Retainers, Clear Aligners or Mouthguard – which one do you need?

When it comes to dental appliances, what exactly are the differences between Mouthguards, Retainers and Clear Aligners.


Mouthguards are devices used to protect your teeth from grinding or clenching, often while you sleep or from injuries while you play sports like rugby. Mouthguards can also help to reduce snoring and relieve obstructive sleep apnea.

However, not all mouthguards are the same. There are three main types, depending on your needs.  There are general stock mouthguards, boil-and-bite mouthguards and custom-made mouthguards from your dentist. Mouthguards may be used to treat TMJ and bruxism.


Following orthodontic treatment, custom-made removable or fixed retainers are used to ensure that teeth maintain their new position. Note that neglecting to wear a retainer after orthodontic treatment can result in the teeth shifting back to their old position.

Clear Aligners

Aligners are designed to be clear, making treatment extremely discrete for the wearer. During treatment, a series of different aligners are worn to gently shift teeth into a more desirable position creating a beautiful smile.

Let’s face one simple fact—everyone has a beautiful smile. While that’s true, it doesn’t mean every person has their best smile. If you want to improve your smile, Clear Aligners treatment might be for you.

It’s a known fact clear aligners are working – we’ve all seen the results. But how do clear aligners straighten teeth precisely?

After all, clear aligners are vastly different than traditional braces, yet they can accomplish a majority of the same results. In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of clear aligner technology to help you understand how aligners move teeth.

What is aligner technology?

Aligner technology is an alternative to orthodontic braces. uses thin, transparent plastic shells to move teeth in small increments when worn consistently.

Instead of braces that are attached to your teeth, aligners are removable and changed at intervals of 7-14 days. They look like dental bleaching trays or clear retainers.

A series of aligners are manufactured from virtual models of your teeth, with gradual or incremental movements toward straight teeth.

The number of aligners per series varies, but the typical range is 10-40. It can take anywhere from one to three or more series of aligners to produce a good result. The range depends upon the complexity of your bite, how consistently your aligners are worn, and how much resistance to movement your jaw bone presents.

How do aligners work?

Aligners are designed to make small movements at a time, by putting gentle pressure on your teeth. That pressure is transferred through your roots to your jaws.

Your jaw bone responds to forces by essentially moving the sockets, and your teeth go along for the ride. Because the changes from aligner to aligner are small, treatment with aligner technology tends to be gentle and comfortable.

Aligners need to be worn 22 hours per day to be effective. This leaves time for eating, brushing, and flossing without aligners in.

How do clear aligners straighten teeth?

From a basic understanding, you might assume you just snap on the aligners, and your teeth begin to move. However, that’s not the case entirely.

There are a few other “parts” to clear aligner therapy. Since aligners are not attached to the teeth, we need little pressure points called attachments. Digital preview of a smile with clear aligner attachments on teeth Attachments are tooth-color bumps bonded to your teeth during your treatment. The placement and shape of them will depend upon the movement required.

Attachments help apply pressure from the aligners onto your teeth and direct them into the proper position.

Additionally, your treatment may call for elastics, which are also commonly used with traditional orthodontics.

Elastics (similar to a tiny rubber band) are sometimes needed to allow shifting of the upper vs. the lower teeth. Elastics are attached to slots in the aligners or small buttons attached to the teeth.

Lastly, your teeth may not fit ideally within the aligners. In that case, minor reshaping or resizing can work wonders. These procedures are minimal and typically don’t require anesthetic because they don’t cause discomfort.

It’s also important to note that while clear aligners can solve minor to complex cases, severe cases requiring challenging movements may be best suited for conventional orthodontics. That way, you get your desired result and spare no time or money in the process.

Things to remember with clear aligners

Teeth only move when forces are applied consistently. For that reason, you must be disciplined in wearing your aligners 22 hours per day. Otherwise, you will extend treatment and force compromises in the result. This is true when wearing elastics, as well.

Keep to the aligner change schedule your dentist recommends.

Monitor the fit of your aligners and contact your dentist if you have any concerns.

Keep in mind that it’s impossible to accurately predict how many aligners or even a series of aligners it will take to reach your goals. Try to keep an open mind and be flexible.

In some instances, the bone will not allow the teeth to move into the desired position. In these cases, you can either accept the result, consider braces, or look into dental treatments, such as veneers, to achieve the desired results.


Clear aligners straighten your smile, but that’s a moot point if your teeth are simultaneously damaged by bruxism. Wearing a custom-fit night guard at the same time as clear aligners is nearly impossible because of the changing landscape of your mouth. It would also be counterproductive to take your aligners out and replace it with a nightguard overnight because you should be wearing your aligners 20-22 hours per day.

This leaves a big question mark that fortunately has a simple and inexpensive solution. In most cases, aligners can serve as a night guard throughout your teeth straightening journey, meaning you can ditch the night guard until your teeth are straight.

In addition to straightening your teeth, a major benefit of aligners is that it can reduce or even completely stop teeth grinding and TMJ. For people whose bruxism is caused by an improper bite or misaligned teeth, aligners may be the solution.

Proper alignment relieves the pressure on your jaw, which reduces or eliminates bruxism symptoms such as inflammation and jaw muscle soreness. When you finish with your aligners, you might find that you no longer need a bruxism mouthguard.

The team at Lumina Dental Clinic is always ready to provide you with the dental care you need. You’re interested in clear aligners treatment, or you’ve recently had aligners and need a new mouthguard, our dentist is here to help. FYI, We are the number one Dental Clinic in @honeycombersbali - we are so flattered! Contact us online or give us a call at +6281228888837 to schedule a consultation right away.


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