Everybody wants beautiful, straight teeth, but no one looks forward to the discomfort, inconvenience and “metal mouth look” that comes with traditional braces. Thanks to the advancement of dental technology, many patients who have crooked teeth, over or under bites, crowding and gaps between their teeth can now have those problems repaired without any telltale signs or the inconveniences of traditional braces.
In the past, teeth could only be moved by the use of wires, which when placed on the teeth, over time would loosen the ligament which surrounds the teeth, allowing them to move. Often, this process would cause irritation and inflammation of the gums and because the patient’s mouth was filled with wires and bands, eating and cleaning their teeth afterward was an arduous process.
Employing a totally different technology, the new Invisalign “invisible” braces uses a series of clear aligners that slowly move teeth over time. The aligners are changed every two to three weeks and each aligner must be worn for a minimum of twenty hours a day. But unlike traditional braces, the aligners can be removed for eating and brushing. And for most people, the best part about the Invisalign system is that the aligners are barely visible unlike their metal counterparts.
My name is Dr. Kelaher and when I have a dental patient who requires braces and they express interest in the “invisible” version, I begin by assessing whether Invisalign braces are appropriate for their dental needs. In most cases, they are. However, if tooth extraction is required or a lot of tooth movement is necessary, traditional braces will have to be used in order to get the desired results. And, because of the patient participation that is required, invisible braces are typically not a good option for younger patients, but are most suitable for patients that are in their older teen years or are adults.
Another important consideration in using the Invisalign system is that good oral hygiene is absolutely imperative because if teeth are not brushed after eating and the aligners are placed back in the patient’s mouth, plaque is pressed against the teeth, creating a high risk for cavity formation.
When invisible braces are a good option for a patient, I begin by determining the results that need to be accomplished and mapping out a treatment plan. Then a series of impressions of the patient’s teeth are taken and these impressions are used in the Invisalign laboratory to create a 3D digital model of the patient’s teeth. Using specially designed software that simulates the desired movement of the teeth over time, a series of clear aligners are created and sent to me.
The patient begins to wear the first set of aligners for at least twenty hours per day and is given a new aligner every two or three weeks. The number of aligners that are needed to complete the process depends on each individual patient and the issues that need to be corrected. The overall process is comfortable with mild discomfort sometimes occurring when a new aligner is first placed in the patient’s mouth because of the pressure it initially exerts on the teeth. And unlike the metal version, there are no wires or brackets that can come off or break. The entire treatment usually spans a six month to eighteen month period.
The good news for the patient is that now, straightening teeth can be an almost “invisible” process.