clear aligners

Introduction to Clear Aligners

Have you ever worn braces before? If you have, you know that they tell you to wear your retainer every night after your braces are removed. However, you were likely in your teens and not very inclined to be responsible for things like that. I certainly wasn’t!

When I first got braces, I had a significant gap between my front teeth. With a small mouth and larger teeth, it was a process to get all of my teeth where they needed to be. I had expanders, a few oral surgeries, and all kinds of devices over the five and a half years that I wore braces. After all of that work and probably significant cost, you’d think I would have respected the process enough to wear my retainer. That retainer was the bane of my existence. Actually, a well-meaning friend once threw away my tray of food at my high school and then I had to spend three periods digging through our school’s dumpster. It was not my finest few hours.


Not Wearing A Retainer After Braces

After just a few years of not wearing my retainer, I realized that my teeth had shifted. The retainer no longer fit into my mouth and eventually, I lost it completely. I was convinced that my teeth wouldn’t shift because I’m an adult and they’d put in so much effort to put my teeth where they were, it would be unnatural for them to find their way out of these new spaces. I was wrong. I’ve read that pregnancy can change your teeth so maybe that had something to do with it but all I know is that in the end, my teeth were in all different places and I’d even developed a crossbite. Two of my teeth kind of gnash against each other when I close my mouth.

Now, anyone who isn’t me (or a professional) may not even notice my misalignment. It’s a slightly crooked tooth here, a tight space there, a little overlapping. Aside from the teeth gnashing, what drove me crazy is the change. Many of us glide our tongues along grooves inside our mouths and they are what we’re accustomed to. We may not even notice it until they’ve change. When flossing my teeth became difficult on one tooth because they were too overlapped, I was done. I had to tend to these teeth!


Clear Aligners

My mom had braces in her 30s and she was happy with her results but I didn’t want to sign on for a mouth full of metal yet again. I felt like I did my time! I decided to inquire with my daughter’s orthodontist about clear aligners. These are so much more of a feasible option now than when I was a kid. First of all, insurances often cover them! My insurance even covers teledentistry. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Clear aligners look just like my retainer did. They look like clear replicas of your teeth and usually, they snap on to little attachments that are essentially glued on to your tooth. I don’t think you really see the attachments at all but the aligners look a little glossy. About a week or two apart, you change to the next tray and gradually, these trays move your teeth. It is often a longer process than braces but it is less visible.

Much like most retainers, you take the clear aligners out to eat or drink anything but water. They can stain or discolor, so you have to be mindful of that. You’re meant to wear clear aligners for 22 hours a day so that they can do their job.

clear aligners



Teledentistry is a widely controversial method of clear alignment. You have impressions done and your aligners made but you do not personally see an orthodontist. It is, however, cheaper than what you would get from your orthodontist. I may be wrong but I don’t think that any teledentistry options currently include the little glued attachments I mentioned, which means that there is less of a chance of turning twisted teeth and things like that. Teledentistry may not work but honestly, clear aligners in general may not and the results vary for each unique person and situation.

I looked into teledentistry but ultimately decided against it because I want to see and speak to an orthodontist regularly. There are different things about my mouth that my childhood orthodontist took into consideration and I wanted to make sure that these clear aligners would continue to work with those. For instance, my top teeth were initially forced to protrude on purpose to attempt to give me more of a defined facial profile as heredity has left me with a somewhat flat upper lip.


The Preparation

Because I am somewhat cheap and maybe often skeptical, I went to multiple orthodontists to get a full rundown of what my needs were. I think a second opinion is always a good idea! My daughter’s orthodontist said they could do everything I needed but that I would need my wisdom teeth removed because they could get in the way or become further lodged into my nerves when things began moving. The other orthodontist said everything was no problem at all and I wouldn’t need my wisdom teeth removed, but they also wanted twice as much. (For reference, it was $3500 vs $7000 with insurance!)

Ultimately, I went with the wisdom teeth removal. My husband made some good points about how if they did shift, they could ruin so many more things and affect all of this work we were planning to put into my teeth. The wisdom teeth removal was its own hassle. Both teeth were impacted and it affected the trigeminal nerve. My bottom lip and chin experienced heavy pins and needles for months and still have a slight sensation. It could still heal completely but I definitely have some regrets about that decision! I am happy it was not worse, however.


The Process

Getting the clear aligner itself was pretty simple. They did a mold of my mouth with that weird clay that I have always thought felt really cool. Behind the scenes, a computer processed a basic alignment of what my teeth should look like when finished. This is what that looked like:

clear aligners

Then, my orthodontist addressed my concerns and manually edited them to also include my own concerns. I don’t think that teledentistry has this kind of personalization and I felt like it was very important to the process. After her editing, she sent them off to the company to be processed. About 8 weeks later, I was back in to get my attachments placed.

The attachments are just these tiny pieces that feel like plastic and they’re glued in seemingly random places on your teeth. Of course, they’re not random at all and very strategic, but they sure seem that way!


What Are Clear Aligners Like

  • It didn’t feel nearly as weird as I expected. It was tight on the top right away, which meant that the shifting has already begun!
  • The aligners were cutting into areas of my gums so I filed the edges with a nail file. I think that your mouth gets used to everything but at first, everything is irritating and new.
  • The attachments feel SHARP, at least to me, so I prefer having the aligners in. If my mouth is bumped while the aligners are out, it does cut me! Ask my puppy, who keeps managing to test that out for me.

I also need to dissent from a few things I’ve read and say that I don’t think it’s impossible to wear lipstick with clear aligners. I wear lipstick nearly every time I wear any makeup. If you’re worried about it, I have three tips:

  • Wear a longwear lipstick
  • Do the pointer finger trick where you pucker your lips and slide your finger back and forth between your lips a few times. It seems to clean it off of the edges of your lips pretty well.
  • Wait until your lipstick is dry to put the aligners back in.

On the other hand, wait a significant amount of time after consuming things with artificial dyes or make sure you brush your teeth thoroughly afterward. I turned my aligners blue after I put them back in after I’d finished a blue candy cane.

And one last tip: buy more cases! I loved the price on these and they’ve been great!

aligner cases


This is everything that I have for you so far and I apologize for the lengthy post but hopefully I’ve answered any questions you may have had. If you do have more questions that I might be able to help with, please feel free to ask in the comments below! If you have an experience that you’d like to share, feel free!


clear aligners pin

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