One of the most popular treatments today is Invisalign Orthodontics. It allows patients to correct their bites and line up their teeth in the correct positions. Invisalign can be used to correct the functionality of the teeth as well as provide some cosmetic options.
There are many reasons why patients are choosing Invisalign over the traditional orthodontic solutions with metal bands. First of all, as just mentioned, patients are preferring Invisalign treatment because it utilizes clear plastic aligners, which are almost invisible, instead of the metal or silver braces. A lot of people are self-conscious about wearing metal braces for several reasons. But now, we have an option of choosing an aesthetically pleasing alternative. I am seeing more adults choosing to correct their teeth as they have the option of Invisalign.
Secondly, patients are able to floss and keep their teeth much cleaner with the aligners as they are removable. In fact, you take them out to eat, and later, you can brush and floss normally. We are seeing a decline in the number of cases associated with cavities that patients get while undergoing orthodontics with Invisalign because their oral hygiene habits are not interrupted. This is such a great advantage, because, after all, who wants cavities when they are trying to do something healthy?
Cost is another factor to take into consideration. Now that General Dentists can do Invisalign, the patient does not need to see an Orthodontist. This can save on cost, because, usually the General Dentist can provide similar treatment at a lower cost. If the case is too complicated for the General Dentist, then the patient can be referred to an Orthodontist.
So how do you get started?
Our first appointment involves examining your teeth and making a wish list. The patient can tell the dentist what kind of changes they would like to make. The dentist will also add to the list any changes they would like to see, taking into consideration the functionality and cosmetics. Once the wish list is made, we take impressions of the teeth, photographs of the patient’s smile/face, and the teeth. Then, we send all this information, including the wish list, to Invisalign.
They will evaluate all the records and put together a treatment that is custom to your mouth. They then send us a video and the details of the treatment so that we can review it with the patient. The video is an amazing transformation of the progress of treatment from start to finish. You can actually see the teeth moving over time. The best part is that you can virtually see what your teeth are going to look like when you are done, even before you have started! Pretty amazing technology!
The other amazing part is that if either the patient or the dentist wants to make any changes to the treatment, those changes can be requested. The patient actually gets to be part of the decision making.
The Green Light
So let’s say all parties have agreed to a treatment plan and its time to start! Invisalign will send the dentist the patient’s first set of aligners.
Some patients will need attachments placed on their teeth which help the teeth to move. These are white colored buttons which the dentist will bond onto very specific places on the teeth. Other customization include Inter-proximal Reductions. This is done to reduce the space between teeth with a small sandpaper disk to create space between tight or crowded teeth. Once this is done the patient goes home wearing the first set of aligners.
Each aligner is worn for 2 weeks and then the next set of aligners are worn, etc. Each aligner is made in a new position, and this forces the teeth to move in that direction.
Each patient’s treatment is different and the length of treatment varies by the level of changes being made. We do take progress impressions along the way to make sure that the teeth are moving as planned.
Once the patient has completed treatment, retainers can be made to hold the teeth in their new position. Teeth actually have memory (just like we do) and they will want to move back to their original positions. Retainers keep them from moving. In fact, even though the retainers are made at the end of the treatment, they are a very important part of the whole process.
Retention Phase of Treatment
Now that the patient is done with the active phase of wearing the aligners, they will begin retention. There are 2 different types of retainers that can be made. Again, the dentist will discuss this with the patient and the patient can decide what kind of retainers they prefer. The retainers are extremely important and so, we want the patient to select the retainer that they will wear in the long term. In fact, retainers are meant to be worn for as long as possible!
Q: “What if I need some dental treatment while I am in the middle of Invisalign treatment? Will my aligners still fit or do I have to start all over?”
A: It is very realistic that a patient may need dental work such as a filling or crown or need some kind of emergency dental work while they are undergoing treatment. If the patient is close to being done with Invisalign, then we may opt to wait until they are completely done, do the dental work, and then take impressions for retainers.
If the patient still has several months to go with treatment, then the dentist will do the dental work, take progress impressions, and Invisalign will send new-fitting aligners to accommodate the new dental work.
Q: “Oops! I accidentally wrapped up my aligners in a napkin at the restaurant and threw them away. What do I do?”
A: No worries! Call the dentist and we can order you a new set which takes a few days to arrive. In the meantime, wear the previous aligner to keep your teeth from drifting.
Q: “How long do I have to wear the aligners? Do the number of hours I wear them to make a difference?”
A:Yes, the number of hours you wear the aligners is critical to the success of your treatment. We strongly encourage you to wear the aligners all day and all night, except during meals. This gives you approximately 22 hours per day being in an active aligner. We need your teeth to move to their new position before you switch to the next aligner.