In 2001, the branch of dentistry known as orthodontics (teeth straightening) was revolutionised by a new type of invisible brace. Made from clear plastic, Invisalign takes all the embarrassment out of having orthodontic treatment - which generally lasts for anything between 6-18 months.
This cosmetic dentistry article on invisible braces is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Besides the cosmetic benefits, a key advantage of invisible braces is that they are more hygienic than traditional metal “train tracks” which run across the teeth. These can cause problems with trapped food, plaque build-up, and mouth sores becoming infected.
This new technology is patented and produced by a US company, and is available to cosmetic dentistry patients all over the UK. The Invisalign brace is essentially a tough, clear mould which is worn for around 22 hours each day. It can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing and flossing.
The invisible braces come in a numbered set, designed and fabricated especially to fit over your teeth. The first mould is worn for two weeks, after which it can be thrown away and replaced with the next mould in the series. Over time, the teeth are slowly guided into a new, straighter position, to give you a perfect smile.
Invisible braces bring a host of new benefits to orthodontic patients:
- They are virtually invisible, so no-one can tell you’re wearing them unless they’re up close and looking for them!
- They are removable, enabling you to clean every part of your mouth and not worry about food trapped around brackets.
- They are painless to have fitted, since they don’t connect to your teeth – unlike traditional metal braces made up of wires and springs.
- They don’t irritate your gums, cheeks, and tongue, or cause sores.
- A computer simulation shows how you teeth will move during treatment and what the end result with look like.
There are also disadvantages to consider, such as:
- They can sometimes cost more than traditional braces.
- They are only suitable for minor tooth irregularities, and are likely to be ineffective against moderately or severely crooked teeth.
- They still cause tooth pain, since the process involves putting pressure on the teeth in order to move them.
- They can cause a slight lisp, although this affects everyone differently.
- Sometimes invisible attachments must be ‘glued’ to the teeth to help the aligners do their job.
- Sometimes traditional braces are required after Invisalign treatment to correct stubborn problems.
- They take six weeks to be designed, fabricated, and shipped from the Invisalign factory and you may need more aligners after the original set.
Are they suitable for everyone?
Invisible braces can be used in cosmetic dentistry to effectively treat all kinds of crooked teeth problems, such as overbites, underbites, crowding, crossbites and gaps between teeth.
However, there are some situations in which they may not be suitable. Your dentist or orthodontist can advise you but, generally speaking, if a lot of movement or tooth extraction is needed, Invisalign will probably not be your best option. In this case, it’s more appropriate to have traditional metal or ceramic braces fitted, that enable close monitoring and adjusting.
What is the procedure?
After an initial consultation, your orthodontist will take a mould of your teeth, as well as x-rays and photographs from different angles. These are used to produce your new Invisalign braces.
After about six weeks, the braces will arrive at your orthodontist’s surgery, along with a 3D simulation that shows the expected movement of your teeth over time. You’ll also be given instructions on how to wear and maintain your braces, which you must follow closely for the best chance of success.
It is advisable to attend regular check-ups with your orthodontist to ensure your teeth are moving as planned.
How much does Invisalign cost?
There are several factors what will influence the cost, such as the skill of your orthodontist, where you go for treatment, and the severity of your case. The average Invisalign treatment costs between £3,000-£6,000 (and sometimes more). Other types of invisible braces are Clearstep, Inman Aligners, and lingual braces.