Invisalign® Braces Straighten Teeth Almost 'Invisibly'Invisalign® Braces Straighten Teeth Almost 'Invisibly'

The process for straightening teeth is often one that patients don't look forward to because metal braces can sometimes be uncomfortable and awkward. The good news is that with dental advances, the same results can now be obtained without the side effects often experienced from traditional braces.

Instead of using wires to loosen and move teeth, the new 'invisible' version called Invisalign® uses clear aligners that slip over teeth and move them over time. While traditional braces are put on once and adjusted throughout the timeframe in which they have to be worn, the 'invisible' version requires a series of aligners, which create the desired movement in teeth.

A visit to the dentist and a preliminary examination can determine whether or not a patient is a good fit for Invisalign® braces. If the answer is yes, the dentist will create a detailed treatment plan and an impression or mold of the patient's teeth will be sent to a dental lab where a 3D digital model is created using a CT scanner. That model is then used to design the series of aligners that will be used to bring about the desired results on the patient's teeth.

The aligners are made from a thermoplastic material and look similar to the tooth-whitening trays used by dentists. The number of aligners that are required depends on each patient and the problem that the braces will solve or correct. Aligners are custom- made in a dental laboratory for each patient and the length of time that the invisible braches have to be worn is typically from six months to a year...eighteen months maximum for teeth that need more adjustment.

Because of the metal bands and wires that are used to loosen the ligaments around the teeth, traditional braces can be uncomfortable. With the invisible version, there can sometimes be some mild pain or discomfort when a new aligner is placed because of the pressure it puts on the teeth to move them, but the discomfort doesn't last long as the patient's mouth adjusts to the new aligner.

Eating with traditional braces can be awkward and brushing and flossing can seem impossible to do, but the aligners only have to be worn for a minimum of twenty hours a day, and can be removed for eating and brushing. Yet for most people, the most advantageous part of having invisible braces is just that...they are practically invisible.

There can be a few 'drawbacks' to the invisible version of braces. For instance, good oral hygiene is imperative because if aligners are put back into place after eating and the teeth haven't been brushed, food and plaque are packed against the teeth, creating a perfect environment for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. And, when traditional braces are placed in the mouth, they stay there, but the invisible versions can be removed, which means it is totally up to the patient to ensure that the aligners are worn for a minimum of twenty hours a day. Because of these requirements, the Invisalign® braces are typically not a good option for younger patients, but are best suited for teenagers or adults.

While Invisalign® works well for people with crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, crowding and gaps between teeth, they are not appropriate for cases where teeth are missing or a lot of movement is required.
by Dr. Susan Wells
References and Bibliography
Dr. Susan Wells DMD has been a warrior dentist practicing dentistry in Warrior, Alabama since 1978.  She treats patients for all aspects of general dentistry including preventive dental care oral hygiene instruction and full scale exams and cleanings. To find out more visit her site at http://DrSusanWells.com.
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