Tif Qureshi explores the advantages of offering clear aligners for your practice and your patients.
The use of clear aligner therapy (CAT) is experiencing unprecedented growth worldwide, with the global market valued at $4.1billion in 2022 and estimated to grow at around 30 per cent over the remainder of the decade. Research shows that, amongst young adults especially, perceived ‘flaws’ in a smile can inhibit self-confidence, affect interactions with peers and even impede professional progression. Growing aesthetic sensibilities have led to an increase in demand for orthodontic treatment among adults. The prevalence and availability of branded clear aligner systems today, through face-to-face dentist consultations or via remote treatment management with dental professionals, have fuelled this demand.
Comfort and convenience
The use of CAT as an orthodontic treatment for adults with mild to moderate malocclusion – and, in some instances, more complex cases – has significant appeal in many respects. Clear aligners are a series of thin, flexible, plastic appliances customised to fit snugly over the teeth, treating malocclusion through incremental movement planned by a dentist following a comprehensive assessment. They are designed to be worn for the majority of the day, except meal times, over a specified duration. Studies show that clear aligners are generally considered more aesthetically appealing than fixed appliances. Comfort is an influential factor too: research shows that wearing removable aligners causes less pain to patients than fixed appliances, can make eating and chewing easier and can require simpler oral hygiene maintenance than fixed appliances, promoting improved periodontal health.
The role of technology
Technological developments in computer-aided design (CAD) and manufacturing (CAM) have played a significant role in the success story of clear aligners. The prevalence of digital intraoral scanning means impressions are generally made with greater speed and precision than with conventional alginate or elastomer putty. Innovative advances in clear aligner materials such as shape memory polymers and biomaterials have dramatically improved their clinical performance. Research also suggests that orthodontic treatment for milder cases of malocclusion may be shorter with clear aligners than with fixed appliances.
The pandemic played a key part in driving the general awareness and popularity of CAT. Drastically limited socialisation, greater self-reflection and a huge increase in online activity – social media in particular – helped to fuel the already flourishing interest in achieving the ‘perfect’ smile. Together with the prospect of a lengthy, lockdown-enforced duration at home, these factors combined to persuade those dissatisfied with their dentition to explore orthodontic options. With closed dental practices, postponed appointments and increased wariness of physical contact, the remote orthodontic treatment market – whereby personalised kits with moulds, clinical photography instructions, and, at a later stage, aligners are sent sequentially between the practice and the patient – went from strength to strength, with record sales in 2020 and forecast to rise still. The General Dental Council (GDC) acknowledges the benefits of such systems, such as their convenience and affordability, whilst also advising caution to patients in purchasing clear aligner systems remotely, as such services are legally defined as dentistry, and providers must be GDC-registered by UK law. Compliance with GDC Standards for the dental team does not preclude online interactions between dental professionals and patients, but current guidance is that a comprehensive clinical assessment in person has no substitute to ensure patient safety.
Today, patients wishing to embark upon orthodontic treatment using clear aligners have a huge range of options to choose from. CAT is now one of the most competitive sectors in dentistry, with multiple brands and systems available. For dentists, the ongoing advances in computer-aided technology make CAT a rewarding and profitable treatment. Advances in CAD-/CAM and 3D technology have created exciting in-house production possibilities for practices, with advantages to the dentist, such as reduced practice expenditure in buying third-party appliances after investment in equipment and training.
The aligner advantage
Offering CAT to patients is a valuable string for dentists to add to their bow. With such a plethora of clear aligner systems on the market, it’s more important than ever that dentists are fully versed in all aspects of CAT before embarking on treatment plans for their patients. The IAS Academy supports dentists in their learning journey through their world-class teaching and mentoring community and is an excellent source for training and certification in CAT. It offers one-day, face-to-face and modular online clear aligner courses, as well as its authoritative one-year Clear Aligners Diploma: a comprehensive education covering all aspects of CAT from digital workflows to in-house aligner production, with live staging on patients and specialist mentored cases.
A trend set to continue
Clear aligners provide a valuable orthodontic treatment that can benefit patients in terms of aesthetics, convenience, flexibility and duration. Their popularity with adults and older teens looks set to continue its trajectory as technology and accessibility increase concurrently.
For more information call 01932 336470 or visit www.iasortho.com