Invisalign aligners, or clear aligners, differ from braces in a number of important ways. Invisalign aligners are a removable, clear alternative to braces. This way of moving teeth allows you to brush and floss like normal and eat all of the foods that you love. Because each aligner moves teeth a specific amount, often the typical orthodontic soreness is less than with traditional appliances. One unintended benefit with Invisalign is that some patients notice that they lose weight due to cutting out snacks throughout the day. With the constant improvement of clear aligner technology, aligners can treat most of the same cases that can be treated with braces. This is a great option for patients who exhibit a high level of responsibility. It is also a great option for students who attend college out of town since we can typically provide enough aligners to last until the next break from school. This is also a great option for busy professionals who cannot get away from work every 6-8 weeks.
The Invisalign process is different than with braces. At your first appointment, we will take a scan of your teeth using our digital scanner. (That’s right! No more Impressions!) After your scan is sent to Invisalign, Dr. Bates will work behind-the-scenes with Invisalign to plan the optimal speed and sequence of tooth movement. Once your aligners (sometimes called “trays”) come in, we will place tooth-colored attachments on specific teeth to help move the teeth the most efficiently. In order to get those attachments on the teeth, we will place a device that will help keep your teeth dry and make it easier to keep your mouth open. Once the teeth are dry, we will use a special cleaner only on the teeth receiving attachments. After these teeth are clean, rinsed, and dried, we will place a sealer to help the attachments adhere to the tooth. Once the sealer is placed, we will place a template tray, which holds the exact shapes of the attachments, over your teeth. With that tray in place, we will shine a bright blue light through the tray. This will cause the attachment material to solidify and bond to your tooth. Once the attachment tray is removed, we will give you your first sequence of trays which will typically last 8-12 weeks. Most people will need to wear their trays 7 days at a time for 22 hours per day.
Just like with braces, treatment time with Invisalign varies based on the complexity of the case. Cases can last for as short as a few weeks to as long as 24 months and beyond. This is also dependent on consistency of wearing the trays and wearing them the appropriate amount of time. There are some options available that can increase the speed of tooth movement.