Straightening misaligned teeth with traditional braces is somewhat of an ordeal. There’s sharp wires poking cheeks, metal bands rubbing on lips, metal everywhere in sight. But at Hiebert Smith Dental Group, we’re proud to offer Invisalign®, an effective, but far more civilized method for straightening our patients’ teeth.
What is Invisalign®?
Invisalign® is a dramatically different approach to straightening teeth. Traditional metal braces move the teeth by tightening the connecting wires and adding rubber bands. This can create significant discomfort in the days following an adjustment. Invisalign moves the teeth just as effectively, but without pain. Instead of using metal bands cemented onto the teeth and tied together with wires,
Invisalign moves the teeth with a series of clear plastic aligners. The aligners are designed using the system’s 3D computer imaging software. This software plots the necessary movement of the teeth and then designs a series to aligners to accomplish the movement in two-week periods. After each set of aligners has been used for two weeks the aligner is then discarded and the next in the series takes its place. This process continues until the teeth are in their final position. Most Invisalign patients wear the aligners for about one year to attain the necessary movement.
In stark contrast to traditional braces, Invisalign® is very comfortable. The aligners fit snugly over the teeth. The movements created are subtle and don’t involve the pain after traditional braces are “tightened.”
What Does Invisalign Treat?
Invisalign can be used when mild to moderate repositioning is necessary. However, it can’t be used in cases where severe movement is required. Here are the kinds of conditions we treat with Invisalign® at Hiebert Smith Dental Group:
- Crowded teeth
- Gaps between teeth
Advantages of Invisalign
Our patients love Invisalign®. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Virtually Invisible: The clear plastic aligners are almost impossible to see, even when a person is talking to you at close range.
- Comfortable: No wires to poke your cheeks or bands that rub your lips and tongue.
- No eating restrictions: No need to have your corn on the cob cut off or to avoid eating chewy foods.
- Easy hygiene: When it’s time to brush and floss, you simply remove the aligners.
- No tightening pain: No need to come in for painful monthly tightening. Simply change out the aligners every two weeks and out in the next pair in the series.
- Greater flexibility: Invisalign is removable so patients can remove them when eating, brushing, or for a special occasion.
- Little or no impact: Traditional braces are challenging cosmetically and for home hygiene. Invisalign allows you to eat, brush, and live normally.
The Invisalign Process
The Invisalign® process begins with a full dental exam and bite analysis using the iTero® digital scanning system. From these scans, 3D digital images of your teeth are created. Using these images, Dr. Hiebert or Dr. Smith then map out the precise treatment plan for moving the teeth into their final position. The Invisalign software then breaks the movement down by stages, and we can show the patient how the movement will progress. We send this information off to Align Technology, the fabricator of the aligner trays.
When your custom aligner trays arrive in our offices, you return for your next appointment. Dr. Hiebert or Dr. Smith will explain the system and give you the first few pairs of aligner trays. Each is clearly marked with the dates to be worn. All you do is wear the aligners every day for two weeks, and then you switch to the next pair. We want to see you about every six weeks to monitor your progress.
Wearing Your Aligners
During your appointments, we’ll stress the importance of wearing your aligners for 20-22 hours every day. This may seem like a long time, but you’ll begin to forget you’re wearing the aligners because they are so comfortable. When you’re eating or brushing you simply take the aligners out, but the rest of the day they should be worn. Each aligner exerts subtle pressure on the teeth to move them, that’s why they need the maximum time on the teeth each day.
Every patient’s scenario is unique, but our average patient time for Invisalign® is one year. Less severe movement can take less time and more severe movement may require more time. If, when we come to where we charted your final position to be, we feel more movement is needed, we can simply order a few more sets of aligners.
Is Invisalign Painful?
Traditional braces would not be deemed comfortable by anyone. Beyond the poking from stray wires and the rubbing of lips, cheeks, and tongue, there are also the “tightening” sessions when the wires are tightened and new rubber bands applied. Patients sometimes require over-the-counter pain medication for a couple days afterwards.
In contrast, the Invisalign® trays are comfortable on your teeth with no wires or bands. There are no “tightening” sessions and you simply replace the two aligners every two weeks with the next pair in the series. When the new aligners are put in, the initial adjustment is nowhere near the same as a tightening session with traditional braces.
Will I Need a Retainer After Treatment?
After adjustment with regular braces, patients switch to a retainer that is usually worn at least at night. This prevents the teeth from drifting back to their former positions. With Invisalign®, instead of a hard plastic retainer that clicks into the roof of your mouth, we use Vivera® retainers made of the same material as the Invisalign® aligners. The retainers are similar to the aligners, but are thicker and more durable because they need to be worn for longer periods than the two week aligners. Patients receive four Vivera® retainers, so they replace them over the course of their retention to keep them from becoming less-than-hygienically appealing.
How to Care for My Aligners
Patients simply need to rinse and gently brush their aligners every night with a toothbrush to keep them fresh and clean. When they are out, you need to diligently brush and floss your teeth before putting the aligners back in. You can also soak your aligners in denture cleaner, Retainer Brite®, or the official Invisalign® crystals to keep them clear and sanitized. Another method is to use clear anti-bacterial soft hand soap to clean your aligners.