Written by Dr. Febin Mary George, BDS | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Shaista Salam, BDS, Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI
1. What is tracking in clear aligners?
2. How do I know if my aligners fit properly? (Easy Tutorial)
3. What is poor tracking and what causes poor tracking?
4. How do I make my aligners fit better? Solutions for tracking issues
As you are all set to kick off your journey to a more beautiful you through clear aligners, your mind would be already boggled with doubts like “How should aligners fit?”, “Should there be a gap between the aligner and teeth or “What should be done when aligners are not fitting?”. If this sounds like you, we have got you covered as this article will explain how are aligners supposed to fit and what you should do if they don’t fit the way they should.
Clear aligners can offer one of the best smile makeovers if worn as instructed. To make sure that the treatment is progressing in the right direction, you should ensure that the aligners are tracking well.
Tracking refers to how well your teeth movements are following the treatment plan, clinically seen as how well your aligners fit or not fit on your teeth. It is the difference between the planned teeth alignment vs the real one. Aligner tracking can be perfect, good, or bad.
A snug fit indicates properly adapted clear aligners. Only accurately fitting aligners can ensure adequate tooth movement in the desired path. Don’t worry if the aligners feel a bit tight initially, they will fit better and become more comfortable as the teeth move over time.
Gingival coverage plays an important role in the enhancement of aligner retention on the tooth surface. (1) That’s why you may find your aligners covering the teeth from the biting surface to the gum line. However, the aligners should not be overextended or sharp on the gums. In the end, the cutline depends on the manufacturer’s/provider’s preference.
A clear gap between the aligners and the incisal edges indicates bad tracking. Minor adjustments may be needed to address the issues related to tracking.
A common question that arises is "What does it look like when clear aligners are not tracking?"
If your aligners are not tracking well, the common signs that you would notice are
Compliance with the treatment plan is one of the key factors that determine how should aligners fit. You should wear your aligners at least 22 hours a day to ensure that your treatment is progressing as expected.(2) Show up for every follow-up visit that has been scheduled by your dentist. This helps the doctor learn the progress of your teeth movement. When you discontinue wearing your aligners, they would not fit you anymore. That is the last thing you wish to have in your journey to a beautiful, straight smile!
It is imperative to have some space between the teeth to facilitate proper movement. When teeth are overlapping with each other or have tight contacts, there is an obstruction in teeth movement. To relieve the contacts your doctor will perform interproximal reduction or IPR. This procedure will create adequate room for the teeth to move into their new positions.
Sometimes, you may find your aligners not fitting well around attachments. In this case, you can go back to the best fitting aligner step and continue wearing it till your next appointment. Your doctor may replace the troubling attachment with another one.
If some attachments are fractured or have debonded, your doctor will take a decision to replace it or not, depending on whether they are active or passive attachments
You should remove your aligners and store them in a hygienic way before you eat. If you are in a habit of chewing food with your aligners on, you may cause warping or distortion of the aligners, thereby, causing an improper fit.
Calculus build-up from inefficient brushing and flossing can prevent the aligners from fitting peroperly. Moreover, it can cause hindrance in teeth movements. Therefore, healthy dentition through good hygiene practices and regular dental checkups are important.
If you have any crowns or fillings to be placed, you should delay for after your orthodontic treatment is complete. Since new crowns and filling will not be accounted for in the treatment plant, they can lead to ill-fitting aligners and loss of tracking.
Make sure to inform your doctor if you get any dental work done. Your doctor will have to take new impressions or scans, and perform a mid-course adjustment.
Aligners will not fit snugly around a chapped or fractured tooth, hence there will be loss of tracking.
To improve poor clear aligners tracking, you can perform chewing exercises with the help of chewies. When you bite gently on chewies, you help the aligners seat properly through the application of suitable pressure.
The recommended wear time of aligners is at least 22 hours a day. (2) When you wear your aligners as directed by your doctor you will gradually learn how should aligners fit. Hence, you will never miss any tracking-related issues like gaps in aligners.
If your teeth are not tracking, the wear cycle of the aligners can be extended from one to two weeks. Make sure to consult your dentist before making any such changes.
Routine checkups help the doctor evaluate the progress of the treatment. Therefore, you should never miss your follow-up appointments. These sessions give you the opportunity to bring up any issues related to fit or comfort that have been bothering you.
Minor poor tracking can be dealt with by switching back to a previous step. You should switch back only if you have received approval after discussing it with your doctor.
On the other hand, if the tracking is extremely poor, you may need a mid course adjustment.