Breakdown of the Different Clear Aligner and Retainer Materials

Breakdown of the Different Clear Aligner and Retainer Materials

Confidence begins with a smile. If you look in the mirror and aren't happy with your smile, now's the perfect time to change it! Clear aligners and retainers are more accessible and affordable than ever before. They straighten your teeth over time while being discreet and manageable. But with so many different options out there, it's hard to tell which aligner or retainer is right for you — or what the difference is between them.

Plastic or polyurethane? Essix or Invisalign? Not all retainers are equal, and not every aligner brand will fit your needs or budget. This comprehensive guide takes the guesswork out of choosing your new alignment method, so you can begin your journey to a beautiful and brighter smile. 

Braces, aligners and retainer treatments use external force and pressure to shift teeth.

What Is Teeth Alignment Correction?

Teeth alignment is the gradual process of moving and straightening your teeth into the correct position according to your bite. Using external force and pressure in the form of braces, aligners or retainers, these treatments shift crooked or misaligned teeth until they're straight.

Straightening your teeth with clear aligners can treat and correct specific conditions.

  • Overbites: When your upper front teeth overlap your lower front teeth.
  • Underbites: When your lower front teeth overlap your upper front teeth.
  • Open bites: When your upper and lower front teeth slant downward and don't touch when biting down.
  • Crowded teeth: When teeth in the same row overlap.
  • Diastema: When there are gaps between your teeth.

There are many advantages of realigning your teeth that go beyond the obvious cosmetic effects. Other health benefits of aligning your teeth include better oral health, jaw pain relief and teeth movement prevention.

1. Better Oral Health

Cleaning between crooked teeth can be a challenge. If your teeth are crowded, flossing can be almost impossible. When food debris, bacteria and plaque accumulate in hard-to-reach areas in your mouth, it causes gum disease, tooth decay and inflammation. Basically, brushing your teeth is absolutely essential to maintaining efficient oral hygiene. 

Teeth alignment correction helps by ensuring you can easily brush and floss between every tooth to remove leftover food particles and plaque.

2. Relieving Jaw Pain

If you've ever experienced cracking, popping, pain and stiffness in your jaw, teeth alignment correction may be exactly what you need. Temporal mandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a common dysfunction of the jaw that can result in clicking noises, headaches and joint pain from jaw movement.

Aligners and retainers can help by preventing clenching and grinding at night, as well as improving your overall bite. The shifting of your teeth can take the pressure off your jaw muscles and joints so you can chew your cake and eat it, too.

3. Preventing Movement

If you've ever had braces, you probably had both your orthodontist and your mom telling you how important it was to wear your retainer. Like many others, you dismissed the warnings — and now you're interested in aligners to move your teeth back into position. Everyone's teeth move and change over time, so even if you never had braces, you can still benefit from aligners to keep your smile looking great.

Teeth Alignment Correction Methods: Aligners vs. Retainers

Braces are the traditional method for correcting misaligned teeth and bites. However, you're likely looking for something less noticeable and cumbersome to improve your smile, which is why you're considering an aligner or retainer. What's the difference between an aligner and a retainer?

  • Retainers prevent your teeth from moving after braces have corrected them. It takes between four to six months for your teeth's new position to become permanent. Without a retainer, your teeth will move back to their original position.
  • Aligners are vacuum-formed clear thermoplastic devices that can move your teeth into a better position. After using an aligning treatment, you'll most likely be given a retainer to wear.

Let's take a closer look at how the treatments are made.

What are clear aligners made of?

How Are Aligners and Retainers Made?

Every aligner and retainer is customized to fit the intended wearer. 

How are retainers made? Your orthodontist will take an impression of your mouth with putty. The impression is then put into a plaster mold to create the retainer's base. After the base is made, your orthodontist fits the wires to it and secures them with acrylic so your teeth are held in place. Your retainer will either be permanent or removable depending on the option you get.

To create an aligner, your orthodontist will use the same process by creating a mold using putty. However, clear aligners are made from plastic, so there's no need to adjust or secure any wires. What are clear aligners made of? Though different types of aligner materials exist, most are made with multi-layer aromatic thermoplastic polyurethane/copolyester, or some variation of it. Clear aligners are replicas of your teeth that gently reposition them over time.

Types of Aligners

Do the names Invisalign®, SmileDirectClub and byte® ring a bell? They've dominated social media and intrigued consumers for years. But without seeing an orthodontist in person, can clear aligners really make a lasting difference in the appearance of your smile? The answer is yes!

Clear aligners, also known as "invisible" aligners, are the easiest and most comfortable solution to straighten your teeth. They're made from virtually invisible plastic and can be removed at any time. Here's a quick look at a few pros and cons of aligners.

Pros

  • Each aligner is custom-made to fit your teeth, even without a trip to the orthodontist.
  • The average length of treatment is four to six months.
  • Aligners can be cheaper than other options, as they don't require in-person office visits.
  • You can use whitening treatments while using clear removable aligners.

Cons

  • If not cleaned regularly, food and drinks can break down the material and bacteria can accumulate.
  • Clear aligners are easy to lose and misplace.
  • They can't treat severely crooked or misaligned teeth.

Out of all the aligner options out there, how do you know which one is right for you? These comparisons will help you decide.

Invisalign has perfected the process of teeth misalignment treatment.

Invisalign®

Perhaps the most well-known clear aligner brand, Invisalign has been at the top of the market since 1997. Needless to say, they've perfected the process of teeth misalignment treatment, so all you have to do is wear your aligner consistently.

How Does Invisalign® Work?

The first step is meeting with your Invisalign doctor to decide if you qualify for treatment. Using a scanner, the doctor takes a 3D digital scan of your teeth to outline a customized treatment plan. The website lists all of the doctors in your area who work with Invisalign®, so the process is as convenient as possible.

After picking up your first pair of aligners and making sure they fit correctly, you only have to revisit the doctor's office every six to eight weeks for a quick check-in. You'll start to see results in just a few weeks!

How Are Clear Aligners Made?

Invisalign eliminates the need for messy mouth putty by using 3D imaging to assess your smile. The doctor uses an iTero® scanner to take a current and accurate model of your teeth, and then uses the same technology to plan out your future treatments. You can see your new smile before even wearing your aligner. The best part is that you get a better fitting aligner than you would with putty anyway.

Invisalign has most of their technology patented, so they don't openly advertise what materials they use to create their aligners. The aligner materials are called SmartTrack®. They provide a gentle but constant pressure to move your teeth while also working more efficiently than traditional braces.

Pros of Invisalign

  • You can see your before and after pictures before starting treatment.
  • The process of creating the aligners is easier and more efficient than traditional methods.
  • A new aligner is created every two weeks or so throughout the treatment, allowing for frequent adjustments. 
  • The treatment plan will tell you how many aligners you'll need in total to complete the transformation.
  • The process is so efficient that it requires less time in the orthodontist's chair than regular braces.
  • The doctor will secure your aligners with anchors, so they stay in place all day.

Cons of Invisalign

  • If your dental issues go beyond basic misalignment, you may not be eligible for treatment.
  • You must wear your aligners for 22 hours every day.
  • You must clean your aligners frequently to prevent bacteria and food odor. (Using WhiteFoam can help!)
  • You have to visit your doctor's office to get a new aligner every few weeks and assess your progress.
  • The constant pressure on your teeth can make it difficult to eat certain foods.

SmileDirectClub aligners are worn for 22 hours a day of have specialized Nighttime Aligners for

SmileDirectClub

Who knew that one day you could have mail-ordered dental treatments? SmileDirectClub offers the same ease and convenience as any other online shopping venture. 

How Does SmileDirectClub work?

To get started, you have two options: an in-person scan or an at-home impression kit, both of which are free. With the 3D image, licensed doctors are able to review and approve your treatment plan. You can choose to wear the SmileDirectClub aligners for 22 hours every day, or the specialized Nighttime Aligners™ for 10 hours a night.

You'll be able to see a preview of your transformation on your customer profile and receive updates from your doctor. The treatment plan can take as little as four months to complete. You get a new aligner every week and have the option of adding whitening solutions and accessories at a discount.

How Are the Aligners Made?

If you don't live near a SmileShop, you'll have to perform the dental impressions yourself. The process takes approximately 30 minutes and requires fast work. You have to mix the putty for one minute and then set it into place before it hardens. Then, you insert the tray into your mouth per the instructions, leaving it in for two and a half minutes. You have to repeat this process three more times, making two impressions of your top and bottom teeth. 

Before shipping your impressions to a doctor, you'll need to take pictures of your smile and upload them to your customer profile. The process is simple and quicker than a doctor's visit.

Pros of SmileDirectClub

  • You save time by not having to visit the doctor's office for check-in's and new aligners.
  • You get everything you need right in the mail.
  • The average treatment plan takes just six months. 
  • Your kit has everything you need for the duration of the treatment.
  • SmileDirectClub is more cost-effective than other options, including Invisalign and traditional braces.

Cons of SmileDirectClub

  • If you have a question or concern, you may have to wait for an answer, especially because you have to use the web.
  • The aligner materials used aren't as comfortable as other options.
  • If you don't visit a SmileShop for a 3D scan, you will have to take an impression by yourself. This can lead to imperfections and mistakes, which will affect the shape of your aligner.
  • Subscription-based aligners mean the company doesn't have your dental records. Your medical history can play a key role in planning the best treatment.
  • SmileDirectClub doesn't work with many insurance companies, so most payments will be out-of-pocket.

Candid is one of the most affordable choices for clear aligners.

Candid

Candid is one of the most affordable choices for clear aligners when compared to Invisalign and other popular options.

How Does Candid Work?

Candid's process is the same as SmileDirectClub. You can take dental impressions at home with a kit or visit a Candid studio for a free 3D scan. However, Candid is different from Invisalign and SmileDirectClub because they only work with orthodontists, not just any oral expert. Orthodontists have more practice and education in the biomechanics of tooth movement, so you may feel more comfortable picking this option.

Pros of Candid

  • You can access experienced orthodontists without visiting an office.
  • You get your impression kit and aligners in the mail.
  • It's budget-friendly, even without insurance.
  • Your assigned orthodontist contacts you every 10 days.
  • Candid is partnered with ClearCorrect, which manufactures quality clear aligners.
  • Your first retainer is free, so you can try out the service before committing.
  • If the orthodontist decides you're not a candidate, Candid will issue a full refund.

Cons of Candid

  • The average treatment takes up to six months, which can be longer than other treatments.
  • Candid offers limited financing options.
  • The aligners don't fit as well as other options, making them uncomfortable and difficult to speak with.

Byte

Finishing our top four lineup is Byte. Byte is the newest brand on the scene, only selling aligners since 2018. Like SmileDirectClub, Byte doesn't have in-person doctor appointments and sends your aligners directly to you through the mail.

How Does Byte Work?

Byte was bought by Dentsply in 2020. The company is a well-known dental manufacturing source for scanning machines, cleaning equipment, retainers and other dental tools. Therefore, you receive the same quality products you get at the orthodontist's office with Byte. It also means Byte has access to the latest technology so your aligner fits as precisely as an Invisalign product.

Just like the other in-mail services, you take molds and pictures of your teeth to send to Byte so they can create your aligners. However, Byte works differently because it partners your aligner treatment with high-frequency vibrations, via their HyperByte, to easily shift your teeth in less time. After five minutes a day, or 10 minutes with the At-Night treatment, your smile will improve faster than any other method.

Pros of Byte

  • All appointments are virtual with expert orthodontists.
  • A typical treatment lasts only two to four months.
  • There's no commitment to buy. You get a full refund if you're not a candidate.
  • Financial assistance is offered to every patient.
  • Byte offers a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.
  • The aligners feel similar to Invisalign at a fraction of the cost.
  • You get a free night retainer and all of your aligners upfront.

Cons of Byte

  • Byte is the newest brand in town, so there aren't many customer reviews.
  • Not seeing an orthodontist in person means complications and mistakes can't be treated.

Types of Retainers

What are retainers made of? That depends on which type of retainer you need. There are three types of retainers: permanent, Hawley and clear.

Bonded Permanent Retainers

Bonded Permanent Retainers

A permanent bonded retainer offers many benefits and requires minimal upkeep. This option contains copper, nickel or a combination of the two.

Pros

  • It's always in your mouth, so you don't have to know when to take it out.
  • It fits behind your teeth, so others won't see it.
  • It doesn't disrupt talking or eating.
  • It's impossible to lose or misplace.
  • It doesn't damage easily.

Cons

  • It's difficult to floss between teeth, resulting in poor dental hygiene.
  • You can't remove it.
  • It's still possible for teeth to shift.
  • It can cost hundreds of dollars.

Removable Hawley Retainers

Removable Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are what you might know as wire retainers. These retainers are made from two different types of retainer materials. The first piece consists of a thin metal wire that lies across the front of your teeth. The second part is a plastic or acrylic piece that fits the roof of your mouth.

Pros

  • It can adjust to fit better over time, even if your teeth have started moving.
  • The retainer materials used are stronger than clear plastic.
  • It's simple to repair if broken or damaged.
  • It's removable for convenience.

Cons

  • The wire is more noticeable compared to other retainer options.
  • The wire can irritate your lips or cheeks.
  • The placement can slightly affect your speech.
  • The average cost can be a few hundred dollars.
  • It can result in bacteria buildup without proper care.

Pros of Removable Clear Retainers [list]

Removable Clear Retainers

Clear retainers are perfect for minimal teeth correction. Removable retainers, also known as Essix retainers, look just like clear aligners. They're made from strong, clear medical-grade plastic and fit tightly around your teeth to keep them in place.

Pros

  • It's molded to fit your teeth.
  • The plastic is thin for a comfortable fit.
  • It's "invisible" to others.
  • It can be removed for oral care and eating.
  • It costs a few hundred dollars.

Cons

  • It can wear down or get lost, making replacements more likely.
  • If any major dental work reshapes your teeth or alignment, you'll need a new one.
  • It can house bacteria without proper care.
  • It's more susceptible to damage than a metal retainer.

Aligner care is essential for a For-EverSmile!

Aligner Care Is Essential to a For-EverSmile

No matter which option you choose, you now know it's never too late to make your smile even more beautiful. But dental health is more than having straight teeth. The keys to a brighter and healthier smile are products that keep your mouth fresh and clean.

Retainers and aligners are difficult to take care of, and brushing simply won't get the job done. EverSmile WhiteFoam deep cleans your clear retainers and aligners for a refreshed mouth and confident smile. Every oral expert knows that alignment pieces can be major breeding grounds for bacteria. When an aligner or retainer isn't properly cared for, it'll start to turn an unsightly color and produce an odor. Clearly, that's the exact opposite effect you want your smile to have!

If you're always on the move, the pocket-size AlignerFresh will remove buildup, whiten your teeth and freshen your breath without skipping a beat.

Your aligner will straighten your teeth, but EverSmile guarantees a healthy and bright smile. We should know — our founder was a leading Invisalign provider! Our products are there to match every dental need, from crowns and implants to braces and dentures.

The first thing people notice about you is your smile. Make a lasting impression with EverSmile.

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