Invisalign® for Teeth Straightening - Orthodontics Information
Invisalign® offers a non-invasive alternative to traditional metal and ceramic orthodontics. These custom fitted clear plastic trays gently correct mild to moderate tooth misalignment over time.
Who Is a Candidate for Invisalign?
Patients with crooked, crowded, or unevenly spaced teeth and those with bite problems can benefit from Invisalign treatment. Align Technology initially introduced these braces for adult patients in 1998. The FDA recently approved Invisalign Teen for patients as young as 13. Children younger than 13 (those with molars not fully emerged) are not suitable candidates for this treatment. Patients who have bridges or other extensive dental restoration may not respond effectively to Invisalign treatment.
The Invisalign Fitting Process
A dentist performs an initial consultation and examination to determine the amount of correction needed. This involves a visual examination along with photos documenting the original position of the patient's teeth. Orthodontists also use computer imaging to calculate the amount of correction needed and the best course of treatment from start to finish. Digital imaging technology allows patients to see in advance what their results will look like.
The dentist creates molds of the patient's teeth and sends these molds to a lab for processing. The Invisalign lab uses the molds to custom fabricate clear plastic trays to fit the patient's mouth. The trays apply pressure at the appropriate points to move teeth into alignment with minimal discomfort. Occasionally, the dentist may reduce the width of one or more teeth to allow room for them to shift into the correct position. Orthodontists typically treat a patient's upper and lower arches with Invisalign simultaneously to ensure correct bite alignment.
The dentist provides a treatment schedule including specific instructions for how the Invisalign trays should be worn. Generally, patients must wear these trays for most of each day and night (22 hours or more) to achieve the fastest results. The patient uses a new set of Invisalign trays every 2-3 weeks. Each new set of trays moves the teeth a little closer to their final position. The patient will typically visit the dentist for checkups every 6 weeks for a progress evaluation. Invisalign treatment may last 6-18 months depending on patient compliance and the degree of correction required.
The patient must wear a retainer as directed on an ongoing basis after treatment. Otherwise, the patient's teeth will shift out of alignment again. Patients who fail to wear a retainer as prescribed often need further orthodontic correction throughout their life. The dentist may recommend a removable retainer that makes flossing easy if the patient commits to wearing it consistently.
Benefits of Invisalign Treatment
This approach to orthodontics has several advantages over traditional braces. The plastic trays are transparent. This makes them much less noticeable than metal or even ceramic braces. Patients who feel self conscious about their appearance can use Invisalign without feeling that their smile looks unattractive. Many patients find the trays more comfortable than wires and brackets. Those who experience a lower level of discomfort may be more likely to complete treatment and get the results they want. Patients can easily remove the trays for activities like eating or daily oral hygiene routines. Invisalign patients don't have to eat a restricted diet to avoid damaging their braces.
Fixed braces have a reputation for increasing cavity risks. Food particles can become trapped in the wires and around the brackets. This buildup may not be dislodged even with vigorous brushing and flossing. This problem can lead to higher than normal rates of tooth decay for patients who wear traditional braces. In contrast, Invisalign patients who practice good oral hygiene as instructed by their dentist do not normally experience an increased rate of cavity formation. This reduces the need for subsequent dental procedures to address tooth decay.
Costs and Insurance Information
Invisalign treatment costs an average of $5,000. However, pricing varies substantially depending on the individual patient's needs and on the fee schedule set by their dentist. Some patients require longer treatment (which involves more dentist office visits and the creation of more trays). Others need extensive tooth preparation prior to fitting the braces. These patients can expect to see such additional services reflected in the total cost of treatment.
Many insurance plans cover a portion of the costs of Invisalign treatment. Others will cover traditional orthodontics but not Invisalign. When insurance will not cover treatment, patients can typically arrange an affordable payment schedule with their dentist. Many dental offices partner with financial services companies to provide a credit line to cover the cost of treatment.
This article was created by the Top Dentists editorial team.