Invisalign® aligners are an alternative to traditional metal-and-wire braces that are used by some dentists and orthodontists to straighten teeth and correct misalignments. The Invisalign technology is a patented process developed by Align Technology, Inc. of Santa Clara, CA, and can only be prescribed by dental professionals who have been trained and certified by that company. Invisalign has been found to correct many common orthodontic problems, such as improperly spaced teeth, overly crowded teeth, crooked teeth, and crossbite, overbite, and underbite conditions.
Invisalign is comparable in price in most cases to metal-and-wire braces, and most studies have shown that they take about the same time (an average of one year) to straighten teeth. Invisalign aligners are claimed to have many advantages over metal braces:
- Cosmetic – Because the Invisalign aligners are made of a transparent plastic, patients can often wear them without others even noticing that they wear braces.
- Treatment planning – The computerized nature of Invisalign treatement means that the patient is shown a detailed, step-by-step plan that show what will be accomplished at each stage of the treatment, and what their teeth will look like at that stage, and when the treatment is finished. Sometimes several alternative plans are developed, so that the patient can choose between them.
- Fewer side effects – Metal braces can cause abrasions to the gums and mouth, and in some cases can cause the roots of teeth to shorten. Tooth decay can be a problem with metal braces, because the braces themselves prevent effective brushing and flossing. Also, because the Invisalign aligners can be easily removed, effective X-rays can be taken at every step of the treatment process.
- More easily maintained – Invisalign alingers are removable; you take them out before eating, and before brushing and flossing your teeth. This allows more thorough cleaning than metal braces do, and also allows the patient to remove the aligners for special occasions where they might not want to wear them.
What can you expect if you get Invisalign braces?
Invisalign treatment begins with your dentist or orthodontist taking impressions, X-rays, and photographs of your mouth. These are then sent to the Align Technology offices, where technicians use computer technology to create a three-dimensional model of your mouth and design a treatment plan, according to how the orthodontist feels the teeth should be moved.
The computerized plan is then returned, and you review it with your dentist. Once approved, Align Technology creates a series of transparent aligners, one for each stage of the treatment. On average, you change to a new set of aligners every two weeks. For maximum effectiveness, the aligners should be worn 20 to 22 hours per day.