What are Invisalign Braces?
Invisalign is a modern orthodontic treatment for teeth straightening. It was introduced in the late 90's and is constantly being developed. Unlike traditional braces, it does not involve wires, elastics or even brackets. Invisalign braces include series of transparent, custom fit, aligners built from BPA free plastic. Those aligners are removable, but must be worn throughout most of the day to achieve the desired results.
How Does Invisalign Work?
Invisalign aligners are created specifically for you. Prior to making the aligners, a virtual 3D model of your entire teeth will be created. Using computerized visualizations your orthodontist will be able to show you how your teeth are expected to move during the treatment and what will the end result look like.
Once you commit to the treatment, a series of aligners will be created for you. Each aligner corresponds to a different stage of the treatment and represents the shape your teeth are expected to have at the end of that stage. You get to wear a new set of aligners almost every 2 weeks. That is approximately 300 hours of work for each aligner. Each aligner's goal is to apply the necessary forces so your teeth are straight enough for the next stage.
How Long Does Invisalign Take?
Treatment with Invisalign usually takes between 6 to 18 months. Like with traditional braces, the severity of your problem is what eventually dictate how long the treatment will last. It is, however, important to notice that the success of the treatment with Invisalign depends greatly on the patient's willingness to follow the guidelines and wear the aligners for enough hours during the day.
- Find an orthodontist that specializes in Invisalign and setup an appointment.
- Get a diagnosis: go to an evaluation appointment and make sure your dentist believes that Invisalign is the right treatment for you. (*Invisalign will not work for all cases).
- Virtual 3D model of your teeth is created.
- Treatment plan: teeth movements are planned and visualized. An image of the expected results is created.
- Aligners are created.
- First set of aligners is put on.
- The aligners are changed approximately every 2 weeks. Some aligners will need to stay on teeth longer while others can actually take less time.
- Retainers are usually required to complete the teeth straightening process.
- You get a beautiful smile!
How Much Does Invisalign Cost?
The price for Invisalign braces will most likely be in the range of 3500$ to 8000$. Each case is different and you will need to visit an orthodontist to get a price estimate for your specific case. Factors that will affect the price are:
- Your geographical location
- The experience of your orthodontist
- Length of treatment
- The amount of aligners you will need
- Your specific case and how severe is the problem that has to be fixed
Realself website provides a really helpful, interactive map that shows treatment cost for real Invisalign treatments all over the United States. Each dental case has a tag on the map. The tags are colored by price so just by looking at the map you can get a perspective of the price ranges in different areas. Besides providing price information, the map allows you to click on each tag and read about the experience each patient had with his Invisalign treatment.
Invisalign offers a special program for teens. Like with all Invisalign treatments, not everyone will match the criteria for it. For young patients, there are even more limitations since you need to have no baby teeth when starting the treatment.
The teen treatment itself is not much different than the adult Invisalign treatment. The main difference is that the aligners are built in a way that takes into consideration the future eruption of adult teeth. More aligners can be replaced during the treatment due to their loss or breakage. Blue dots on the teen aligners allow monitoring a number of overall hours the aligners were worn.
Invisalign Express Plan
Invisalign express is one of the treatment plans offered by Invisalign. It only works for simple cases. It is fast, takes up to 10 sets of aligners and, therefore, is usually cheaper than other plans. People who had braces before, and had their teeth shifted a little since then, are great candidates for this treatment option.
Invisalign Braces Pros and Cons
Benefits of Invisalign
- Aesthetic enhancement
Although metal braces with colored bands might be considered a fashion trend at some places, not everyone finds them aesthetically pleasing. For those that are looking for the least noticeable teeth straightening solution, Invisalign might be the perfect answer.
Invisalign is a clear mold that perfectly fits your teeth; it does not have those butterflies, gems and characters from Disney. This product has a minimalist style that ergonomically fits your mouth. It works well to hide the fact that you are straightening your teeth. Thanks to this new technology, you do not have to worry about advertising to the entire world that you are going through teeth straightening.
- No adjustments
With Invisalign, you will still need to visit your dentist every 6 to 8 weeks. The appointments are however very different from the adjustment appointments for traditional braces. With regular braces, your wires and brackets are adjusted on the appointments. That takes time, causes lots of discomforts and often even pain. With Invisalign the appointments are short. No adjustments are needed. Your doctor will examine your teeth and check how the straightening process is progressing. On each appointment you will get few sets of the next aligners you will have to wear.
- Easier to maintain good oral hygiene
Traditional braces with wires and brackets cannot be removed and, therefore, it makes it hard to clean them. Flossing becomes a problem and your toothbrush may not reach in between the teeth properly. Moreover, food particles tend to get stuck in between the wire braces. This ultimately leads to poor oral hygiene.
Poor oral hygiene causes tooth decay. In addition, people that wear metal braces are more susceptible to demineralization. This leads to periodontal diseases and damage to your teeth in the long run.
Invisalign makes it easy to clean your teeth because they can be removed *. You can also clean the trays and easily maintain proper oral health.
- Less discomfort
Traditional braces are made of wires and brackets which can irritate and tear tissues in your cheeks and lips. Not only can this be uncomfortable but it is painful as well. The manner in which traditional braces work to straighten the teeth can also be very painful. They apply pressure to the teeth so as to gradually shift them. Invisalign, on the other hand, uses a number of trays which do not apply as much pressure as the traditional braces. They are also made of a soft plastic material that does not harm the tissues in your mouth.1
- No dietary restrictions
If you don't want to damage your braces when wearing the traditional ones you need to give up certain foods for several years. That is true for all the chewy ones like caramel, gummy bears, and sticky snack bars. Popcorn and biting on hard veggies like carrots is also not a good idea. When wearing ceramic braces, all the stain causing foods ( like tomatoes, coffee, blueberries, red wine, curry and more) also have to be added to the list of foods to avoid. With Invisalign, you have no food restrictions. And although you need to manage your meals, you can still enjoy all of the treats you like.
Since computer demonstrations are part of the treatment from the very beginning, the patients know what to expect at each stage. You can ask your orthodontist to show you how your teeth are expected to look like in 2 weeks, 2 months, a year and so on. Before the treatment starts, your orthodontist can also provide you with information about how many aligners you will need, what attachments (if any) will the treatment require and if enamel reduction is necessary.
Drawbacks of Invisalign
- Will not work for severe cases
Invisalign offers a modern and aesthetically pleasing teeth straightening solution, however, it is not for everyone. There are certain cases of misaligned teeth that Invisalign will work great for and there are others that will require traditional braces to achieve results.
Make sure to confirm with your orthodontist (or even get a second opinion) that this treatment can actually work for you before committing to it. Invisalign has its limitations. It is important you examine the visualization of the expected final results and make sure that this actually is what you are looking for.
Invisalign can work for problems such as:
- Crowded teeth
- Mild overbite
- Open bite
- Teeth with mild/moderate gaps
Invisalign is not good for:
- Vertcial teeth movement
- Rotation of canines or premolars
- Tipped teeth
- Tooth gaps that are larger than 6 mm
- Severe overbite
- Require self discipline
For the treatment to be successful one has to wear the aligners for at least 20 hours a day. Sometimes it might be tricky to manage all your daily meals in the remaining time.
- Not provided by all dental clinics
Only specialists that go through Invisalign training are able to offer these teeth straightening option to their clients. Many of your local dental providers might not be specialized in Invisalign. It is best to use the search tool on Invisalign official website to find professionals based on their level of expertise.
- May affect your speech
Talking the way you are used to might be a bit difficult with Invisalign trays at the beginning of the treatment. It takes getting used to. However, most people treated with Invisalign say that speech impartment wasn't significant.
- Not suitable for kids
The teen option is now available, however, many of the young patients who require teeth straightening will still be unable to treat their case with Invisalign at this stage.
Plastic aligners on their own are not always capable of making the teeth move in the right direction. That is where the Invisalign attachments come into a game. Not everyone needs them, but there are plenty of cases when those are required.
Understanding what are those attachments and the fact that those might be bonded to your teeth at some point of the treatment is important. For many patients treated with Invisalign, this one is an unpleasant and often shocking surprise.
Premolars extraction, Premolar rotations, Incisors extraction, Axis Control
Beveled horizontal rectangle
Extrusions and intrusions, Aligner retention
Tooth extrusion, Aligner retention
Control of the vertical axis of the incisors
The attachments are bonded to the teeth just like traditional brackets would be. The attachments are usually made of tooth-colored material but may be noticeable. Those attachments may cause irritation to the soft tissues of your mouth. Buttons are one of the possible Invisalign attachments you may get during treatment. The buttons are used as hooks for elastic bands. The bands pass between the teeth and are very difficult to hide.
Once the virtual model of your mouth is created, your orthodontist may be able to tell you whether or not you will need Invisalign attachments during the treatment. The simulation tools also allow you to know right away when those attachments will be needed and how long will you need to wear them.
The best and also the easiest way to clean the trays * is using water and a soft toothbrush. Just brush the aligners from both inside and outside and then rinse them with water.
Make sure you don't use any unsuggested cleaning products as those can cause discoloring and scratches on your aligners.
Invisalign with Veneers
Invisalign is probably the best teeth straightening option for those who have veneers on their teeth and are interested in keeping them undamaged.
If the veneers are in a good shape and are properly bonded to the teeth, there is no risk that Invisalign treatment will damage them or affect their life span.
However, if your treatment will require attachments, there is a possibility that veneers can be affected since those are bonded to the teeth, just like traditional brackets. You can examine the treatment plan with your Invisalign provider prior to starting it. You can check if attachments are part of your treatment and whether or not you will be required to place them on the teeth with veneers on them.
Invisalign with Crowns
Teeth with crowns can be moved during treatment. Just like for teeth with veneers there is a very little chance of damaging the crowns during with Invisalign.
Invisalign with Implants
Invisalign can work for teeth with implants if the treatment plan will not require those teeth to move. The position of the implant is a major factor. Once again, it is best to be examined by a professional to check if the treatment can work for your individual case.
Invisalign with Bridges
Teeth with bridges will be difficult to treat since those involve several teeth "joined" together. You will need to get a thorough professional examination to determine if your specific situation will enable you to be treated with Invisalign.
Invisalign and Cavities
Some people are concerned that Invisalign braces can increase the risk of having cavities. It is mostly an issue of maintaining good oral hygiene. With Invisalign, it is actually way easier to maintain it than with standard braces.
It is important to not drink or eat anything besides water while the trays are on the teeth. Brushing and flossing your teeth before each time you put the aligners on is also crucial. Those with Invisalign braces, that not follow the oral hygiene guidelines, are at high risk of tooth decay.
Invisalign Pain Relief Tips
Invisalign causes much less pain and discomfort than traditional braces, but pain and discomfort are still part of the process. It is mostly felt during the first few days of wearing a new set of aligners. That is the time most pressure is applied on teeth. That means that you can expect to get few painful days every two weeks.
Here are some tips for dealing with pain and discomfort:
- Make the switch to your new set of aligners right before your bedtime. This way the most uncomfortable hours of wearing it will be during your sleep.
- Keep the new set of aligners on your teeth without removing them for a longer period of time.
- Pain relief medication before meal time might be just what you need if you feel that the pain is unbearable.
- Eat softer food during the painful days.
Invisalign and Weight Loss
Invisalign braces by themselves have nothing to do with weight loss. However some lifestyle changes you will adapt as a result of wearing Invisalign aligners will often contribute to weight loss.
Since you need to wear your Invisalign aligners at least 20 hours a day you need to manage your "Invisalign breaks" wisely. That means consider what you eat when you eat it and how long does it take you.
To avoid staining and tooth decay, it is not recommended to eat or drink anything besides water while you are wearing the aligners. Since it is also important to thoroughly clean your teeth before wearing the aligners again, for most people that mean no snacking during the day.
Invisalign Questions to Ask Your Dentist
- How long have you been working with Invisalign system? How many cases have you treated?
- Is Invisalign really the best option for me? What are the alternatives?
- How long my treatment is expected to last?
- What will the end result look like?
- Are attachments will be part of the treatment? If so, what type of attachments? What teeth are those planned to be on? When will attachments be bonded to the teeth? How long will I need to wear the attachments?
- How much the treatment will cost? How many sets of aligners are covered in the cost?
Although Invisalign system is easy for the patient to put on, your orthodontist's experience is a key factor in the success of your treatment.
You can locate an orthodontist that specializes in Invisalign using an online search on the Invisalign official website. This search tool allows you to find orthodontists that work with Invisalign and sort them by geographical location, their overall experience, their experience treating teenagers and the 3D scanning equipment in their office.
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