For aligners to do their job as intended, it's important to wear them in order. Unfortunately, because aligners look so similar, it's not always easy to tell when they've been shuffled out of sequence. This can happen at the office, in the patient's possesion, or (though we do our best to prevent it) it's occasionally possible for them to be mixed up during packaging.
That's why last summer, we started laser–marking aligners. Of course, your first reference is going to be the step number printed on the aligner bag, but the laser markings provide a way to double–check that you're dispensing the correct aligners to your patient. Your patient can use them, too, to keep track for themselves. Here's what you'll be looking for:
The first section of the code represents the patient's ClearCorrect case number. This number is referenced on ClearComm, on the treatment plan, and in most emails from ClearCorrect.
The next section represents the step number. The example above shows a Phase Zero aligner. Usually, this will be in the form of a letter and number. For instance, step 4A (representing the first step of Phase 4) would be followed by 4B, 4C, 4D, and then 5A.
And the final section represents whether the aligner is for the upper (U) or lower (L) arch.
You'll also find matching codes on the bottom of each dental model.
Occasionally you may receive an unmarked aligner (for instance, engager templates are currently unmarked). In that situation, you can double–check aligners by comparing them to the dental models. We have some upgrades planned which should enable us to laser–mark 100% of aligners and engager templates soon.
If your patient does end up wearing aligners out of sequence, don't panic. It's usually not an insurmountable problem. Assuming that the aligners fit well and there aren't any complications, you can identify which step best corresponds to the current position of the patient's teeth and continue from there.
If you have any suggestions for how we can make things easier for you, please don't hesitate to let us know. Until next time…