How does straightening your teeth at home work?

Find out what to expect when using at-home aligners

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Years ago, if you wanted straighter teeth you’d have several orthodontist appointments. The process of straightening your teeth required you to wear braces that needed regular adjustment. Now, using clear aligners, you can straighten your teeth at home.

Getting Started

It’s easy to get started with teeth straightening at home. All you need to do is choose a provider and order a home impression kit.

There are many providers to choose from. Typically, you’ll purchase a home impression kit that will be delivered to your door. Impression kits aren’t expensive. Usually, they cost about £20-50.

With some providers, you’ll also have the option to visit a clinic for a scan. This is an alternative to home impressions but doesn’t mean that you’ll need to make regular visits as you go through dental realignment treatment. In fact, once you’ve had your 3D scan you’ll continue your treatment at home.

Rarely, you’ll find that a provider doesn’t offer any home impression kits at all. Sometimes, you need to get a 3D scan before you can get started with your treatment. If you go down this route, scans are often free but sometimes involve a small charge.

Making impressions at home is quite easy and you’ll receive everything you need. You’ll put a moulding putty inside the trays that you’ll then insert into your mouth. Clear instructions are provided to make sure that your impressions can be used to make aligner trays. If you make a mistake you will need to order and pay for a new kit, but most providers will refund the extra cost if you’re successful when you try again.

Once you’ve got your 3D scans or your dental impressions, they’ll be sent off to your chosen clear aligner provider. You’ll usually be given a shipping box that you’ll pack everything into. Send your impressions through the mail, and wait to hear more when they’re received.

If you’re not sure where to start, try our Clear Aligner Provider tool.

Checking Suitability

Clear aligners aren’t for everyone. Some people aren’t suitable candidates, so the next step is to check your impressions and your overall dental health. You’re likely to need to provide some photographs of your teeth along with the impressions, and these will be used to determine if you’re a suitable candidate for treatment.

Sometimes people are concerned that teeth straightening at home means they might be taking a risk. A reputable provider will make sure that your mouth is healthy and that treatment is safe.

If you’re not a suitable candidate for treatment, most providers will refund the cost of your impression kit at this stage. You’ll be able to walk away without losing money.

You can check with your regular dentist to see if any issues can be treated. The most common issues for rejection aren’t permanent but are things like gum disease, cavities and wisdom teeth that can be fixed before you try again.

Delivering Aligners

If treatment goes ahead, you’ll receive your aligners delivered to your door once they’re made. You’ll usually be waiting about 3-5 weeks before you can get started with your treatment.

Some providers deliver aligners one set at a time. You’ll wear each set of clear aligners for about 2 weeks before moving on. Other providers will deliver every set of aligners at once, so it’ll be up to you to keep them safe and to check when you should be swapping trays.

Going Through Treatment

Since you’ll be going through treatment at home, you’ll be in charge of swapping aligners. Each set of aligner trays will move your teeth slightly, before you move on to the next. Each new tray shifts your teeth slightly more, until they’re in their final positions.

Your treatment plan will show you when to swap aligners, and you’ll go through several trays before your treatment comes to an end. At the end of your treatment, wearing retainers will help to keep your new smile in place.

In most cases, one set of aligner trays will be worn for roughly two weeks. Your treatment plan, or app notifications, will remind you when it’s time to swap over.

Checking In

As you won’t be regularly visiting a clinic, your treatment will be managed online. Most providers have a convenient smartphone app for you to use. It’s important to check-in, so providers know that your treatment is going to plan.

As you check-in, you’ll likely be asked to take a few progression photographs. These can be used to check that treatment’s working and review your overall dental health. The details you provide are reviewed by professionals that might suggest some changes to your treatment.

Checking in is an important part of going through treatment at home. It doesn’t just keep you safe, but also offers some protection at the end of your treatment. If you’re not happy with the final results, providers will want to see evidence that you’ve followed your treatment plan properly. Most will invalidate any guarantee if you’ve not been checking in as you should.

Treatment Times

In a majority of cases, clear aligner treatment takes about 6-12 months. Very rarely, treatment is quicker or takes a bit longer than a year. The length of time your treatment takes will depend on your current smile alignment. If your teeth need a lot of movement, treatment will take a bit longer. If your smile just needs a small adjustment, you could be done in only four months.

Getting Support

Even when you’re getting your teeth straightened at home, support isn’t ever far away. Your aligner provider will have contact details, so you can call or email if you need to. If your provider has physical clinics, even if you didn’t use them at first, you can call in for immediate help if you think it’s best to see someone in person.

Using clear aligners with treatment from home doesn’t mean that you’re on your own. Though you’ll control your treatment and avoid checkup appointments, your treatment will be backed by a team of professionals to make sure that it all goes to plan.

If you’re still unsure where to start, try comparing aligners here or use our aligner finder tool to discover the best match for your needs.