• Orthodontics – Invisalign

    Did you know in the United States alone more than 4.5 million people are wearing braces at any given time, according to the American Association of Orthodontics. That’s right, even though it may feel like you’re making this completely normal dental journey all by yourself, there are plenty of people walking the same path.

    All of that being said, thanks to the modern technology available to orthodontists, braces no longer have to be the bulky, noticeable fixtures they once were. Today, depending on your dental health, many patients that need braces have the option of getting clear braces instead.

    Designed to provide the same treatment and benefits of their traditional counterparts, clear braces are continuing to grow in popularity around the world.

What Are Invisalign Clear Braces?

Unlike traditional braces that require multiple metal brackets to be glued to your teeth and connected with a metal wire, clear braces use a system of removable aligners that work to progressively rectify alignment problems.

While they’re not an available option for all orthodontic work, clear braces are capable of fixing a number of alignment issues including crowding, over spaced teeth, crossbites, overbites, and simple irregularities.

Rather than regularly visiting your orthodontist every 3-10 weeks to get rubber bands replaced and wires tightened, with clear braces, you’re given multiple sets of aligners that each gradually shift your teeth. With a design similar to that of clear retainers, clear braces are molded to fit over your teeth, making them much less noticeable than traditional braces.

Another added benefit is the ability to easily remove them when brushing, flossing, or eating. Upon first seeing clear braces, you may be wondering to yourself, how are these going to straighten my teeth?

As it turns out, applying even just a small amount of pressure to a tooth will cause it to shift in the direction of the pressure. This is why each set of aligners will feel snug at first, only to start fitting more naturally as the teeth complete the shifting phase (usually 2 weeks for each aligner).

With each progressive set of aligners, the teeth are slowly shifted over time until they reach the desired position. Depending on the severity of the alignment issue, clear braces may be used for as little as 8 months or as long as 18 months.

At our office, we proudly offer our patients the world’s leading brand of clear braces, Invisalign.

How Clear Braces Are Made

Because clear braces are so different from traditional, metal braces, the process used to make them is quite different as well. Below, we’ve outlined the way Invisalign trays are made from start to finish.

The first step used to create your very own custom set of Invisalign trays is getting a detailed map of your mouth and teeth with the use of x-rays, pictures, and impressions. Your dentist may opt to use all three just to ensure the lab has sufficient data to build the 3-D molds.

Once Invisalign’s lab has all of the needed information, their technicians begin generating a 3-D model of your mouth. With this, they can work hand in hand with your dentist and run simulations to come up with the best treatment plan.

Working backward, the teeth are generally set to the desired final position, after which, the Invisalign technicians can determine the steps needed to get them there. At this stage, it’s also common for the dentist to meet with the patient and present available treatment options before manufacturing begins.

Once given the okay, Invisalign technicians use Align technology to take the simulations and produce customized, individual aligners for each stage of the treatment. Using a specialized material that was designed with patient comfort in mind, each aligner is carefully inspected and custom trimmed to fit your teeth and gumline perfectly.

After treatment begins, it’s easy for your dentist to monitor progress and contact the lab for adjustments to future aligners as you work through the treatment.

Clear Braces vs. Traditional Braces

Even though clear braces were first developed with adult patients in mind, advancements in technology have made them an available option for teenagers as well. With popularity quickly overtaking traditional, metal braces, in this section, we’re going to take a detailed look at how clear braces stack up against their normal counterparts.

1. Visibility

Without a doubt, one of the main reasons patients opt for clear braces is because of their reduced visibility. Whether you’re an adult or a teenager, the idea of having extremely noticeable metal brackets and wiring attached to your teeth isn’t something most patients are eager to introduce into their lives.

Even though the ultimate outcome will make their smile more attractive, most patients experience some level of anxiety and embarrassment with traditional braces. This is especially true with adult patients where it’s not as widely accepted to have braces as it is if you’re a teenager.

Clear braces are able to provide the same treatment as traditional braces without taking away from the aesthetics of your smile. This greatly helps to boost comfort and confidence levels since most people won’t even be able to tell you’re wearing them. On the other hand, some younger patients still prefer traditional braces due to the variety of colored bands that can be used to customize the look.

2. Removability

Another one of the main benefits of clear braces is their ability to be removed with ease by the wearer. With traditional braces, metal brackets are glued to the teeth using a special bonding agent, making them almost impossible to remove without the assistance of your dentist.

One drawback of traditional braces is the restrictions they place on certain foods over the course of the treatment. It’s not uncommon for your dentist to recommend avoiding sticky foods, sugar, popcorn, hard foods, and even certain vegetables since they can get stuck in your teeth and difficult to reach due to the brackets and wires.

In fact, keeping up with a thorough dental hygiene routine becomes much more complicated with traditional braces since you have to spend extra time working around the fixtures, especially when flossing. With clear braces, none of this becomes a problem since you can easily remove your aligners when eating or cleaning your teeth.

3. Comfort & Health

Even though traditional braces are designed to minimize discomfort during treatment, having metal hardware in your mouth can be a somewhat unpleasant experience. Until your mouth gets used to the metal brackets, it’s not unusual for sores to occur as a result of rubbing during regular, everyday activities.

The most common culprit is metal wiring used to connect all of the brackets, which can sometimes protrude and scratch the sides of the mouth. With traditional braces, it’s also possible for a bracket to separate from the tooth, sliding around freely until you’re able to make it to your dentist.

Clear braces, on the other hand, are smooth in nature and align perfectly with the natural curves of your teeth and gums, creating a much more comfortable experience. It’s also much less common for clear braces to experience problems during treatment due to the durable material each aligner is made from.

Lastly, because traditional braces are so intrusive around the teeth and gumline, it’s not uncommon for patients to be at a higher risk for developing cavities or gingivitis. While this ultimately comes down to your dedication and hygiene routine, the removable nature of clear braces makes it much easier to maintain dental health over the course of treatment.

4. Time Investment

While we aim to make a visit to the dentist as enjoyable as possible for all of our patients here at Inland Family Dentistry, we understand that people generally like to get in and out as quickly as possible. Even though both clear and traditional braces require multiple visits before starting treatment, traditional braces are a little more taxing on your time.

Once we have all of the x-rays and scans needed to create your custom aligners, your time in the dental chair has pretty much come to an end. Outside of going back in for a fitting once your first set of aligners come in, generally, you won’t be spending lengths of time at the dentist.

Who Can Get Clear Braces?

When Invisalign first hit the market, it was designed primarily for adults with very minor alignment problems. However, today, thanks to advancements in orthodontic technology, clear braces are an available option for many patients, including teenagers.

Some of the more common orthodontic issues that used to be out of the question are now capable of being treated with clear braces. With Invisalign, patients that have an overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, tooth gaps, and even crowding are all viable candidates.

Ultimately, it depends on the severity of each case, but the flexibility of Invisalign allows more patients than ever to opt for clear braces over traditional ones. As we touched on at the beginning of this section, anyone ranging in age from older teenagers to adult are prime candidates for clear braces.

In fact, if you want to get a better idea of whether or not you’re a good candidate for clear braces, Invisalign even offers a convenient online assessment that can determine your general eligibility, though a visit to your dentist is still required.

A big part of figuring out whether or not clear braces are a good option for you also comes down to personal factors. Thankfully, many dental insurance policies will cover Invisalign (at least partially), allowing even more patients to opt for clear braces.

The last piece of the puzzle when considering getting clear braces is having a strong desire to perfect your smile. Since the majority of the treatment relies on patient cooperation, the faster you want to fix your smile, the more likely you are to experience positive results.

Who Can’t Or Shouldn’t Get Clear Braces

Unfortunately, even though clear braces are continuing to expand treatment possibilities, the number one factor that disqualifies patients is the severity of their unique case. With extremely severe orthodontic cases, traditional braces may be ruled as the only viable option, even if the patient wants clear braces.

The only way to know for sure whether or not you’re a good candidate is by getting an evaluation. Of course, there are also some cases where clear braces may still be an option, but the treatment period would be longer.

With some orthodontic issues, traditional braces still prove to be more effective, particularly if your pallet needs to be widened. Outside of severity, the next biggest factor that prevents patients from qualifying for clear braces is their age. With children and younger teenagers whose teeth are still growing, traditional braces may be the only option.

Lastly, clear braces are most effective when patients adhere strictly to the guidelines set forth by their dentist, which usually means wearing them for at least 20 hours each day.

What You Can Expect

After you’ve had all of the imaging done and your first set of aligners are ready to go, it’s time for another visit to your dentist for the fitting appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to see how the aligners fit around your teeth and make sure you’re comfortable putting them in and taking them out. This is also the point where your dentist may decide that a few extra attachments are needed to make sure your treatment goes according to plan.

Simply put, attachments are small dots of dental bonding (usually the same stuff used for tooth fillings) that help the aligners fit more snuggly. Since they’re roughly the same color as teeth, they’re hardly noticeable. If you’re worried about the way they’ll feel when you don’t have your aligners in, most patients don’t even remember they’re there within a few days’ time.

While it’s not very common, your dentist may determine that interproximal reduction (IPR) is needed to make your aligners fit as they should. Even though it sounds complex, IPR is the painless process of lightly sanding down the sides of teeth that don’t want to fit in the aligners. This is also determined and defined by the aligners developed by Invisalign.

Once your teeth are primed, your dentist will have you put in the aligners and pop them out so you can get better acquainted with the motion and feeling before heading home. Now, one thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that your aligners will feel a bit awkward on your teeth. In fact, it’s not uncommon for your clear braces to feel as though they don’t fit.

This is because each set of aligners is designed to mirror the way your teeth will look in two weeks. Keep in mind that this is completely normal, and that the sensation will go away after your teeth have had a few days to shift into their new position.

While the fitting gets better with each passing day, the victory is short-lived since you’ll have a new set of aligners to put in every two weeks, starting the process over. Throughout the treatment, though primarily only when starting a new set of aligners, you’ll experience some soreness as your teeth move.

As another completely normal part of having clear braces, simply taking OTC pain relievers as needed can greatly help manage any discomfort. So long as you listen to your dentist’s recommendations and keep your aligners/teeth clean, your treatment will go smooth and quick.

Once you finish your last set of aligners and treatment is complete, you’ll make a final visit to the dentist so they can determine whether or not any minor adjustments need to be made. If everything checks out, you can finally say goodbye to different sets of aligners every two weeks and start enjoying your now perfect smile.

Because teeth are prone to shifting back to their original position, your dentist will likely give you retainers to wear at night, helping keep them in their new position.

History of Invisalign

Believe it or not, dentists only started adopting the use of Invisalign in the early 2000’s. It would take multiple years and millions of dollars in marketing before Invisalign finally went mainstream and began seeing use on a national level.

Going all the way back to the beginning, before Invisalign, if you needed orthodontic work, metal braces were one of the only options patients had. Not only were they highly noticeable, but they made the act of routine brushing and flossing much more difficult due to the wire and brackets.

In addition to all of that, traditional braces are not known for being the most comfortable, often irritating the mouth on top of the pain from shifting teeth. These frustrating dilemmas and lack of solutions are what led the four founders of Invisalign to begin working on the first prototype and fitting system in 1997.

As students of Stanford, they had access to technology and equipment that would allow them to develop the entire Invisalign system in just over a year, where, shortly after, it was approved by the FDA. At first, orthodontists were hesitant to adopt Invisalign because it was a new, untested system that was ultimately developed by students without any orthodontic training.

However, after mass marketing campaigns, consumers began asking their orthodontists about Invisalign, leading many to adopt it as a treatment option. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of Invisalign patients quickly grew from just 175,000 to over 2 million.

Today, Invisalign is viewed as a standard in the world of orthodontics, helping patients everywhere achieve the smile they’ve always wanted, without the drawbacks of traditional braces. Give us a call or swing by our office in Walla Walla to learn more about Invisalign and how it can help you achieve a picture perfect smile!