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Clear Aligners Not Tracking? Here’s Why, And Here’s How to Fix That

Smiling person wearing clear aligners that are tracking well

One exciting privilege of wearing clear aligners is the ability to watch your results progress from a transparent, crystal clear vantage point. It can be a wonderful thing to watch your smile gradually straighten into the dream symmetrical alignment of your desires. But that excitement and beauty can quickly turn to dismay and frustration if your aligners aren’t achieving the desired results you want.

Millions of people have achieved successful orthodontic results with the help of clear aligner appliances, and these appliances have over 20 years of ongoing success stories, R&D, and continually evolving technologies to back those results up. But alas, like most healthcare treatments, clear aligners are not a 100% foolproof miracle cure.

Complications may arise that impede, negate, or negatively disrupt progress. As many as over 40% of all patients using the most popular aligner brand could run into these road bumps on their smile journey, according to BMC Oral Health. Fortunately, these factors are, more often than not, reversible. Find out what may cause such orthodontic complications, and what you may need to do about them.

Aligner Fit Issues

If your aligners are not tracking, then that could be a sign that they aren’t properly fitting. Noticeable signs of improper fit include:

  • Visible gaps and air bubbles between the teeth and aligner
  • Failing to cover the gingival above 0-2mm
  • A seamless fit on one side of the dental arch, but not the other

These gaps can often be resolved on your own. If you notice any discernible gaps, you can often seat the aligner down into the teeth by biting down on a bite stick, aligner chewies, or orthodontic safe mint products. 

If those other two points are apparent though, and improper fit persists, don’t be afraid to consult an experienced licensed orthodontist about getting refitted. Clear aligner refinements are necessary to ensure treatment is completed and your teeth are properly aligned, so be sure to listen to your orthodontist if refinements are prescribed.

Additional Treatment Time

Often, your teeth may not be tracking, not because of misdirection, but because their direction is moving behind schedule. In these cases, your orthodontist may order refinement trays, additional aligners that are meant to complete, fine tune, and make final necessary adjustments.

This will tack on an additional few month to your treatment schedule, but it’s still definitely well worth it. Consult an experienced licensed orthodontist to assess if you’re behind treatment schedule, or whether you could use additional refinement trays.

Compliance Issues May Come to Light

Clear aligners, like any other type of orthodontic appliances, are just a tool. To make the most out of this tool, it’s essential that you use it properly. That means cleaning it diligently, practicing delicate care around it diligently, and wearing your aligners for at least 22 hours a day. Failure to do so can impede treatment progress, as can:

Heat can irreversibly warp or damage the aligner plastic. Moreover, while it’s among the least worrisome health hazards that it can raise, smoking can discolor the aligners, discolor your teeth, and double your risk of tooth decay according to the CDC.

To ensure ideal treatment compliance, it’s best to abstain from smoking and other bad habits. You can’t totally expect your results to be contingent on your appliance – how you use that appliance is equally, if not more important for your success.

You May Need Backtrack

It may sound weird and counterintuitive, but sometimes you need to go backwards to move your treatment forward. If your treatment has moved off track due to improper aligner compliance or improper aligner fit, consult your orthodontist about the prospect of “backtracking” treatment.

Backtracking occurs when a patient is ordered to wear their previous aligner tray longer than originally scheduled. Doing this can make a meaningful difference in solving incisal gaps, incomplete tooth movements, or ill fits.

Saving your previous aligner trays as a backup can help expedite this process, but even if you don’t have them on hand, don’t worry! Your orthodontist and aligner manufacturer can make replacement trays remade from the last impression in your treatment sequence.

You May Need A Treatment Revision

Clear aligners are produced with the help of high-tech, cutting edge imaging tools like iTero scanners. These technologies can lay out a practical roadmap for your Invisalign treatment with extremely accurate precision. However, that precision should not be mistaken for a foolproof, magic crystal ball into the future.

Changes happen, and they can occur entirely naturally. If they happen during your treatment, don’t sweat it; your oral health evolves and continuously changes, so it’s only reasonable for your oral health treatment regimens to do so also!

Orthodontists are extensively trained to handle these types of changes and change course when necessary. If you suspect that you may need a treatment revision, consult your orthodontist ASAP. You may need to have new impressions taken, but that usually just entails having new impressions taken, and not much more than that.

You May Need a Different Provider

If your orthodontist continually:

  • Fails to provide accurate fits
  • Fails to make necessary adjustments
  • Fails to provide necessary resources

Then all the above are signs that you could use a different orthodontist. Consider only seeking treatment from exemplary orthodontists, ones with accolades such as the Diamond Plus certification that prove that they’re great at what they do.

Under ADA guidelines, an orthodontist must respect a patient’s right to self-autonomy, and includes the right to transition to another provider if you’re dissatisfied with your current treatment provider. Bottom line, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do everything in your power to set your clear aligner treatment on the right track.