What Is the Difference between Traditional Expanders and Clear Aligners?

In the past few decades, orthodontists have made a lot of progress in their field. New technology like clear aligners provides alternatives for those who do not want typical braces. If you are trying to decide which is better traditional expander or clear aligner, you need to know the difference between the two options. Both traditional expanders and clear aligners can help to create a straighter smile and a more functional bite, but they are not the same type of orthodontic equipment. Here are answers to all the questions you probably have about the difference between aligners and traditional braces.


Girl wearing aligner

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What Materials Are Used to Make Aligners and Expanders?

As soon as you look at these two items, you can see an immediate difference between them. Expanders are made from a high-quality metal like stainless steel or titanium. In addition to the metal part of your braces, your orthodontist may also suggest that you wear rubber bands with the expanders. These are made from a basic rubber elastic material that is stretchy and occasionally colorful.

Clear aligners get their signature clear appearance because they are not made from metal or rubber-like expanders are. Instead, aligners are made from a type of medical grade polyurethane resin. This feels like a slightly flexible plastic, and it is free of BPA, BPS, and latex. The end results are the same for both options, but the equipment used is fairly different.

How Do These Two Treatments Work?

Can these two treatments help our teeth look better? They definitely can because they use slow, gradual pressure to move your teeth around in your mouth. Though their overall method of moving teeth is the same, the actual process of how aligners and expanders work is a little different. Expanders are installed in your mouth semi-permanently while aligners are removable. When your orthodontist fits braces on you, they will bond small brackets to your teeth. A long wire that fits over the entire arc of your upper or lower row of teeth is then attached to the brackets with rubber bands or small clips. The end result is a row of metal that cannot be easily removed.

With aligners, your orthodontist creates a custom mold designed to fit your teeth. The clear plastic tray slips over the surface of your teeth and puts pressure on them to move them. You can take it on and off, though you need to wear it for at least 23 hours of the day for the best results. Over time, you switch out the clear retainers for a new set that continues the gradual shifting process.


What Are the Main Reasons People Need Traditional Expanders and Clear Aligners?

If you are wondering what are the main reasons people need traditional expanders and clear aligners, the simple reason is just to adjust the teeth. Either treatment can be used to improve a person’s tooth spacing and angle, but they are typically recommended for a few different reasons. In general, traditional expanders can be used for more drastic changes and serious orthodontic problems. They can help to manage orthodontic issues through these methods:

  • Straighten any crooked teeth
  • Rotate twisted teeth to make them fit together properly
  • Minimize large and small tooth gaps
  • Expand the jaw to reduce tooth crowding
  • Fix all types of overbites
  • Keep front teeth from protruding
  • Solve underbite issues

Aligner usage is a little more limited because they cannot work as well at correcting jaw-related issues. They mostly help to make your teeth look better by doing these things:

  • Straighten crooked teeth
  • Rotate teeth to the proper position
  • Expand space between crowded teeth
  • Reduce smaller gaps between teeth
  • Help with a slight overbite and underbite problems

7 Ways to Clean Your [Clear Plastic] Orthodontic Aligners

How Often Do You Need to Visit Your Orthodontist for Checkups?

With both expanders and aligners, you will need to make some occasional visits to the orthodontist for checkups. These are a necessary part of the process because your teeth may shift in unexpected ways during the treatment. A checkup lets your orthodontist see how your teeth are moving and design if any changes should be made to the custom treatment plan they created.

Generally, people who have aligners have fewer checkups than those with traditional expanders. They normally just need to visit the orthodontist every 8 to 10 weeks to get a new set of aligners and have their progress monitored. The advanced computer simulations used to create custom aligners makes it a little easier for orthodontists to track progress. People with braces have to come in more frequently, about once every four weeks, because they require more frequent adjustments.

How Long Will It Take to Make Changes to Your Smile?

To know the answer to the question “can these two treatments help our teeth look better?” is yes. Though you might be wondering how long it will take. The overall time for your treatment will typically depend on how drastically your teeth need to be shifted. On average, an aligner treatment takes between 12 to 18 months while wearing braces can last anywhere between 16 to 30 months. Keep in mind that the longer treatment time for braces is partially due to the fact that patients with expanders tend to have more severe problems. However, for similar orthodontic issues, aligners are typically a little faster than braces because they can put pressure on each tooth more precisely than braces can.

If you need help telling which is better between traditional expanders or clear aligners, then you should take the time to speak to an experienced orthodontist. Both of these two treatments can improve your teeth, but they work in different ways and address different needs. Every person’s teeth are unique, so you need a talented doctor who can create a treatment plan just for your needs. Call us today to learn more about expanders and clear aligners.


Contact Us Today


                      What Is the Difference between Traditional Expanders and Clear Aligners?

Childers Orthodontics

201 West Washington. Benton, IL 62812

Phone: (618) 438-2815
Fax: (618) 551-3555

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