You hear and read a lot about Invisalign braces in television ads, online, and in print. But Invisalign is more than “clear braces.” Conventional braces include bands cemented to the molars and brackets cemented to each tooth. An archwire is connected to these brackets through wires or rubber bands. The teeth are moved by bending the wire to place a small, but constant force on the teeth. Over time, the teeth are pushed and pulled by the archwire into the correct positions.
Patients who use Invisalign can expect a different experience, but similar results. Here are five things to expect when you get Invisalign:
An Examination to Ensure Invisalign Is Right for You
Before beginning Invisalign, an examination by a San Mateo or Half Moon Bay orthodontist will ensure that Invisalign is the right treatment for your particular case. While opinions vary, it is generally thought that Invisalign is better suited to correct minor spacing (both crowding and gaps) or minor alignment issues with the teeth. Conversely, traditional braces are considered to be better suited when teeth need to be rotated or require major movement to correct spacing or alignment. The truth is that an Orthodontist skilled and experienced in the use of Invisalign, can do anything that can be done with braces using the Invisalign appliance and system. This opens the door to more comfortable treatment for even the most complex cases.
During your exam, an orthodontist in San Mateo or Half Moon Bay will examine your teeth and discuss the options for correcting any alignment, spacing, and bite problems. Based on this office visit, you may elect Invisalign for your course of treatment.
Digital Pictures and Impressions
Impressions, X-rays, and digital pictures will be taken of your teeth. This information will be used to customize your treatment plan. Specifically, by using this information as a starting point, a 3-D computer model of your teeth will be generated to suggest a treatment plan. Your orthodontist will review the treatment plan and make any necessary adjustments before approving you for Invisalign
Clear Plastic Aligners
Based on the treatment plan, Invisalign manufactures a set of plastic aligners that will gradually shift your teeth into place. The aligners are made from patented smart plastic. The aligners are made from medical-grade polymers called methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and 1.6-hexanediol. The aligners are manufactured using 3-D printing, which uses laser light to harden the light-sensitive polymers. The polymers are clear when hardened, giving the products their Invisalign name: they practically look invisible when you have them on.
Your orthodontist will receive a set of aligners, each of which is intended to be worn for around two weeks before being discarded for the next aligner. Each aligner is intended to incrementally move teeth until the final aligner is reached and the teeth are in their desired positions.
Wearing the Aligners
The best results come if aligners are worn as much as possible. Orthodontists typically recommend wearing aligners at least 22 hours per day. Although Invisalign can be used to treat patients of any age, some orthodontists prefer to use Invisalign for more responsible patients, such as adults, because they are more likely to wear the aligners for the prescribed amount of time. Keep in mind that adults make up over 25% of orthodontic patients and, with longer life spans, people are electing to have their teeth straightened to preserve their oral health throughout the course of life.
Unlike traditional braces, aligners are intended to be removed while eating and brushing teeth. This addresses two common complaints about traditional braces: that braces interfere with eating and can be difficult to clean.
Moreover, many people find aligners more comfortable than braces. The brackets and bands of traditional braces can irritate or even cut the lips, tongue, and interior of the mouth. Aligners, on the other hand, follow the contours of the teeth and are smooth, thereby increasing the comfort for the wearer.
While every patient is different, Invisalign patients can finish orthodontic treatment in less time, and with fewer orthodontic visits, than patients with traditional braces. A large part of this might be a result of using Invisalign for less extensive orthodontic treatment since spacing issues take less time than treating a misaligned bite.
Although you will work with your orthodontist to determine your schedule of office visits, the step-wise shaping of the aligners performs many of the steps that require an office visit for patients using traditional braces.
Invisalign is a high tech approach to orthodontic treatment. However, you should consult with your orthodontist to make sure its approach is right for your case.