How to Straighten Teeth Without Braces

A beautiful young woman with a perfect smile.

Braces have been the go-to option in orthodontic treatment for many decades. Attaching brackets to the teeth that are connected by wires can accurately shift teeth into the desired position over one or more years of treatment, but there are drawbacks to wearing braces. Many people with crooked teeth or bite problems wonder if there is an alternative to braces to achieve a straight smile. Advancements in orthodontics have created new options for treating malocclusions. Here is how to straighten teeth without braces.

Problems with Using Braces

Malocclusions or misaligned teeth can occur for many reasons, but usually it is related to genetics. Some people have smaller jaws and teeth can become crowded, pushing against each other and coming in crooked. The bite may not align properly, which can affect chewing, speech and appearance. Braces are excellent for straightening teeth and realigning the bite, but they can be uncomfortable and restrictive. The wires and brackets can rub against gums, and there are many food restrictions since chewing or crunchy food can damage braces.

Study on how to straighten teeth without braces paid off for two Stanford University students. Kelsey Worth and Zia Chishti created the first clear aligners that could shift misaligned teeth and create a straight smile without the need for braces. In the late 1990s, an alternative to braces was revealed – the first brand of clear aligners – Invisalign®. This changed how to straighten teeth for teens and adults everywhere.

What Are Clear Aligners?

Invisalign was the first clear aligner product to be released for orthodontic treatment, but many other brands have entered the market in the last few decades. All clear aligners use similar technology on how to straighten teeth without braces. The key is clear plastic trays that are customized to fit over the patient’s teeth. The clear aligners are designed from a mold of the patient’s teeth – the mold can be created from a 3D digital scan of the teeth. These clear aligners apply gentle pressure on the teeth to shift them to the desired position.

How to Straighten Teeth with Clear Aligners

Braces requires adjustment of the wires every few weeks to shift teeth into place. With clear aligners, there are no wires or brackets, just the plastic trays that fit over the teeth. To “adjust” the aligners to the next phase of teeth straightening, new aligners are issued. Most clear aligner brands require new sets of aligners every 2-3 weeks. Each set of clear aligners brings the teeth closer to the desired positions. The small increments of change slowly shift the teeth with little discomfort, much less than wearing metal braces.

Clear aligners are removeable, but they do need to stay on the teeth the majority of the time to be effective. In most cases, it is recommended that aligners stay on the teeth at least 22 hours a day. The only time the aligners should be removed is to eat and performing oral hygiene. Keeping them on and changing to the new sets of aligners every few weeks is the best way to get the desired results. Patients who remove their aligners more often may need longer treatment times to achieve the desired straightening effects.

Both teens and adults can use clear aligners for straightening teeth. The program may be slightly different for teenagers and adults, but the basic treatment is the same. The length of the treatment depends on the severity of malocclusions. Most patients who use clear aligners to straighten their smile use aligners daily for one to two years. Once the desired teeth alignment and bite is achieved, patients still wear a clear aligner retainer at night to maintain their smile, usually for the rest of their life to keep teeth from shifting.

A woman holding a clear aligner.

Benefits of Clear Aligners Over Braces

There are many comfort benefits of clear aligners over braces. Clear aligners are often called “invisible braces” since they are clear plastic and very discreet. Teens and adults like having an orthodontic treatment that doesn’t change the appearance of their teeth and smile and aligners are more comfortable than braces. Eating foods that are crunchy and chewy are not allowed with braces, but with clear aligners, you can take them out and enjoy your meals. It is also easier to thoroughly brush and floss teeth with clear aligners.

If you are wondering how to straighten teeth without braces, clear aligners are your best option. They are discreet, comfortable and take about the same treatment time as braces. Most people with malocclusions can use clear aligners to get the straight smile they desire. Clear aligner treatments are available through many dentists and orthodontists for both teens and adults. To learn more about clear aligners for teeth straightening, contact a dental professional in your area who offers clear aligner orthodontic treatment.