Auta HS, Emenike CU, Fauziah SH Distribution and importance of microplastics in the marine environment: a review of the sources, fate, effects, and potential solutions. Environ Int. 2017; 102:165-176 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.013
Martin V When do you waste unused aligners, and how can you avoid it?. Aligners. 2022; 1:42-44
Haouili N, Kravitz ND, Vaid NR Has Invisalign improved? A prospective follow-up study on the efficacy of tooth movement with Invisalign. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2020; 158:420-425 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajodo.2019.12.015
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Clear aligner therapy has gained immense popularity among orthodontists and general dentists as a treatment option for orthodontic tooth movement. This rapidly growing technology has successfully treated 14 million patients, resulting in an estimated production of 728 million plastic models and aligners. However, the disposal of these models and aligners presents a significant environmental concern because they are either destined for landfill, where they can leach harmful substances into the environment, or incinerated, leading to the release of carcinogenic toxins. This article explores the environmental impact of clear aligner technology, shedding light on the potential consequences associated with its widespread adoption.
CPD/Clinical Relevance: To introduce the topic of the environmental impact of clear aligner therapy and the possible solutions to tackle this issue from a clinical and industry-based standpoint.
Clear aligner therapy is now a common treatment strategy in orthodontics. In addition to orthodontists prescribing this treatment, it is increasingly being carried out by general dental practitioners (GDPs).1 The rise in uptake of this treatment is primarily due to increased societal pressure for straighter teeth.2 Furthermore, patients have an expectation that this aesthetic improvement can be achieved without the need for unfashionable headgear or chunky metal brackets, discomfort, inconvenience and complicated oral hygiene requirements.3
A number of companies offer clear aligner treatment services including, Invisalign, Straumann, Dentsply Sirona and Ormco (Figure 1). Improvements in technology and small-scale resin printers have also allowed orthodontists to sequence and print their own aligner systems.
There is a limit to the tooth movement that can be achieved between one aligner and the next in the series, roughly 0.2–0.25 mm. Each case of aligner therapy typically uses 7–26 sets of aligners, with the number needed dependent on the presenting malocclusion: complex malocclusions often require more sets to achieve the desired result. Invisalign (Align Technology, Tempe, AZ, USA) reported a total of 2,358,645 case shipments in 2022, and 2,547,685 in 2021.4
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