If you or anyone you care about has ever had braces before, chances are that you've seen or heard of retainers. These valuable tools are used to help with the process of straightening teeth and are sometimes made out of clear plastic that wraps around the teeth. They look a lot like invisible braces, in fact. If you've ever wondered if invisible braces are just retainers rebranded, here's what you should know.

What Retainers Do

To understand how invisible braces and retainers differ, you've got to know how retainers work in the first place.

Retainers are typically designed to hold teeth in place, rather than actually moving them. This is why they're often given to children who have their braces taken off. It helps to ensure that the adjustment that the braces made isn't lost.

In some cases, retainers are used to help move teeth. However, this is typically limited to children who can't get braces yet or as a sort of preparation phase for braces. Retainers do not straighten teeth but help to push or pull them as a group in a set direction, which can be useful for people with overbites or underbites.

What Invisible Braces Do Retainers Can't

Invisible braces are actually meant to straighten teeth. What this means is that while a retainer can pull teeth in a set direction, invisible braces can straighten out the alignment of each tooth individually.

This process is accomplished by using a combination of science and careful measurements of your teeth. Your orthodontist will look at a 3D model of your teeth and determine what teeth need to move and where. That information is sent to a company that makes the braces, and they're shipped back so you can start the treatment.

For the Process

The power of invisible braces is that they use this custom mold and computer modeling to get the alignment right. Your orthodontist will know where every tooth should end up and at what angle, even, by the end of each set of invisible braces if you follow your treatment protocol perfectly.

In order to pull this off, a few things will need to be done. You'll likely have a full three-dimensional X-ray taken that will scan your teeth from all angles and produce a 3D image. Then, a mold will be taken so that your teeth, your gums, and the roof of your mouth can be seen physically, which is also a helpful tool for the company making the braces.

From there, the computer will generate a series of braces aligners for you, each with slight adjustments to your teeth so that they gradually start moving in the right direction.

Reach out to your dentist to learn more about invisible braces.