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Ask the Ortho: Clear Aligner Tracking

A big selling point in your decision to wear clear aligners for teeth straightening was probably the fact that the whole process takes a lot less time than traditional braces, right? We agree. It really is the ideal way to tidy up your smile and gain that much-needed self-confidence. Today, we’ll be chatting with one of our orthodontists here at Clear Smiles, Dr. Peter Sutton.

He is a Board Certified Invisalign Orthodontist with the ABO, SWSO and member of AAO. Graduating first in his class from University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for his Orthodontic Residency, Dr. Sutton is passionate about the process of improving his patients’ appearance and confidence.

This blog’s topic will revolve around the idea of monitoring the fit of your aligners and the concept of “teeth tracking” with aligners as you move through the different stages of treatment

Q: How long do I have to wear clear teeth aligners?

A: We recommend 20 to 22 hours per day to ensure proper teeth movement and tracking. Overall, you’re wearing your aligners for about half the time you would with metal braces. That’s because the trays are switched out so quickly. Basically, you’ll be switching to new aligners every seven days. Acceleration devices can be used that will allow you to change aligners every four to five days.

Q: What should I do before moving onto the next set of aligners?

A: You should check your aligner fit prior to moving to the next stage. The photo below shows you the different severities of the track failing to fit properly, from perfect fit to poor fit. A poor fit would require a refinement scan or further instructions from a doctor or assistant

  1. Perfect fit: OK to move to the next tray.
  2. Minor tracking problems: Use Chewies on these areas and be cautious of them when you move onto your next tray.
  3. Teeth are not tracking properly. Use Chewies to try and correct the problem. If it doesn’t improve, please contact the office.
  4. Same as 3.

Chewies are basically soft chewing devices the size of a cotton roll that eliminates the air space between the aligner and your teeth.

Q: Why are my teeth not tracking properly?

A: The main reason is that you are not wearing the trays for an adequate amount of time. You are allowed to take them out to eat and clean your invisible aligners. However, sometimes people forget to put them back in and neglect to keep up with the 22 hours a day recommendation. It can be helpful to set a reminder alarm on your phone so you don’t forget to pop them back in.

Another reason for teeth not tracking properly is that some teeth are just more stubborn than others. If they don’t track according to plan, this has negative impacts on the desired movements for all your other teeth.

While we run scans and computer models when devising your treatment plan, these models are able to account for common variables but cannot predict individual differences resulting from your body’s specific response to orthodontic treatment. It’s best to consult with one of our orthodontists if your teeth aren’t tracking properly. We can come up with a solution and nip the problem in the bud.

Q: Is this common?

A: Actually, it’s a fairly uncommon occurrence. Each tray has a set amount of prescribed movement built into it and the teeth require a certain amount in the trays to express those movements. If not enough time is given, the teeth will not move properly and poor tracking will occur. There is some wiggle room in terms of movement, but if you take advantage of that wiggle room and only wear your aligners 10 hours a day, you will not get the expected results.

Q: How do I properly use Chewies to improve tracking?

A: We recommend chewing one of your Chewies for about three to five minutes at a time, three to five times a day. This pushes your aligners onto your teeth and makes sure they’re in the right position. This is especially important to do right after switching to a new set of aligners, as the fit will be quite tight over your teeth. Focus on the front six teeth that don’t get the natural seating that your molars do. Chewing exercises deliver more predictable results because your teeth are getting the extra motivation to move.

Got more questions that need answers? Check out our FAQ page to learn more, or just call our local office directly.

We also invite you to take a Smile Quiz to get started.

Right now when you take a few minutes to try our quiz, we’ll give you a $100 discount off your cosmetic dentistry treatment!

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