How clear aligners work - Tooth movement

We've briefly explained how Invisalign accomplishes tooth movement, but what exactly occurs during this process? Let's take a closer look.

Each time an aligner (tray) is worn, it exerts a sustained directional force on the teeth. This means that the customized design of the aligner persuades the tooth to move in a specific direction. It achieves this by applying pressure on one side of the tooth while exerting tension on the other.

As a result, the body reacts by breaking down the bone around the tooth in the pressured area and rebuilding it in the tensioned area. Consequently, the bone supporting the tooth undergoes continuous restructuring. This explains why patients typically feel tightness in their aligners during the initial days until the planned tooth movement is completed.

Soft tissue response

Simultaneously, the periodontal ligament (PDL), a soft tissue joint that secures the tooth root to the alveolar bone, undergoes a shift. Once again, a combination of compression and stretching leads to significant remodeling of the PDL. Research indicates that this process occurs within minutes after the aligner applies force. Thus, alongside bone tissue movement in the alveolar, there's also movement in the PDL.

Overall, the opposing forces of tension and pressure prompt both bone and soft tissue to collaborate in driving tooth movement.

Pretty smart, isn't it?

But how does one aligner trigger gradual movements in a single tooth?

Introducing aligner attachments

Given that tooth movement is gradual, a skilled dentist can finely tune the movement of each tooth using Invisalign attachments. These attachments are invisible bumps or buttons affixed to the aligner at strategic points. Once activated, they exert precise guidance on individual tooth movement by applying concentrated force in specific directions. As a result, the soft tissue, bone, and ultimately the tooth are guided into precise positions. These buttons can be strategically placed across multiple aligner trays to ensure meticulous and accurate movement throughout the treatment process.

A vanishing act – Enhancing esthetics and confidence

One of the standout features of clear aligners is their almost invisible appearance. Unlike noticeable metal braces, these see-through trays go unnoticed, enabling individuals to undergo orthodontic treatment without worrying about their appearance. The psychological boost from this aspect is significant – feeling more confident throughout the teeth-straightening process greatly enhances the overall journey.

Additionally, advancements in design and materials ensure that clear aligners are both subtle and comfortable. With no wires or brackets to contend with, the risk of oral sores and injuries is eliminated, making the entire experience feel effortless.

Revamp Your Smile with Clear Aligners

Achieving a straighter smile isn't just about looks; it's about embracing a journey grounded in biomechanics and personalized precision.

As you explore the realm of clear aligners, keep in mind that the pursuit of your ideal smile is more than a mere endpoint—it's a journey of transformation. Start this journey today and discover how Invisalign clear aligners can elevate your smile by scheduling an appointment with Chesterfield Dentistry. Take the initial stride toward a self-assured, aligned smile that embodies the fusion of scientific innovation and contemporary orthodontic artistry.