Invisalign: For More than Just a Beautiful Smile
Millions of people worldwide have achieved the smiles of their dreams with Invisalign. This unique orthodontic method has revolutionized teeth straightening for adults and teenagers alike.
What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is a comprehensive orthodontic treatment that allows your dentist or orthodontist to reposition your teeth with clear, almost invisible, plastic aligners.
The underlying mechanism of orthodontic tooth movement involves changes in the bone surrounding each tooth. We can activate the cells involved in the changes needed to move teeth by putting pressure on the teeth. With traditional metal braces, the wires connect to the fixed brackets and exert a pulling force on the teeth. Aligners differ slightly in that they cover over the teeth and exert a pushing force. While the method is slightly different, the underlying mechanism of tooth movement is the same, which is why dentists and orthodontists can achieve great results with aligners.
Invisalign is the brand of clear aligners with the longest and most successful history. Your dentist sends an exact replica of your teeth (from either a detailed mold or a 3D intraoral scan) to Align Technologies and then works with a certified orthodontic lab technician on your virtual treatment plan. Using advanced software, your dentist and the technician design the exact tooth movements, prescribing them into the virtual treatment. Once your dentist approves the final digital result, the technician manufactures a series of clear aligners using CAD/CAM technology.
How Does Invisalign Work?
Each aligner places a precise amount of pressure at a specific angle to achieve minor tooth movements in increments of fractions of a millimeter. These minor movements combine over the full series of aligners to achieve the comprehensive repositioning of your teeth, resulting in a beautiful smile!
Who is a Candidate for Invisalign Treatment?
One absolute requirement for safe tooth movement is a healthy foundation of the supporting structures of the teeth, called the periodontal tissues. This includes the bone, ligaments, and gum tissues surrounding each tooth. People with active gum disease are not candidates for orthodontic treatment with Invisalign. They can become candidates after restoring periodontal health through dental treatment.
People with large, untreated cavities are also not candidates for Invisalign treatment. In general, before moving any teeth, your dentist should confirm you have no active disease or infection in your mouth.
Once a healthy foundation is achieved, Invisalign is a great option for most in need of straighter teeth. More than just a cosmetic treatment, straight teeth aid in your ability to maintain your oral health. Eliminating crowding makes it easier to brush and floss, thus decreasing your likelihood of plaque buildup and gum disease. Correcting your bite with Invisalign will not just provide you a more beautiful smile, but a healthier, longer-lasting smile.
What Smile Problems Does Invisalign Correct?
Invisalign orthodontic treatment is successful in correcting many common smile problems, including crowding (crookedness), spacing (gaps between the teeth), and crossbites (an improper overlap of the upper and lower teeth). With Invisalign, your dentist can make many of the same alignment corrections that he or she can make with traditional braces. Invisalign is successful at repositioning rotated and overlapped teeth and closing most gaps.
Because each aligner creates a minor amount of tooth movement, more severe cases may require more aligners, thus lengthening the time of treatment.
What Smile Problems Does Invisalign NOT Correct?
In general, Invisalign is not as successful as traditional braces in correcting bite problems involving misalignment of the upper and lower jaws. Your dentist may also be able to correct cases of severe crowding and spacing more successfully with traditional braces over Invisalign. A detailed evaluation of your current tooth position is necessary to determine whether Invisalign is the best option for you, as some specific movements can respond better to traditional braces than aligners.
What are the Benefits of Invisalign vs. Traditional Braces?
When both Invisalign and traditional braces can accomplish your orthodontic goals, how do you determine which is right for you? You may need to consider the advantages of Invisalign as compared to traditional braces.
Care and Maintenance
Because you can remove Invisalign aligners from your teeth, the care and maintenance of your oral health is much simpler. With traditional braces, oral hygiene can be difficult, involving additional tools to help you clean around brackets and under wires.
Removing dental plaque from the teeth and gums is essential to maintaining great oral health. During Invisalign treatment, you can continue cleaning your teeth normally with brushing and flossing by simply removing the aligners.
By far the most appealing advantage to adult patients is the almost-invisible appearance of Invisalign aligners. Compared to the metal appearance of traditional brackets and wires, which can imply an undesired youthful appearance, Invisalign allows you to straighten your teeth discreetly.
Because the aligners are removable, this provides the additional benefit of seeing the progression of your treatment each day. Braces can mask your view of the changes in your smile, but Invisalign allows you to monitor it closely. You can also remove the aligners for special events, like weddings, photography sessions, class reunions or speeches.
There is always some discomfort associated with the pressure of tooth movement that both Invisalign and traditional braces will cause. However, Invisalign offers a slight advantage to traditional braces because there are no sharp metal brackets or wires. Nor will the thin layer of plastic aligner material cause a sensation of fullness under the lips that braces often do.
Many people suffer from cuts or ulcers inside the mouth from the irritation that traditional braces cause. Young athletes must wear protective sports mouthguards in order to protect the inside of their mouths from the brackets and wires. Invisalign aligners act as protection for the teeth and are less likely to irritate the soft tissue lining the cheeks, lips and tongue.
What are the Risks of Invisalign Treatment?
They are rare, but adverse reactions (side effects) to Invisalign aligners may occur in a small percentage of patients. Some experience claustrophobic sensations, including difficulty breathing.
In other rare instances, patients experience an allergic reaction to the aligner material itself. This could include swelling inside the mouth, burning or itching of the cheeks, lips, tongue, and difficulty swallowing.
How Does Invisalign Compare to Other Clear Aligners or Brands like SmileDirectClub?
This question actually concerns two very different scenarios, which we must separate in order to answer appropriately. There are multiple brands of clear aligner therapy, and knowing the differences between them may be difficult. Instead, we’ll compare based on the method of treatment, as this is far more important.
Clear Aligner Therapy from Your Dentist
Your dentist or orthodontist may provide clear aligner therapy using a brand other than Invisalign. These include Clear Correct and Six Month Smiles among others. Invisalign, with its decades of successful research, development and treatment, provides superior software for planning and uses a patented material for the aligners themselves.
The difference between other aligner brands and Invisalign will likely fall into the software they use and the aligner material. While those things may not be readily noticeable to the patient, your dentist will have a preference based on his or her experience and patient satisfaction.
Clear Aligner Therapy WITHOUT a Dentist’s Supervision
Brands of clear aligners that allow you to straighten your teeth without seeing your dentist can be dangerous. Frankly, in our opinion, DIY teeth straightening is a DON’T!
With a quick search online, you will find the horror stories of DIY and direct-to-consumer orthodontia. A young woman in Virginia spent over a year in treatment with one well known at-home aligner brand. As her teeth continued to shift, she noticed a change in her bite and frequent headaches. After finally consulting a local orthodontist, she was diagnosed with a crossbite-- contributing to her migraines and strain in her neck and jaw, possibly caused by the aligners.
A nine-year old's parents tried to fix a gap between his two front teeth. Tying the teeth together with a small rubber band, the gap closed in only two days! Then, after months of pain, discomfort, and follow-up visits at the pediatric dentist, the family discovered the rubber band had worked its way under the child’s gums, causing permanent damage and bone loss. This boy’s teeth could not be saved. A final tale warns of a man in Texas who had a family history of oral health concerns, but was reassured by his virtual dentist that his treatment would be fine. After six months, the man began losing teeth and later discovered his original scans showed a fractured tooth and possible decay that was never disclosed to him.
We know how enticing these direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies can sound, but we advise you to be cautious and skeptical before signing up. Your dentist not only helps you achieve successful tooth movement, but he or she also intercepts potential problems throughout your treatment. A dental evaluation by a professional can catch many dangerous underlying dental problems that could affect your orthodontic treatment or worsen your progress during aligner therapy. The risk of creating a serious dental problem is higher than any savings you might get by “skipping the dentist.” If you’re still unsure, check out this list of questions to consider by the American Association of Orthodontists.
How Will My Daily Life Change with Invisalign?
Aligners may be virtually invisible, but they will require significant involvement on the patient’s part. Invisalign is unique in that one of its major advantages, being removable, is also a major disadvantage. Because the patient can remove them, he or she is responsible for much of the success of treatment.
Here are some important factors to consider regarding treatment with clear aligners.
Wear Aligners for a Minimum of 22 Hours per Day
In order to achieve successful tooth movements, the aligners must remain on the teeth for a minimum of 22 hours per day. This allows time for removal to eat, drink beverages other than water, and clean your teeth properly.
Before placing aligners back onto the teeth after meals, it’s important to remove food debris and plaque in order to keep your teeth as healthy as possible. This means more brushing and flossing throughout the day.
While wearing the aligners, you should only drink plain water. Other beverages can seep beneath the aligners and cause cavities on the teeth. Dark beverages can also stain the aligners, making your teeth appear yellow or dingy.
Consistent Follow-Up Visits with the Dentist
Throughout your Invisalign treatment, you need to see your dentist consistently so he or she can monitor your tooth movement and intercept any potential problems. In most cases, these visits will occur every six weeks, or more frequently if there is a particular issue. These follow-ups consist of a quick evaluation of the teeth and the fit of the current aligners. If no issues arise, a typical appointment lasts about 15 minutes.
How Long Will Treatment Take?
The length of any orthodontic treatment depends on how much tooth movement is necessary to produce the desired results. The average length of time required for full adult orthodontic treatment with Invisalign is 18 months. Due to Invisalign’s unique ability to segment, or separate, tooth movement around the dental arch, your dentist can accomplish some smile corrections more quickly with Invisalign than traditional braces. So with great patient compliance (remember, you have to wear the aligners 22 hours per day), in some cases you could achieve your smile goals faster with Invisalign!
All orthodontic treatment requires retention, so your dentist will work with you to determine which type of retainers will help you best maintain your beautiful new smile.
What’s the Cost Compared to Traditional Braces?
The cost of comprehensive orthodontic treatment with Invisalign versus traditional braces is very similar, running anywhere from $3,500-6,000 depending on the severity of the case.
Orthodontic treatment is a significant financial investment in your smile. We know that can make the cheaper home kits sound tempting, however, subpar results and risks to your oral health don’t justify the potential savings. As we learned earlier, damage caused by at-home orthodontics can result in several thousands of dollars in repairs-- far more than a patient would have saved by “skipping the dentist!” It’s just not worth the risk.
How do I get Started?
Correcting your bite with Invisalign today will provide you a healthier, more beautiful, and longer-lasting smile for life. If you are interested in straightening your teeth with Invisalign, talk to your dentist. If you do not currently have an Invisalign dentist to provide you with clear aligner orthodontic treatment, we can help you find one.