Invisalign is a removable orthodontic appliance offered as an alternative to more traditional orthodontic solutions. A type of clear tooth aligner, Invisalign is intended for people who find the idea of a mouthful of metal braces and brackets – however effective – too unattractive to commit to. If you’re a candidate, you can maintain your smile aesthetics while straightening your teeth.
How it Works
Invisalign is a popular brand of clear aligner and alternative to traditional dental braces. Conditions that can be treated using Invisalign include overly crowded teeth, widely spaced teeth, overbite, cross-bite, mild relapse (after traditional braces treatment) and simple bite irregularities. Invisalign was introduced by Align Technologies in 1999. Less than one millimeter in thickness, the clear aligner offers patients a far less invasive alternative to orthodontic correction. However, it should be noted that Invisalign aligners cannot treat serious orthodontic concerns.
During an initial consultation, impressions and photos are taken of the teeth. These are sent to Align’s dental lab where CAD/CAM technology is used to fabricate the aligners. New aligners are fabricated over the course of treatment to continually move the teeth to a desired position. Dentists tend to give patients one or two sets of aligners (top and bottom) during checkup visits that are spaced between four and six weeks apart. The duration of treatment varies, though typically 20 or 30 aligner variations are needed to accommodate most cases. Most adults complete treatment within one year.
Who Can Benefit?
Invisalign is currently approved for adults and teenagers with completely erupted permanent teeth who can faithfully follow the directions for treatment – how long they have to wear the aligners each day, what they can and cannot eat and drink, seeing their dentist for follow-up appointments, etc. For example, dentists recommend that you drink only water while wearing the aligners, to prevent staining of the plastic. If you do not follow treatment recommendations, you may compromise treatment success.
Invisalign can be used to treat the following orthodontic conditions:
- Overly crowded teeth. When there is not enough room in the jaw for all of the teeth to fit comfortably or normally (one to five millimeters).
- Widely spaced teeth. When there is too much space between the teeth due to abnormal growth of the jaw or shifting of the teeth due to missing teeth (one millimeter to five millimeters).
- Overbite/over-jet. When the upper teeth bite over the lower teeth.
- Crossbite. When the upper and lower jaws are misaligned, causing one or more upper teeth to bite on the inside of the lower teeth, on either the front and/or sides of the mouth.
- Mild relapse. After traditional braces have been removed, when some relapsing tooth movement has occurred.
- Invisalign may also be a treatment alternative for certain simple malocclusions (bite irregularities).
ClearCorrect vs. Traditional Orthodontics
Invisalign may not be appropriate for certain cases of misalignment or complex bite problems. Fixed orthodontic appliances (traditional wire and bracket braces) can be used for complex malocclusions.
Images courtesy of Align Technology, Inc.
Though not as aesthetically appealing as clear aligners, today’s traditional braces have been improved so they are smaller, less visible and more efficient. These newer wire-and-bracket braces also help to correct misalignment much faster than before.
Only a dentist can determine which treatment option might be right for you. In addition, an orthodontic specialist (orthodontist) can advise you about orthodontic treatment alternatives. If Invisalign is not appropriate, traditional orthodontics can still be used for such conditions as:
- Crowding and spacing greater than five millimeters.
- Skeletal malocclusions.
- Discrepancies involving centric-relation/centric-occlusion (how the upper and lower jaw joints and jaw muscles close together).
- Teeth that are severely rotated.
- Open bites in the front and back of the mouth that need to be closed.
- Teeth that are severely tipped.
- Upper or lower jaws with multiple missing teeth.
ClearCorrect vs. Invisalign
ClearCorrect and Invisalign both are a series of clear, custom-fit, removable aligners that slowly realign teeth into the desired position. Fabricated impressions then are used to create a 3-D model of the teeth. Both are possible solutions to correcting problems such as crowded or spaced teeth, overbites, underbites and crooked (turned) teeth. ClearCorrect aligners offer enhanced clarity (meaning they’re virtually invisible) and are minimally invasive. They’re also resistant to clouding from wear.
Both aligners are provided in sets, and periodic follow-up appointments with your dentist are required so he/she can check your progress. Invisalign requires 20 to 30 aligners for both the upper and lower teeth, and most adults complete their treatment within a year. ClearCorrect treatment for moderate cases requires 32 steps of treatment, which are delivered in eight phases. Minor cases require 12 steps of treatment, delivered in three phases. However, treatment times vary from one to two years, depending on the specific alignment problem.