Chances are you’ve heard about Invisalign, and how the system’s aligners can straighten your smile, without anyone else even realizing what’s going on. It may sound too good to be true, but orthodontist Dr. Sam Polan explains all you need to know about Invisalign.
- What is Invisalign and how does it work?
- How does Invisalign effectively work to move teeth?
- What are the aligners made of?
- How does Invisalign compare to metal braces?
- What are the primary advantages of Invisalign?
- How long does treatment take?
- How much does Invisalign cost?
- What is Invisalign Teen, and how is it different than regular Invisalign?
- How long do the aligners need to be worn?
- Can I eat or drink anything with my aligners in?
- Won’t attachments make my Invisalign aligners more noticeable?
- Can Invisalign only treat mild orthodontic problems?
- How do I know if I’m a candidate for Invisalign?
Invisalign is a revolutionary technology that allows you to straighten your teeth using transparent custom-made aligners. The aligners fit over your teeth, just like a retainer, and each set works to gently guide your teeth to their new position. The entire treatment consists of a series of aligners that are used for about two weeks each, and each one progressively moves the teeth closer to their final position. Every set of aligners is created to move your teeth to a precise location, as mapped out by your orthodontist at the beginning of your treatment. The result is a beautifully straight and functional smile.
The aligners are custom-made just for you to treat your exact malocclusion through the placement of appropriately controlled forces. Your orthodontist controls both the force and the timing of the force applied to each tooth. The movements are planned out by your orthodontist at the beginning of the treatment process, and each set of aligners is designed to move specific teeth through constant, gentle pressure. It is essential that the aligners are worn enough hours throughout the day to achieve the constant pressure needed.
Depending on the complexity of the movements planned, some teeth may have tooth-colored attachments placed on them to help the aligners push and pull the teeth in the manner desired. The attachments are small bumps on the teeth that give the plastic a better surface to grab onto, when compared to a smooth, flat tooth. The ability for the orthodontist to precisely customize these attachments has improved greatly over the past few years, which has played a large role in improving Invisalign’s ability to be used successfully for more complicated orthodontic problems than in the past.
The aligners are made from a thermoplastic material that is comfortable and nearly invisible. They are customized to each patient’s teeth using digital modeling techniques that allow for accurate fit and precise control of movements.
Invisalign and braces are both very effective at straightening teeth. Both work by applying pressure to teeth to stimulate tooth movement over time. Since braces are attached to the teeth, they naturally are able to apply continuous pressure, which enables efficient tooth movement. Invisalign must be worn nearly all the time to achieve similar continuous forces. Most mild to moderate cases, and some complex cases, can be treated to similar results with braces and Invisalign, so many times the choice between the two is a matter of personal preference.
Standard metal braces have been around for a long time, because they are very effective. But they are also very noticeable, and require you to avoid certain foods during treatment. Invisalign has solved these issues, so many people find that Invisalign fits into their life more easily. However, it’s especially important that you’re motivated with Invisalign, because it will only work if you wear it enough.
The biggest advantages of Invisalign over braces are appearance, comfort, diet, and cleanliness. Since the aligners are clear, they provide superior esthetics during orthodontic treatment, when compared to traditional metal braces, or even clear braces. With regards to comfort, the smooth plastic of the aligners is more comfortable and doesn’t irritate the cheeks the way braces sometimes do. Since the aligners are removable, Invisalign patients are able to eat whatever they want, whereas patients with braces have to avoid certain foods during treatment. And finally, it is much easier to keep the teeth and gums clean with Invisalign, since there are no braces on the teeth to clean around.
The length of treatment depends on your specific case and how well your teeth respond to treatment. Treatment time usually will be similar to the amount of time braces would take, and may vary from less than 1 year, to around 2 years, depending on the complexity of the situation.
The cost of Invisalign is usually comparable to that of standard metal braces, or may sometimes be a little bit more expensive. Check your dental insurance plan, as many plans will cover a portion of Invisalign treatment, just as they would other orthodontic treatment. Many orthodontists also offer payment plans to allow for the cost of treatment to fit into your budget.
Invisalign Teen works just like adult Invisalign, and can be a great option for teens who are already self-conscious about their smiles, and don’t want to draw more attention to their smiles during orthodontic treatment. Just like adult treatment, Invisalign Teen will work best for teens that are motivated enough to wear their aligners as directed.
There are a few things that set Invisalign Teen apart from regular Invisalign. First, Invisalign Teen takes into account that some teen orthodontic patients might not have all of their adult teeth in yet, so the aligners can be designed to have spaces to allow for the permanent teeth to erupt. Because Invisalign’s effectiveness depends on wearing it the prescribed number of hours a day, the Teen aligners have small blue dots that will fade over time as the aligners are worn. If a teenager gets to the end of the two weeks of wear for the aligner, and the dots are still visible, the parents and orthodontist will know the teen didn’t wear the aligner as prescribed. And because life sometimes happens, Invisalign Teen includes up to six replacement aligners in case the patient loses any along the way.
Each set of aligners is worn for about 2 weeks, for a total of 22 hours a day. You should only remove your aligners when eating, drinking, brushing and flossing. In certain cases, you may be able to change your aligners more frequently, but only if your orthodontist prescribes this.
It is advised to remove your aligners before eating and drinking. You can drink water with the aligners in, but no other beverages should be consumed with them in. Hot beverages, such as coffee or tea, can warp the plastic of the aligners, and dark colored drinks, such as colas and red wine, can stain them. Food should not be eaten with the aligners in because food will get trapped under the aligners, which can lead to cavities, staining of the teeth, and gum problems.
The attachments are made of a tooth colored resin, so they blend in nicely with the teeth. Attachments will sometimes make the aligners a little more noticeable, but the use of attachments will provide the best outcome, and will still be much less noticeable than if you were to undergo traditional braces treatment.
While this may have been the case when Invisalign first hit the scene, Invisalign has become much more capable of effectively treating more complex cases, as the technology has become more sophisticated. Overbites, underbites, crossbites and other more serious malocclusions may be able to be treated with Invisalign, through the use of buttons and attachments, and elastics. When performing more complex movements with Invisalign, your orthodontist may also ask you to chew on rubber “chewies” for a few minutes throughout the day, to help fully engage and activate the aligners. Remember, it’s important to see a well-trained orthodontist, and this is especially true with more complex problems. Just like braces, Invisalign is a complex system that requires a strong background in orthodontic principles and technique, in order to achieve the best results possible.
The best way to find out if you’re a good candidate for Invisalign is to see an orthodontist for a comprehensive evaluation of your situation. The orthodontist will examine your teeth, jaw relationships, and facial balance, to determine the treatment plan that will give you the best result.
For many patients, Invisalign will be a great solution, Invisalign can treat a host of malocclusions, but for some patients with severe orthodontic issues, standard braces may still be the best solution to correct your problem. The best way to determine if you are an ideal candidate for Invisalign is to have a consultation with an orthodontist.