Who would argue that having a huge smile accented with perfectly straight teeth has no impact on self-confidence and a sense of well-being? Such people are few and far between. The truth is that more than 60% of people who have straight teeth affirm that they do feel better about themselves.
While some people come by straight teeth naturally, many need a little help. That’s where the idea of Invisalign comes into the picture. Designed to shift crooked teeth into alignment, this effective treatment can provide the brilliant smile that you want. It’s no wonder so many people choose this route for straightening their teeth.
Getting Into the Statistics
How prevalent are teeth straightening in the United States? Statistics compiled by governmental and private organizations indicate that anywhere between 25% and 45% of US citizens will use some method for alignment before they are 30 years old. While many people think of braces and other types of aligners as being mainly something that teenagers use, an increasing number of adults are visiting orthodontists and being fitted for aligners. Some statistics indicate up to one in every four persons wearing some sort of aligner is over the age of 21.
While it’s true that metal braces aren’t going away, there are strong indications that many adults are opting for clear aligners to achieve the look that they want. According to data compiled and maintained by Align Technology, there are around 12 million US residents using Invisalign as of February 2, 2022. The majority of those users (9 million) are adults.
So What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is a somewhat recently developed treatment for aligning crooked teeth. The process involves using molds that are carefully measured and generated using computer technology. The idea is to use a series of custom-molded clear aligners to gradually move those crooked teeth into a proper alignment. By the time that a patient begins to use the last old in the series, there’s no doubt that the teeth are straighter and provide the type of smile desired.
Using this type of aligner is ideal for just about everyone. In the case of teenagers, Invisalign offers a less bothersome solution in terms of making dental hygiene easier. The fact that the aligners are clear also makes them less of an issue visually. Add in that they work well, and you have a winning combination.
In like manner, adults find Invisalign to their advantage. Since they are clear, the aligners are harder to detect. That means a lot to an adult who interacts with other people for most of the work day.
Before making a choice of how to straighten the teeth, it’s good to talk with a dental expert and explore all the benefits and possible drawbacks associated with each one. Here, you will learn more about Invisalign, who is most likely to benefit from this solution, and even a little about why orthodontists in the United States and many other parts of the world consider this to be the premiere choice for straightening teeth.
Understanding How Invisalign Aligners Work
You already know that Invisalign is used with the goal to bring crooked teeth into perfect alignment. What you may not fully understand is how those aligners achieve the goal. Here are the basics of how Invisalign works.
The process involves capturing data using computer technology while in the orthodontist’s office. The images are paired with impressions made by the dental team, creating a perfect copy of how the teeth are presently aligned. Using those resources as the starting point, a series of molds are created and then used over a series of months to gently shift the teeth into position.
How is this different from metal braces? This older solution is based more on the concept of using the braces and their connecting wires to pull or drag the teeth into alignment. Every so often, it’s necessary to go in and have the wires adjusted. By contrast, Invisalign works by finishing with one mold, then moving on to the next in the series when the time is right.
What Are Some of the Other Differences Between Conventional Braces and Invisalign?
All options for aligning teeth share a common goal: creating a beautiful smile that sports a set of straight teeth. Conventional braces were the standard for many decades. In fact, they are still in common use and show no signs of going away. Even so, Invisalign is a newer approach that is often a better fit for people in the world of today.
How do conventional braces and Invisalign compare and contrast? Here are some of the more important differences:
*Clear Instead of Visible: An episode of the popular 1970s situation comedy “The Brady Bunch” summed up the feeling of most people about conventional braces. In the episode, the eldest teenage girl, Marcia, has to be fitted with braces. One look in the mirror was all it took for Marcia to declare herself to be ugly.
While played for dramatic effect, the character’s reaction was not unlike the way teenagers and adults feel when they see the braces in their mouths. They don’t care for the look at all.
By contrast, Invisalign makes much less of an impact on appearance. The material is clear and much harder for people to notice. This can take a lot of the anxiety out of straightening the teeth.
*The Convenience Factor: Conventional braces stay in the mouth for the entire straightening process. There’s no taking them out for any reason. That can make oral hygiene more complex, as well as consuming certain foods more problematic.
With Invisalign, it’s possible to remove the aligners for short periods. Feel free to take them out while eating or brushing your teeth. As long as they are in position for 20-22 hours each day, they will still work as intended.
*The Duration of the Treatment: This is an area where Invisalign offers a more appealing solution. With conventional braces, it’s best to depend on having to wear them for at least two years. Periodically, there will be the need to see a dentist and have them adjusted, so they keep pulling the teeth into the desired position. Using Invisalign typically means using the series of aligners for anywhere between six and eighteen months.
*The Expense: It’s true that Invisalign aligners involve a higher base cost than braces. What you have to consider is the cost over the duration of using some method to straighten the teeth. When taken into consideration, those additional costs make Invisalign just as affordable as conventional metal braces. When compared to options like ceramic braces, they may even be more cost-effective. Your orthodontist can help you compare the overall costs of each option.
The bottom line is that Invisalign has a lot to offer. You would do well to consider this approach carefully before assuming the only option is metal braces.
What Sort of Patient Will Benefit From Using Invisalign?
The short answer is that just about anyone who wants to straighten their teeth will find Invisalign to be a reasonable solution. For some patients, this approach will be more appealing in any case. Consider how certain patients would find Invisalign to be more to their liking:
*Teenagers: The teen years are often difficult ones. As children begin to grow toward adulthood, they have to deal with all sorts of changes. It’s not just physical changes, but also there’s the navigation of learning more socialization skills, feeling awkward, unsure, and in general self-conscious. Adding in metal braces only makes a difficult time worse, as every glance into a mirror reminds them of how they look.
Invisalign can’t protect your teen from the growing pains of those years, but the aligners can do two important things: along with improving the smile, there’s no mouthful of metal to attract unwanted attention. The clear aligners simply don’t make the same visual impact, something your teen will find easier to live with.
*Adults: While adults may not face all the issues that teens deal with, few if any look forward to wearing conventional metal braces. Sporting a set, especially when work responsibilities require being out in front of other people, doesn’t exactly do a lot to boost confidence in your talents and abilities. What is likely to do is make it more difficult to focus on what you’re doing. That hesitancy is something that customers are sure to notice.
Invisalign offers a solution that draws less unwanted attention to your mouth. The fact that they can be removed for short periods also comes in handy. You can make responsible choices about when to remove them, while still making sure they remain in place for at least the minimum amount recommended per day. In short, you feel more in control of your life and your mouth.
Taking a Closer Look at the Invisalign Process
You now have a general idea of how Invisalign works. Taking things one step further and exploring that process in greater depth will help you appreciate this solution all the more. Here’s a step-by-step outline of what will happen after you approach an orthodontist and seek to explore the options for straightening your teeth.
1. Begin With The Initial Consultation
Your consultation will be with a dental professional who has training and experience as an orthodontist. The goal is to provide information specifically about the condition of your teeth, what it would take to straighten them, and which methods would serve you best.
As part of the consultation, you will learn how Invisalign works, the projected cost in your case, and even how long the professional estimates you will need to wear the aligners. During this time, you also have the opportunity to ask any questions that may come to mind, including what sort of coverage your dental insurance is likely to provide. The goal of the consultation is to ensure you have all the information at hand to make the choice that’s right for you.
2. Time for Images and X-Rays
Part of what happens at the initial consultation is taking images and X-rays of your mouth. This typically happens after you’ve discussed the options with the orthodontist and made a choice, but it may happen early on and provide some data for discussing options.
The images and X-rays will involve the mouth in general, both rows of teeth, and even your face from several angles. Combined, all of these efforts make it possible to create a map that demonstrates the particulars of the alignment, as well as the scale in relation to your other facial features.
Some patients receive what’s known as a lateral cephalometric x-ray. The purpose of this one is to assess the alignment and relationship that exists between the cheekbone and the jaw. See it as one more way to create a digitized image that is true to the dimensions of your mouth and your face. Since proportion and scale are key to aligning the teeth, it’s easy to see how this type of X-ray will be helpful.
One final element will be used to ensure that all the information needed is in place. That involves the process of taking impressions of your upper and lower teeth. Those impressions will be used in conjunction with the images and X-rays to develop the series of custom Invisalign aligners that you will use.
3. Preparing The Teeth For the Aligners
While not applicable to every patient, there may be the need to apply a series of small composite patches to each of the teeth. The patches are intended to make it easier for the clear aligners to fit snugly on each tooth and have enough grip to move them over time. The patches are made using the same materials used for teeth fillings, and will not involve any discomfort.
Removing them once your teeth are aligned is not difficult and will not involve any pain. Your orthodontist will let you know if patches are needed in your case.
There may also be the need for what’s known as interproximal reduction. This is basically a procedure that creates tiny amounts of space between each tooth. Small discs are used to sand away a minute portion of the enamel to create the space. This is necessary to ensure that there is space for the teeth to shift as they straighten. If your teeth are somewhat crowded, this procedure is likely to be a key part of the preparation.
4. Your First Aligner Fitting
You’re likely to receive the first fitting for your aligners while at the same visit. Once the preparation is completed, the orthodontist will fit the mold over your upper and lower teeth. Since it’s modeled after all the impressions and other data collected, it will feel snug at first.
Don’t be surprised if the orthodontist has more than one mold to try. The goal is to achieve a fit that’s tight and will ensure the first aligner in the series will do what it’s designed to do. Expect the orthodontist to ask a series of questions about how they feel, their level of comfort, and other key elements. The mold that seems to be the best choice will be used to create all of your aligners.
Do not be alarmed if the mold feels somewhat strange at first. Keep in mind that it needs to be tight, but not so tight that it triggers a lot of pain. The mold does have to be tight and strong enough to gradually move the teeth into the desired alignment. While they won’t be all that comfortable at first, it won’t take long to get used to their presence. This will also hold true with every subsequent aligner in the series.
5. Noticing The Changes Happening
While Invisalign aligners are clear and make less of a visual impression, you will definitely be aware of their presence. It’s not just a matter of getting used to having something out of the ordinary in your mouth; there will be subtle changes in the way your teeth feel as they begin to shift. This is nothing to be alarmed about; in fact, you should consider this a good sign, since it means the aligner is beginning to work.
What you are likely to notice at first is that there is some discomfort that seems to emanate from the teeth. While not exactly a toothache, the sensation is somewhat similar. After a few days of wearing the aligner, the ache should subside, and won’t be back until it’s time to move to the next aligner in the series.
It’s not unusual for patients to report that their teeth are more sensitive at first. This may be especially pronounced as you drink hot or cold beverages. As with the aching, this is a sensation that should begin to subside after a few days. If not, your orthodontist can recommend a toothpaste that is formulated for use with sensitive teeth.
Pronouncing certain words may be more difficult at first. That’s because the aligners do take up room inside the mouth. It may take more effort on your part to speak clearly until you get used to wearing them. Most people find that they adjust to the difference within two or three weeks. After that, it won’t take as much effort to enunciate clearly.
One tip that will help you weather the changes with greater ease is to follow the advice to wear the Invisalign aligners for 20-22 hours each day without fail. Doing so helps you avoid any delays that would prolong the discomfort, or add to the time it takes to adjust your ability to speak clearly.
6. Transitioning From One Aligner to the Next
The frequency of changing from one aligner to the next in the series will vary. In some cases, you may move on to the next aligner each week. Other patients may transition to new aligners every two weeks. Your dental professional will determine the pace that works best in your case.
A key factor has to do with how much shifting has taken place. If the teeth have moved as much as the aligner will allow, it’s time to move on to the next one. When there’s still some alignment that needs to take place, you’ll keep the same one a little longer.
It’s not necessary to visit the dental clinic every time that you move to the next Invisalign aligner. Instead, there will be periodic checkups that take place on a regular basis. At any time, you’re free to contact the staff and report any issues you’re experiencing and ask for advice.
The Importance of Keeping The Aligners Clean
One of the perks of using Invisalign aligners is that your daily dental hygiene routine is much simpler. Since you can remove the aligners to brush your teeth, it’s easier to keep the mouth fresh. You will also find that being able to clean the aligners while you have them out is a simple process.
Ideally, they should be cleaned at least twice a day. Morning is a good time, as is the evening before you go to bed. This helps to remove bacteria that has built up since the last cleaning and helps to prevent any unpleasant odors. Many people find that cleaning the aligners just before placing them back in the mouth after brushing is a good approach.
The cleaning itself can be simple. You can use a soft-bristle toothbrush for the task. There’s no need to use toothpaste on the aligners. Brushing and then rinsing will do the job.
If you like, feel free to rinse off the aligners when you brush after your midday meal. A quick rinse helps to reduce the presence of bacteria and will leave your mouth feeling fresher well into the afternoon. As a bonus, brushing and rinsing the aligners helps to keep them clearer, and allows you to avoid the buildup that could dull the appearance of the teeth.
When practical, you can place the aligners in a dental cleaner when not in use. Do this when you take them out for meals. Your orthodontist can recommend cleaner tablets that work well in a small amount of water. That will make it all the easier to remove bacteria when you use the soft-bristle brush to clean the Invisalign aligners.
Remember that your orthodontist will clean the aligner when you come in for a visit.
Choosing the Best Orthodontist
When considering options for teeth straightening, choose one that has extensive experience with all methods, including Invisalign. Your goal is to make use of a dental professional who stays up to date on all the latest technology, and knows how to ensure you have the ideal fit for each aligner.
An orthodontist that you can talk with easily is also a plus. Knowing that you can get answers to your questions at any stage offers a lot of comforts. It also means you will be able to get the most out of choosing Invisalign as the means of straightening the teeth.
Today is the ideal time to get started. Call a dental professional today and set up that first appointment. You may be surprised at how much can be accomplished in such a short amount of time.