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What is Invisalign and Am I a Candidate?
By Dr. Jack Sahlaney, D.M.D., M.D.S.
The practice of orthodontics, like any other profession, is faced with new trends and forms of treatment. In today’s society, individuals are increasingly aware of the influence of appearance in their personal and professional lives. This is apparent in our social development in adolescence through our adult years. Television programs such as “Extreme Makeover” show how ones appearance can change one’s outlook on like.
Since orthodontics has gone from metal bands around every tooth to metal brackets which adhere to the fronts of the teeth, braces have become more practical, patient-accessible, and patient-friendly over the past 20 years. As with every technique, the practice of orthodontics has tried to make braces more efficient, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. Clear braces and lingual braces have been developed over the past 15 years. Lingual braces are aesthetically pleasing because the braces are on the inside of the teeth but are more prone to causing mouth pain and ulcers. Lingual braces do cost more than conventional braces due to increased doctor time and training. The clear braces are esthetically pleasing but still can cause mouth sores, tooth discomfort, and problems in keeping the teeth clean. Mouth sores, tooth discomfort, hygiene problems, poking wires, and aesthetic concerns are all problems associated with conventional braces (metal, clear, and lingual).
This leads us to a new technique introduced in 1997, Align Technology’s Invisalign system of tooth movement. This system offers patients full orthodontic treatment with an aesthetic appliance. Through the use of computer-assisted technology, Align Technology can scan a patient’s study models and provide a virtual treatment setup. This virtual treatment is a 3-dimensional view of tooth movements required to achieve the desired treatment results. Align Technology and the doctor (dentist or orthodontist) review the tooth movements and formulate these movements into stages. A clear plastic retainer or aligner is fabricated for each stage. Align Technology makes the series of retainers or aligners that sequentially move the teeth. These aligners are a custom clear plastic made specifically for each patient. I will review some FAQ’s about Invisalign:
Q: What are the advantages of Invisalign versus conventional braces?
A: By using a series of clear removable aligners, Invisalign is more aesthetically acceptable. Their ability to be removed allows for better oral hygiene and comfort when compared to braces.
Q: Am I a candidate for Invisalign?
A: Invisalign can correct minor crowding and minor spacing of teeth. Invisalign is ideal for individuals who have had braces in the past and have not worn their retainers, resulting in the reoccurrence of crowding or spacing. Invisalign is not indicated for severe crowding or rotated teeth and jaw discrepancies.
Q: How does Invisalign work?
A: A special set of upper and lower impressions, photographs, and x-rays are made for the patient and sent to Align Technology. A 3-dimensional computer image from these diagnostic records is made into a treatment plan. The doctor reviews the treatment plan with Align Technology to form the stages and aligners. The aligners or retainers move the teeth at a rate of 0.25-0.33mm every 14 days. These aligners should be worn at least 20 hours a day. The aligners should be taken out for meals, drinking, and brushing. The number of aligners varies from individual to individual depending on the case.
Q: Is Invisalign effective in adolescents?
A: Invisalign is effective in treating teenagers with all their permanent teeth in the mouth and no baby teeth or wisdom teeth.
Q: How long does Invisalign take?
A: The length of treatment depends on the severity of the case. The average case takes 12 to 18 months but only your doctor can determine the length of treatment.
Q: What are the disadvantages to Invisalign?
A: Since the aligners are removable, patient compliance is required for Invisalign to be effective. The aligners have to be worn for the recommended time to move the teeth. The clear nature of the aligners makes it easy for them to be misplaced or lost. As stated before, Invisalign is limited to mild dental problems
Q: Who provides the service of Invisalign?
A Your local dentist or orthodontist trained in Invisalign. I recommend you call your dentist or orthodontist and inquire if they provide Invisalign.
Q: What is the cost of Invisalign?
A: The cost of Invisalign can only be determined by your doctor. The cost depends on the kind of treatment you need and the length of your treatment plan. Invisalign treatment is usually slightly more in cost than traditional braces.
In conclusion, Invisalign is an aesthetic, hygienic, removable, comfortable appliance. It is an acceptable alternative for mild dental problems. Invisalign does have limitations when treating severe dental problems and compliance is a must for a successful treatment result. We have to remember, Invisalign is in its infancy of development. Over the coming years, you will most likely see a greater usage of Invisalign in the treatment of more diverse dental problems. If you have any questions regarding Invisalign, please consult your dentist and/or orthodontist.
Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Align Technology for their research and information regarding Invisalign.