For many years, any dental patient who wanted straighter teeth would have to sign up for traditional metal braces, an orthodontic treatment that was (and still is) very effective. But metal braces have their drawbacks: you have to avoid some foods; they can irritate your gums and the soft tissue inside your cheeks; it typically takes between 16 and 18 months to complete the treatment; and, of course, there’s the embarrassment of having to wear metal braces for that length of time. Fortunately, modern dental technology affords dental patients in Austin, Texas, and throughout the US to have their teeth straightened by other means. One of those alternative methods is Invisalign®.
One of the most common questions among people considering this revolutionary teeth-straightening technology is “What is Involved in the Invisalign® process?” What follows is the answer to that question, along with other useful information about the Invisalign® method that can help you decide whether this treatment is right for you.
A Brief Introduction to Invisalign®
Invisalign® technology utilizes clear plastic aligner trays to straighten the patient’s teeth. The aligners are virtually invisible, so the patient can avoid the embarrassment of wearing metal braces. The Invisalign® trays can also be removed by the patient to eat meals and brush and floss, so you won’t have to avoid certain foods and you can maintain your usual oral hygiene routine. Patients need to wear the aligner trays for at least 22 hours a day, but most people report that they are quite comfortable and don’t irritate cheek and gum tissue like metal braces can. And the entire Invisalign® treatment period is typically shorter than that required for metal braces. Considering all these benefits, you can see why this method has become so popular over the past several years.
What is Involved in the Invisalign® Process?
The Invisalign® method involves a sequence of steps. What follows are details of each part of the process.
- Your dentist will create a 3D digital image of your teeth. This image will be sent to the Invisalign® manufacturers and used to create your custom-made aligner trays. How the digital image is made will depend on your dentist – it will either be created using the traditional method of having the patient bite down on a tray filled with impression material and waiting for a period of time while the impression hardens, or your dentist may prefer the more contemporary method of creating an impression with a 3D scanner. Once the impression is completed, technicians at Invisalign® will use it to create your plastic aligners.
- Your dentist will develop a personalized plan for you. After the staff at Invisalign® receive the impression, your dentist will work with these professionals to create a customized treatment plan, which will plot out how your teeth will gradually move over the course of your treatment. This will involve multiple sets of aligner trays, each of which you’ll wear for a period of a week or two. The number of sets you’ll need will depend on how much your teeth need to be straightened.
- After your dentist receives your aligners, your treatment will begin. Typically, you’ll start wearing your aligners a few weeks after your initial impressions are made. This will begin with a trip to the dentist’s office, during which your dentist will ensure that the aligner trays are fitting properly, that they’re comfortable, and that you know how to safely remove them for meals and oral hygiene, as well as how to reinsert them afterwards. It is during this visit that your dentist will affix tooth-colored attachments to your teeth, which act like handles for the aligner trays and assist them in gently moving your teeth into their new positions. Your dentist may also make other small adjustments that will aid in your treatment, such as wearing rubber bands, reshaping the surface of some teeth, etc.
- You’ll continue to wear your aligners throughout the course of your treatment plan (typically from 12 to 18 months), visiting your dentist periodically. In most cases, you’ll be instructed to wear the first set of aligners for one week, then to switch out to the next set, and so on until you go through all of your sets of aligner trays. Although the time required to complete treatment takes several months, it’s very common for patients to see a real difference in the positions of their teeth within the first month or two. The periodic visits to your dentist are also a vital part of the process, since it is then that your dentist can make sure that your teeth are moving correctly over the course of the treatment plan.
Are You a Good Candidate for Invisalign®?
As effective as Invisalign® is, it’s important to remember that it may not be the right choice for every patient. People with severe issues may require some other form of treatment to straighten their teeth. But for many patients, Invisalign® works well. These include people with wide spaces between their teeth; crowded teeth; as well as crossbites, overbites and underbites that are not too severe. This treatment is intended for adults and older teenagers – it is not recommended for younger children whose teeth are still developing. And, because you will be able to remove the aligners yourself, you’ll have to be committed to completing the treatment as prescribed by your dentist. You’ll need to wear the aligner trays for at least 22 hours each day; if you don’t, the treatment won’t work. So you’ll need to make the commitment to follow your dentist’s instructions to the letter if you want your treatment to be successful.
Of course, the only way to know for sure whether or not Invisalign® will work for you is to visit your Austin, Texas, dentist for a consultation. He or she can make a complete assessment of your current oral health and determine whether or not you are a good candidate for this remarkable dental technology. If you’re still wondering “What is involved in the Invisalign® process?” call your dentist today!