Written by Dr. Kritika Laddha | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI.
Clear aligner technology has evolved drastically in the last two decades. Although clear aligners seem relatively new, the concept of using removable appliances to move and correctly position teeth dates back to the 1940s. The aligners themselves have been modified extensively to increase the efficacy of tooth movements (1).
Several historical breakthroughs paved the way for the modern technology we use in orthodontics today. Here is a brief history:
In 1945, Herald Dean Kesling designed a simple device to guide teeth into their ideal positions (2,3). The tooth positioner device intended to correct mild discrepancies. It was an active orthodontic appliance used in the finishing and retention phases. Even today, its modern version is available at TP orthodontics, Inc, a company founded by Kesling.
Robert John Pointz developed a clear plastic appliance in 1971 for the retention of orthodontic cases. He proposed that the tooth can be moved or repositioned using the appliance. The main advantage of Ponitz’ invisible retainer is the ease of fabrication, insertion, and minimum chair side adjustments of the appliance. They were used for bruxism cases and as splints for trauma cases. (2)
NASA's Advanced Ceramic Research worked with Ceradyne Inc. to develop polycrystalline alumina (TPA). The material is strong, smooth, and transparent and was initially used to make infrared antennae in missile trackers. In 1986, Unitek contacted them when searching for a transparent material for orthodontic treatment. Ultimately, in 1987, Ceradyne and Unitek worked together and developed the first invisible braces (14).
This decade changed the future of orthodontics and brought us the clear aligners we know today. In 1993, John Sheridan developed an Essix aligner system for tooth movement(4). Later, in 1997, two Stanford University students, Kelsey Wirth and Zia Chishti introduced clear aligners named Invisalign (5). They combined aligner therapy with 3D imaging technology, which removed the tedious process of manual fabrication.
The current clear aligner system combines the principles put forward by Kesling, and others with modern CAD/CAM technology. Here's what present-day clear aligners look like:
Aligners are made of transparent, thermoplastic material and customized to the patient's dental arches. Other materials used in invisible aligners include
Clear aligners should completely seat on insertion. They should not dislodge or lift vertically. The possible margin designs are scalloped, straight cut at the gingival zenith, and straight cut 2 mm above the gingival line(7).
Clear aligner therapy works on the principle of-
A common question is: How much pressure should be applied to move the tooth? We apply forces in predictable rates and amounts depending upon the tooth shape, size, periodontal conditions, and the type of movement required.
In the beginning, aligners used a displacement-driven system with no auxiliaries. Later, auxiliaries were used to enhance the efficacy of orthodontic tooth movements. These included attachments, intermaxillary elastics, and buttons. These help achieve more complicated challenging movements, and increase the predictability of the movements including bodily movements, extrusion, rotations(9).
Tooth movements that can be achieved through clear aligners include :
To ensure optimal tooth movements, patients should wear aligners for a minimum of 22 hours a day for 1 or 2 weeks (depending on the case) (11).
Clear aligners have undergone continuous development over the years. Modern-day clear aligners use the latest technology, including the following:
3D intraoral scanners are a more accurate and faster way of recording the patient's teeth. There’s a lesser chance of a redo being required. The records can also be transferred instantly with just one click.
Intraoral scanners are particularly useful in patients with gagging and anxiety issues. These records are interpreted by CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and the aligner sheets are thermoformed on 3D printed models.
Aligners manufactured on 3D printed models offer many advantages They are accurate, easy and fast to fabricate with few refinements required
An intraoral scanner creates digital models of the teeth, which are then 3D printed using 3D printing machines. Later, clear thermoplastic sheets are thermoformed on top of the model to create the aligners. (12).
CBCT, a software that is driven by artificial Intelligence (AI), can boost treatment efficacy and reduce the number of refinements required. It helps dentists treat patients with precision and accuracy.
Using CBCT Analysis, they can look at the roots of teeth and the surrounding bones and create a 3D model with minute details (13). This helps doctors analyze the patient's condition and prepare a suitable treatment plan. Doctors can also achieve more predictable outcomes by tracking teeth movements during the treatment.
Since the introduction of clear aligners, their market has grown exponentially. As per the Fortune Business Insights report, the global market for clear aligners is $ 2.41 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $10.04 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.7% in the forecast period, 2021-2028.
With continuous evolution in the clear aligner technology and dentistry, many business models have been developed by the manufacturers, including:
A slightly modified model is also gaining momentum where the dentist determines a treatment plan and orders the fabrication of aligners from an orthodontic laboratory.
The evolution of clear aligner therapy has revolutionized orthodontic treatment.It helped dentists deliver higher quality and customized aligners aimed at patients.
At Eon Aligner, we empower dentists to offer clear aligner treatments using the latest technology. Eon Access, our advanced case management software, features a user-friendly experience that puts dentists in touch with our specialist team of clinicians and experts.
Eon Aligners are made up of medical-grade material with a 3-layer material construction. It is made by precise aligner design with the aid of high-resolution 3D printers. The smooth contours with precision deliver constant forces on teeth gently. Through Eon Academy, our doctor e-learning platform, we provide continuous education, clinical training, and support every step of the way.
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