For years the only way to straighten teeth was to use braces. There is nothing wrong with braces; they have been used successfully to straighten teeth for years. Recently, there has been a major advancement in orthodontic treatment that has made treatment easier, faster and less uncomfortable for the patient. This new method of aligning teeth uses clear aligners rather than braces.
Clear aligners are clear plastic trays that fit over your teeth instead of braces. The leader, by far, in clear aligners is a company called Invisalign. The concept of aligning the teeth with clear aligners was developed by two graduate students at Stanford University. The concept of taking a picture or a scan of something and turning it into a solid object was actually the beginning of 3D printing. Align Technology, the developers of Invisalign was the first company to come out with the idea of aligning teeth using plastic trays or aligners. Because Align Technology has so many patents on the material used for the aligners, the attachments and many more proprietary secrets used to successfully move teeth, all other clean aligner companies recently coming to market are at a great legal and mechanical disadvantage. Because of intellectual property laws, it is doubtful that other clear aligners will be able to compete with Invisalign in the marketplace. Invisalign research and development is light years ahead of anything else in the marketplace. Infringement on patent laws will make it almost impossible to compete with Align Technology.
This is how Invisalign works: It is important to know that using Invisalign Aligners is all computer generated. Once a patient has decided to go with Invisalign, the first step is to scan the teeth. This is a simple process, no impressions, and it takes about 5 minutes. It is essentially taking pictures of the teeth using a small hand held camera. The scanned images appear on a computer screen. The picture is a virtual image of the teeth. The image is then sent to the company that aligns the teeth using logarithms. The image is then sent back to the orthodontist, and this is where the magic begins. The orthodontist has been trained in biomechanics and how to place tooth colored attachments on the tooth to achieve the proper force vectors to move the tooth to its ideal position. Once the orthodontist approves the treatment plan, Invisalign will make the clear aligners (trays) and send them to the orthodontist. Now we have a series of aligners to begin aligning the teeth. The patient returns to the office in 3-4 weeks and twelve aligners are delivered. The patient wear a set of aligners for 7 days, then goes to the next set for 7 days. Each time a new aligner is placed the teeth move about .2 of a millimeter. This is a very small amount and a very gentle force on the teeth. Because the movement is so small there is very little discomfort of the teeth. In three months the patient returns to the office for another twelve aligners, wears them for 7 days and replaces the previous aligner with a new one which continues to move the teeth gently. Once all of the aligners have been used, one of two things occurs; if there is still more correction required the patient is rescanned at no additional fee for another set of aligners. More aligners are delivered and the patient is seen in three months. We can scan a patient as many times as necessary to achieve the desired results at no additional charge. Once the teeth are properly aligned, retainers are made to hold the teeth in their new position. The retainers are worn full time for a while and then just at night time. Patients will eventually discontinue wearing their retainers, but are encouraged to keep them in a safe place. Because everything in our body moves as we age, our teeth are no exception. If the patient notices some movement they simply wear the retainers for a while and the teeth will re-align. It is possible to keep your teeth straight for a long time by wearing the retainers when any unwanted movement of the teeth occurs.
The advantages of Invisalign over conventional braces include:
- No difference in fee
- The patient can be seen 4 times a year so no 4 or 8 week appointments
- No emergency appointments
- No brackets falling off or wires poking
- No sores in the mouth
- Many patients can be completed in up to half the conventional treatment time
- No one knows you are having your teeth aligned
- Brushing and flossing is easy because there are no brackets and wires to collect food and make brushing difficult
- The aligner acts as a mouth guard to help protect the teeth
Invisalign is the wave of the future for orthodontic treatment.