09 May Clear Aligner treatment – When the dentist becomes the patient
As a child growing up on the Highveld, I was blessed with strong, well aligned teeth, not needing much in the line of dentistry and orthodontics whilst growing up. But as I grew older, I could see, as many patients do, changes happening to not only my body but my mouth as well. Having had perfect teeth all my life, there was suddenly a tooth slightly rotated and becoming quite pesky as food were continuously getting stuck there. An extremely uncomfortable position as being a dentist made me prone to people noticing my teeth before seeing anything else about me, and having a piece of spinach stuck between my front teeth, just as embarrassing as for the next person.
I finally decided to take the plunge and have the minor malalignment fixed with Clear Aligner treatment. Having been an early adopter of this type of treatment while working in the UK, I have treated innumerable patients over the course of 14 years both in the UK and South Africa and was now finding myself on the other side of the fence.
Clear Aligner orthodontics is a beautiful piece of technology using both scanning, digital smile design software, 3d printing and some of the latest materials available in dentistry in order the move your teeth orthodontically without the need for traditional braces. Due to the cost involved in the design and manufacture process it is still a relatively expensive treatment, and I have over the years incorporated some more traditional invisible devices in order to cut costs to patients. It is all worth it though as the patient experience and results just speak for themselves.
The process for patients is relatively straight forward. After a full examination and records are taken, it takes myself and my laboratory a few weeks to plan the treatment. Once all parties are happy with the projected results, manufacturing start and before you know it, you are the proud owner of your very first of a series of aligners designed to move your teeth step by step into the desired position.
I had my first aligner fitted early in April. The process to have them fitted and any adjustments made was totally pain free, but it can hurt putting them in and taking them out. I found this the most challenging part, and as they need to be removed for eating and drinking anything apart from water, I soon realised how this will affect my eating (and snacking!) habits over the course of the treatment. Perhaps not a bad thing!
Most people are also concerned about the effect wearing an aligner for 22 hours a day will have on their speech. Unlike some other orthodontic devices, I have to say that after taking a few hours to get used to it, I do not find my speech affected at all.
Four weeks in and I find myself so used to wearing my aligner that I feel a bit naked when taking it out. It is too early for me to see any changes just yet, but I can feel it in the way that I bite and the few tender teeth which is currently being moved so I know my aligner is doing its thing. My eating habits have changed, and I tend to stick to foods that is not too crunchy. I have also invested in protein shakes for lunch as I usually do not have much time to have lunch, and as I find I am eating a bit slower than usual due to the odd sore tooth, this is a much quicker way to get the fuel I need for the remainder of the day.
All in all, I have found the process comfortable and almost pain free (apart from the odd sore tooth when eating and discomfort when putting the aligner in and taking it out). It has also changed my perspective as a professional somewhat and where I used to be able to advise patients from the professional point of view, I am now so convinced that this is the best treatment available to repair minor orthodontic issues that I can really stand by this product with a 100% full conviction.
Dr Christa Engelbrecht is a general dentist with an interest in cosmetic dentistry practicing in Stellenbosch.