Are Nighttime DIY Aligners Safe?

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Nighttime DIY aligners are customized clear trays that fit over the teeth and are worn only at night to correct tooth and bite alignment problems. While the aligners can appear very similar to Invisalign braces, they are not part of an Invisalign or orthodontist-approved alignment system. This method is part of a growing trend of DIY orthodontics, where online companies offer mail-order alternatives to traditional braces that do not involve visits to an orthodontist’s office.

Orthodontic treatment is complex and can have far-reaching implications for your physical and mental health. While nighttime DIY aligners can seem like a cheaper or more convenient alternative, it’s important to only undergo orthodontic treatment under the supervision of a board-certified orthodontist.

What Are Aligners?

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, offer an alternative to traditional metal brackets, giving many patients a more discreet way to correct teeth while making daily life with braces a little easier. Clear aligners must be worn 22 hours out of the day. While that doesn’t leave much wiggle room, it allows enough time for eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth.

Each set of aligners a patient wears is designed to place a specific amount of force on certain teeth to move them in a given timeframe. With each set, the orthodontist maps out a movement pattern that will take several weeks to achieve. At that point, he or she will create a new pair of aligners that advance the teeth to the next step in their journey toward alignment.

Nighttime DIY aligners claim to operate similarly but with a 10-hour per day instead of a 22-hour daily treatment schedule. For most people, this will mean sleeping with the aligners and wearing them for only a few hours per day while awake. Like orthodontist-approved aligners, DIY aligners require replacement every couple of weeks.

What Can Nighttime DIY Aligners Do?

The issues that nighttime DIY aligners could correct are very limited. At most, they would only be able to address barely noticeable crowding or spacing limited to some teeth. They would not correct moderate or severe crowding or spacing issues or issues pertaining to the bite or jaw alignment.

In standard orthodontics, braces compress the periodontal ligaments around a tooth root. This requires a nearly constant amount of pressure at a mild force. Because nighttime DIY aligners only compress ligaments for 10 hours per day, the force is not consistent enough to spark changes in the tooth roots. Exerting more pressure on the teeth is not an option, as this could damage the teeth and surrounding bones and tissues.

Any changes with nighttime DIY aligners will take longer than with a traditional orthodontic treatment of the same scale, as the intervention occurs over less time each day. In some cases, treatment with nighttime DIY aligners could be less expensive, but this is not always the case. In fact, there is the potential for nighttime DIY aligners to cost more over the duration of treatment, especially if they create new problems that an orthodontist needs to correct. Every hour that you are not wearing an aligner during orthodontic treatment increases the likelihood of teeth moving in the wrong direction.

Can I Wear Invisalign at Night?

Do not wear your Invisalign braces only at night. Your orthodontist has customized a treatment plan for you based on wearing your orthodontic-approved aligners for 22 hours per day. Your orthodontist has used a 3-D model of your mouth to map out exactly where each tooth should move and in what time frame. Each transition to a new set of aligners is carefully calculated based on the assumption of nearly full-time wear.

If you wear your prescribed aligners only at night, you are cutting your treatment time in half or more, and this will affect its progression. When you attend your checkup, the orthodontist will notice that your teeth have not moved appropriately to progress into the next set of aligners. This obviously means a delay in your treatment, but it could be worse than that. With such minimal treatment, your teeth may never move enough to complete the progressive stages that treatment requires.

Nighttime DIY Aligners vs. Retainers

The wearing schedule for nighttime DIY aligners is more similar to a retainer than braces. However, retainers have a significantly different function. After braces, the teeth need time to adjust to their new positions and stop moving. The retainer holds your orthodontic work in place so that your progress is protected. The retainer is not designed to move your teeth any further.

Nighttime DIY aligners promise the opposite, claiming to work through the night to move teeth. However, some orthodontists doubt that aligners could achieve desired results with only an intermittent source of pressure. Because this method is so new, no comprehensive studies on its efficacy exist yet, so there is no way to ensure that a patient trying nighttime DIY aligners would see positive results.

Downsides of Nighttime DIY Aligners

As mentioned, nighttime DIY aligners only provide minimal tooth movement–if any at all. And though the company will use impressions of your teeth to craft your DIY aligners, it will forgo the panoramic X-rays that most orthodontists use to assess your pre-treatment dental health. If you try nighttime DIY aligners to straighten your teeth, first make sure you are current on your dental checkups to ensure there are no underlying issues with your teeth or gums.

It might be difficult for your nighttime DIY aligners to become comfortable. If aligners are only worn at night, it will be harder for your teeth to adjust to the force being placed on them. Therefore, your teeth might be sore while you wear the aligners, which can lead to difficulty sleeping or non-compliance.

If you’re interested in receiving orthodontic treatment, contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our board-certified orthodontists.


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