The Pros and Cons of Orthodontic Tooth Movement

Date: May 10, 2016

Author: Andrea Tarbet, Product Marketing Associate at ALPCO

Last summer I started a clear aligner based teeth straightening system to realign my teeth. I had traditional metal braces in the past, but over time my teeth shifted, so I decided it was about time take control of my periodontium and jump start the orthodontic tooth movement to move them back to where they belong. If you want to read more about my journey, check out this blog post.

I am now more than halfway through my clear aligner based teeth straightening treatment, and after wearing my  aligners for nine months, several pros and cons have risen from my experience with these dental devices.

The Pros of Orthodontic Tooth Movement

They Work!

My clear teeth aligners are indeed remodeling my periodontium and straightening my teeth. It took several sets for me to start noticing, but they are moving! The osteoclasts in my jaw bones are not only giving in to the pressure and tension on my teeth caused by the clear teeth aligners, but also absorbing the bone around my teeth and allowing them to move. The osteoblasts in my jaw bone are also doing their bone remodeling job of filling in new bone where my teeth used to be.

Each set of clear teeth aligners exerts force on my teeth, causing the osteoclasts and osteoblasts to work together and accomplish orthodontic tooth movement within my alveolar bone. Although at times my mouth hurts from the inflammation storm caused by each new set, the pain is a reminder that the system is working.

This graphic illustrates the various biomolecules and cells that are involved in orthodontic tooth movement.
Several of the Biomolecules and Cells Involved in Orthodontic Tooth Movement (OTM). Adapted from d’Apuzzo, et al. (2013)1

I’m Drinking More Water

Water is the only liquid I am supposed to drink with the clear teeth aligners in my mouth. Water is obviously great for everyone, but it doesn’t have caffeine which was an issue for me when I first started my treatment because I am an avid tea drinker. My clear teeth aligners need to be worn 22 hours a day, so when I only have a two hour window not to wear the devices, sipping on a cup of tea doesn’t exactly make the cut. Instead, I decided to start drinking more water. I’m more hydrated now than ever and I feel great! Having restrictions on what I can drink with the clear teeth aligners in has surprisingly become a positive for me.

The Cons of Orthodontic Tooth Movement

The Dreaded “Buttons”

The clear aligner based teeth straightening system I am using includes these pieces called “buttons” that are attached to different teeth throughout the process. These buttons are anchor points for the clear teeth aligners and give the teeth something to push against to get them moving. I, however, view these buttons more as tiny, sharp, and jagged protrusions planted on my teeth and I’m constantly cutting my tongue and cheeks as I eat. Although I understand why some type of anchor is needed for successful orthodontic tooth movement, but these buttons are the worst.

Brushing my Teeth (and Aligners) More Often

In addition to brushing my teeth, I also have to brush my clear teeth aligners, which have become like a second set of teeth for me. Since the clear teeth aligners prevent my saliva from cleaning my teeth, I have to brush my teeth more frequently and after every meal before I can put my dental devices back in. I learned this the hard way early on when I ate some blueberries which stained my teeth after putting my clear teeth aligners back in before brushing. On top of all that, those dreaded buttons get in the way of brushing my teeth thoroughly, making it more difficult to clean my teeth. Brushing my teeth has obviously become a frustrating and time consuming chore.

When Hunger Strikes at Inconvenient Times

Every time I want to eat something, I need to take my clear teeth aligners out. This wasn’t so bad until I was on an airplane and couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom to remove them because the seatbelt sign was on due to turbulence. However, I was starving and needed to eat a snack, so I did what any other hangry (hungry and angry) person would do in my situation: I slapped on some hand sanitizer and jammed my hand in my mouth to take the clear teeth aligners out as strangers stared at me with a mix of curiosity and disgust. Needless to say, having to take the clear teeth aligners out to every time I eat can be awkward, especially when I’m not in a convenient location to remove them.

Overall, I would have preferred traditional braces over a clear aligner teeth straightening system since I would be able to eat whenever I want and wouldn’t have to brush my teeth as often. Luckily, I only have a few more months until my treatment is complete and my periodontium stops hurting. Until then, I’ll keep hydrating myself with all the water I’ve been consuming and reminding myself this pain and irritation are a result of bone remodeling moving my teeth back into place.


  1. D’Apuzzo et al. (2013). Biomarkers of Periodontal Tissue Remodeling during Orthodontic Tooth Movement in Mice and Men: Overview and Clinical Relevance. Scientific World Journal. doi: 1155/2013/105873.