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How Do Invisible Aligners Straighten Teeth?

By Kristen Gasnick
Good tooth alignment is important for maintaining dental health. Find out how invisible aligners can help.

Invisible aligners can help straighten your teeth, resulting in a nicer smile and healthier gums and teeth. This is how they work.

How Should Teeth Align?

Having straight, well-aligned teeth doesn't only make your smile look good—it's also important for maintaining the health of your teeth and gums, according to the American Dental Association. Having a straight smile without overlapping or crooked teeth can help keep your mouth clean and prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

“The teeth should be aligned in a manner that protects the [gums] and offers good cleaning access for the patient to care for their teeth,” Oleg Drut, DDS, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This means an alignment where the teeth have good, even contacts that have enough space for the patient to brush and floss between, but enough tightness to keep the [gum] tissue healthy and protect it from [gum infection and inflammation].”

Proper teeth alignment encompasses both the alignment of each individual tooth and the way that your upper and lower jaw meet, also known as your bite or occlusion. According to the US National Library of Medicine, the top molars in the back of your mouth should fit in the grooves of your bottom molars, and your upper teeth should fit slightly over your bottom teeth. If your upper teeth are positioned too far forward, you will have an overbite. If your lower teeth are positioned too far forward, you will have an underbite.

It is important to have proper alignment of your upper and lower teeth so you can bite into and chew food properly, and avoid problems like teeth grinding and jaw pain. “Good alignment in the posterior segment of the teeth facilitates the proper chewing for ideal digestion, ideal bite force distribution to keep teeth enamel protected, and a stable [bite], preventing the muscle strain that contributes to [teeth] grinding and TMJ pain,” Drut says.

How Invisible Aligners Can Help

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, dental aligners are made of a clear plastic-like material and are molded to fit all of your upper and lower teeth. They're often referred to as "clear teeth aligners" to emphasize their discreetness, especially in comparison with traditional braces.

You will wear aligners for 22 hours a day for 1-3 weeks at a time and then receive a new set of aligners fitted to slightly adjust the new alignment of your teeth. Your teeth will move slowly with each new set of aligners.

“Unlike traditional braces, which move the teeth into alignment all at once, these clear aligners shift individual segments of teeth,” Drut says. “Digitized computer impressions of the patient’s teeth will be used to determine the particular segments to focus on.” Because the teeth move one segment at a time, it is important that you change your aligners frequently, as recommended by your orthodontist, until your treatment is complete.

Start Your Journey to a More Confident Smile Today!

Straightening your teeth can be easy and affordable. Find out how to get started today. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.