You’ve seen the commercials on TV, and maybe you have a friend or relative who is getting their dream smile with Invisalign. You’re interested in making your smile better, in achieving your dream smile and don’t want to have those visible metal braces on the outside of your teeth.
Invisalign is a series of clear aligner trays – similar to bleaching trays – that will move your teeth into a desired position. Each aligner is worn for approximately two weeks and moves your teeth into a slightly different position. The length of your treatment will depend upon how much your teeth need to be moved and what type of tooth movements need to be accomplished. Align Technology has found the average treatment time to be about 12 months. Cooperation from the Invisalign wearer, you, will also determine the total length of treatment. Invisalign aligners should be worn at least 20-22 hours per day for optimum results. If the aligners are worn between 16-20 hours per day, you can expect your treatment to be about 50% longer; so a typical treatment plan of 12 months might end up taking 18 months with less than optimal wear time. If the aligners are worn less than 16 hours per day, you will not see the results you are hoping for and maybe Invisalign isn’t right for you.
So how does Invisalign work? Since each aligner has a slightly different tooth position, pressure is placed on certain teeth each time a new aligner is placed. The plastic material is deflected by one or more teeth, and because the plastic can stretch and wants to return to its original shape, the aligner will push the teeth into a new position. When a new aligner is placed into your mouth, you will feel pressure in certain areas. After a few days, this pressure will disappear and the aligners will feel like they fit just right. It’s tempting to want to change to the next aligner when this occurs, but the same aligner needs to stay on for at least 2 weeks. This allows the bone and gum tissue to adapt to the new tooth position. This adaptation needs to occur after you change to a new aligner.
A lot of people are concerned whether Invisalign works since it is so new. Well, the truth is the technology of using clear removable aligners to move teeth has been around since the 1950’s, yes 50 years ago orthodontic movement of teeth was being accomplished by plastic aligners. In the 1950’s and until 1999, only minor movements of teeth were accomplished with the clear plastic aligners. The reason being the labor intensiveness of the procedure was prohibitive from a cost standpoint to design a series of aligners to accomplish more movement. Enter Align Technology, makers of the Invisalign appliance. Taking proven technology and marrying it with computer and CAD/CAM technology, Align was able to create an orthodontic appliance that was reasonably priced and could accomplish more tooth movement than before. With the Invisalign process, the aligners can be made for $1,000’s less than it would cost for all the work to be done by hand.
With Invisalign, one set of impressions is taken prior to starting treatment and used to create the model needed to serve as the base for the entire treatment. The entire set of aligners is shipped to your Invisalign provider, and you are given a series of aligners at each visit. It is important for your Invisalign provider to monitor the progress at certain stages (most common is to see them every 3-4 aligners, making a visit necessary every 6-8 weeks).
One of the most important advances in the success of Invisalign treatment is the advent and refinement of tooth-colored attachments placed on the teeth. These are small “bumps” of tooth-colored dental bonding material that help with certain challenging tooth movements. The attachments have made more complex treatments and more difficult tooth movements more predictable and more successful. Some attachments may need to be placed on front teeth, but they are not easily seen and are much less obvious than even clear braces.