Clear Tooth Aligners: Are They Right for You?

As an alternative to traditional braces, clear tooth aligners have become very popular in recent years. They might be the right choice for you or for your child. These plastic aligners (or series of aligners) accomplish the same goal of straightening and properly aligning teeth as traditional braces, but with several advantages. Unfortunately, these are not the best choice for everyone.

Advantages of Clear Tooth AlignersClear tooth aligners - Are they right for you - Caroline Wallace DDS

  1. Appearance. Clear aligners are almost invisible, making them a good choice for those who are concerned about the appearance of their teeth during the alignment process.
  2. Removable. Clear aligners can be removed as you choose.
  3. Eat what you want. Some foods should not be eaten when wearing conventional braces because they can become caught in the hardware and cause pain or damage. Clear aligners allow you to eat whatever you want.
  4. Fast results. Clear aligners are one of the fastest and easiest ways to straighten and align teeth.
  5. Minimal pain. Clear aligners correct tooth alignment continuously and gradually as opposed to the periodic adjustment of braces, which can be painful or irritating.
  6. Less frequent dental appointments. Clear aligners require a visit to the dentist only once every 6 to 8 weeks. Many people find this preferable due to busy schedules.
  7. Better oral health. Unlike the tendency of traditional braces to trap food particles that are difficult to remove, tooth aligners are simply removed while you brush, easily cleaned, and replaced.

Answers to Most Common Questions

Most people have questions about clear aligners. We believe you should have every opportunity to ask all of your questions and receive thoughtful and helpful answers before you decide to use them. The following are responses to the most commonly asked questions.

  • What should I expect during treatment? You may experience some occasional minor pain for a day or two at a time because the new aligners are moving your teeth. People might ask why your teeth look different. You can expect your “bite” to feel different during the process. You may have a lisp during the early days of using aligners.
  • How comfortable are the aligners?  Although you may experience some irritation or sores in your mouth while using clear aligners, they tend to become more comfortable as you wear them. The devices may cause some increase in salivation or in dry mouth.
  • How are they cleaned? Proper oral hygiene is important when using aligners to prevent damage to your teeth or gums. The devices can be cleaned with a toothbrush and cool water.
  • What are the bumps on some aligners? The bumps are called “engagers.” These may be attached to facilitate difficult tooth adjustments. They are made of a composite material that matches the color of your teeth.
  • How long does the process take? The duration of the process varies depending upon the amount of realignment needed, your health, and the rate of bone and tissue adjustment. Your dentist will review this with you before beginning the process.
  • Do I wear the aligners all day? We recommend that you wear the aligners for 22 hours every day. They should be removed for eating and cleaning. Failure to do so will slow down the entire process.
  • How often are the aligners changed? Typically, you will move from one aligner to the next every 1 to 3 weeks. However, frequency depends upon the amount of change needed and your willingness to diligently follow instructions.
  • What happens when the whole process is finished? You will be given a retainer and instructed how long to wear it to maintain the realignment.
  • What material is used to make the clear aligners? Aligners are made of a polyurethane resin that has been extensively tested. The resin contains no BPA or phthalates.
  • Can I use clear aligners when pregnant? The materials contain nothing harmful, but you should discuss your health with your dentist.
  • Are aligners covered by my insurance? You will need to ask your insurance company about your coverage. Some policies cover clear aligners and others do not.

Most people are familiar with the brand name Invisalign. When their patent expired, others began to make similar products. At that time, we switched to Clear Correct. It is less expensive and equally effective.


Clear tooth aligners are a wonderful option for many people (though not all). It is a beautiful thing when appropriately used. If you have additional questions, please ask. 

Your Clean Water Supply

The news has been filled with images of the recent flooding from hurricanes and the news about the impact of the storms on the clean water supply in some places. It also made me think about Flint Michigan, and their water crisis. All of it made me think about the importance of a clean water supply.bottled water crisis - pixabay cco free commercial use -82690 640

Did you ever think about the effect on your health when there is a lack of clean water? The oral health of many people suffers because they try to replace some of the water they usually consume with sugary soda and sport drinks. Drinking contaminated water is harmful to your general health and to oral health. The same bacteria and other elements (like lead) that are harmful or dangerous to your general health are also harmful to your teeth and gums. This makes the water unsafe to drink and unsafe to use for brushing teeth. Also, loss of treated water typically means loss of fluoridation.

A clean water crisis could limit the procedures some dentists could perform? Many of our tools and instruments use a large amount of water (drills, scalers, etc.). Many dentists today use a "closed system" source of water, meaning that we use distilled bottled water. These systems enable us to perform a full range of procedures safely. Many dentists use "city water" for non-surgical purposes and distilled water for surgery.

In a clean water crisis, your continuing oral health may depend upon the preventative care you give your teeth every day. Keep your teeth and gums healthy to protect oral health and general health. What can you do?


  • Brush and floss twice daily as recommended.
  • Use a fluoride enhanced toothpaste.
  • When your dentist offers fluoride varnish, rinse or supplements, accept them.
  • If you do find yourself in a clear water crisis, throw away the tooth brush before the contamination was discovered and replace it with a new one.
  • See your dentist regularly.

To your oral health!

Ask Me About the Anesthesia Wand

We have been using the Anesthesia Wand for a number of years. It is an ideal device for children and for anyone who has had a bad experience with dental work in the past. We have seen great success with the wand. Unfortunately, it is not appropriate for every dental procedure. When it can be used, it works wonderfully.  Anesthesia Wand - sm -IMG 2533 002


Think about the large metal syringes dentists typically use to inject numbing anesthesia to make it easier for patients to endure the pain of some procedures. That huge needle is intimidating, especially for children. At Complete Dental Care in Salem, Virginia, we never want any patient to be afraid or in pain. The Anesthesia Wand has a wonderful alternative for us.


The wand is a small tube that resembles a straight-shaft pen. On one end of the tube is a very small syringe. On the other end, the tube attaches to a device like a computer that is controlled with a foot pedal. The device notifies the dentist when the anesthesia is dripping into the syringe.


One advantage of using the anesthesia wand is that the anesthesia is delivered very, very slowly. This is ideal for children because the slow flow of the anesthetic eliminates pain and the burning that accompanies traditional syringe delivery.


A second advantage of the wand is its flexibility. It can be used to numb a single tooth or a large section of the gum. And, because it delivers a continuous drip of anesthetic, it is not necessary to pause the procedure to inject more anesthetic.


Use of the Anesthesia Wand is covered by insurance, just like the traditional metal syringe. The only additional cost is the purchase of the tips that are used on the wand. This cost is typically absorbed by the dentist.


Although the anesthesia wand was invented about 20 years ago, many dentists have not adopted it. The metal syringe remains appropriate for many of our patients. For children and adults who have experienced difficulties with the metal syringe, we find that it is often the best alternative to reduce fear, relax our patients, and prevent pain.


If you have had a bad experience with anesthesia or you are bringing your child or grandchild for a dental procedure, ask your dentist about the anesthesia wand. You’ll be glad you did.  

Eating Disorders and Your Teeth

Eating disorders are very damaging and dangerous to your health. Many people do not understand the eating-disorder-and-teeth - Caroline Wallacedamage that can be done to your teeth and jaw due to eating disorders. Some of the damage cannot be repaired. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that more than 10 million Americans suffer with an eating disorder.

Anorexia, due to the lack of proper nutrition, can cause or contribute to osteoporosis. This can cause the jaw and surrounding bones to become weak. This, in turn, often leads to loss of teeth. Typically, these teeth need to be removed. Due to the weakening and loss of bone, dental implants may not be an option in some cases. Implants must be anchored in the bone.

Bulimia and Purging create a different set of problems for oral health. Vomiting brings stomach acids into the mouth. The acids belong in the stomach, where they break down food so it can be digested. When these destructive acids enter the mouth, they cause corrosive damage to the enamel that covers the teeth. Erosion of tooth enamel often results in darkening of the teeth, changes in the shape and the length of the teeth, sensitivity, and loss of the tooth or teeth. In particular the edges of the teeth will become quite thin and chip or break.

It is important to remember that tooth enamel cannot be replaced. Unless aggressive dental treatment is sought to provide other means of protecting the teeth, those affected teeth will be lost.

The steps that can be taken in order to mitigate the damage from stomach acid are somewhat counterintuitive. Most of us assume that stomach acid should be removed from the mouth with immediate brushing. This is not the best response; brushing will add abrasion of the enamel to the damage from the stomach acid. Instead, rinse your mouth thoroughly with baking soda and water. This will help to mitigate the effects of the stomach acid. Then continue to brush twice daily.

If you have an eating disorder it is important to:

1.      Brush and floss carefully and thoroughly, as recommended by your dentist.

2.      See your dentist regularly.

3.      Discuss your eating disorder with your dentist. She may have other specific instructions. She will also be able to help you discuss appropriate treatments to maintain oral health. 

To your oral health!

What is Tooth Bonding

Bonding a tooth is a process that your dentist may use to repair or restore a tooth, or to enhance the appearance of the tooth. In bonding, a resin that is colored to match a tooth is applied to the tooth and hardened with a special ultraviolet or laser light. The light bonds the resin to the

Bonding is an inexpensive way to repair chipped, broken, dark or decayed teeth. It can also be used as a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of teeth by, for example, closing gaps between teeth or lengthening teeth. Bonding typically can be accomplished in a single visit to your dentist’s office. Other alternatives, such as crowns or veneers, must be sent to a lab where they are crafted for a perfect fit. This often requires one to two weeks waiting. Bonding is usually a simple procedure requiring no anesthesia. Sometimes, as when repairs are made to teeth roots to protect them when gums recede.

Teeth that are bonded are not as strong as a natural tooth. The bonding can be damaged by chewing gum, eating ice, or chewing fingernails. How long the bonding lasts is largely dependent upon good dental care and avoiding foods, etc. that could damage the bonding, and the amount of bonding done. The appearance of the bonding can be undermined by stains from coffee, tea or smoking.

Bonding, like any other dental procedure, should be thoroughly discussed with your dentist. You should also understand that bonding seldom lasts as long as crowns, veneers or amalgam fillings. Most dentists find that bonding lasts for about 10 years. Bonding can be maintained or repaired. Dental insurance will pay for bonding to fill a tooth or to protect it. Insurance will not pay for bonding for cosmetic purposes alone.

Bonding is frequently chosen because it is less expensive than other alternatives and because it can be accomplished I less time. Another factor that makes bonding attractive to many patients is the fact that it requires removal of the least tooth enamel.

The next time you need dental work, you might want to discuss bonding with your dentist.

To your beautiful smile! 


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