What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “orthodontics”? Our guess would be a teen who has a mouth full of metal. Although there are many patients who fall under that description, there is now an increasingly popular alternative option to the traditional metal braces: Invisalign® clear aligners.

As implied by the name, Invisalign clear aligners are just that, clear. Aligners are made from a nearly invisible polyurethane plastic. Instead of being bonded or cemented to the teeth (as with metal or clear braces), clear Invisalign aligners are completely removable. This is a great advantage when it comes to eating, social occasions, and for brushing and flossing. We caution you though, this removable advantage can be a disadvantage also: You must resist the tempting desire to remove your aligners more than recommended. Here are other advantages of Invisalign clear aligners:

  • Improved Oral Hygiene — You will be able to remove your orthodontic appliance to achieve better and easier teeth cleaning, than you could if you had metal braces
  • A Discreet Look — You may want to keep your orthodontic treatment a private matter, due to self-image or other reasons. This is when a practically invisible option of orthodontic treatment may suit you well.
  • More Dietary Choices — In order to protect metal braces, there are necessary diet modifications. With Invisalign clear aligners, you have no restrictions – biting into fresh corn on the cob or directly into an apple is no big deal.
  • Comfort — Invisalign is made of a soft, flexible material which won’t irritate soft tissue in your mouth, like metal wires and braces often can.
  • Teeth-Grinding Protection — If you are a clencher or teeth-grinder, clear aligners can doubly function as a thin nightguard, aiding in excessive wear and tear.

Over the years, clear aligner technology has seen major improvement and now can correct many malocclusions (bite problems) that used to be too complicated for clear aligner treatment. There are still certain situations in which it is best to use traditional braces. We are more than happy to discuss this with you in a detailed consultation.

How Invisalign Works

Invisalign clear aligners carefully apply controlled force to teeth, moving them into a better position, the same way as traditional braces. Rather than being made of metal, though, they are a clear, flexible plastic material.

We use a specialized computer software to design a treatment plan to move your teeth from where they are currently, to the best possible alignment. This movement is broken down into stages, sometimes several dozen. Invisalign will manufacture plastic mouth aligners, or trays, for each stage. You will have two per stage, one for your upper teeth, and another for your lower teeth. Dr. Chen will determine the best length of time to wear your aligners, but typically aligners are worn for at least 20 hours a day, two weeks at a time. Then, you will move to the next stage in your series, wearing a new set of aligners. Repeating this process will cause continual, gradual movement of your teeth into the correct alignment.

Over the last several years, Invisalign has added two features to make aligners a more appropriate method of orthodontic treatment for teenagers. Invisalign created special “eruption tabs” which hold open an appropriate amount of space for molars that are still not fully grown in. Invisalign aligners for teenagers also come with built in “compliance indicators”, which fade from the material with wear. Now, teens, parents, and the dentist can rest assured trays are being worn as the dentist prescribed. Invisalign treatment is only successful if the trays are being worn correctly.

Caring for Your Teeth

We mentioned above that a primary advantage of Invisalign clear aligners is that the trays are removable, which aids in easy cleaning. Don’t neglect doing this! It is important to brush your teeth after every snack and meal so leftover food and plaque are not trapped in the aligners, which can cause tooth decay or gum disease. Your aligners will also need to be cleaned regularly. This can be done by brushing them when you brush your teeth, and then rinsing the trays with lukewarm water.

Additionally, keep in mind that although wearing Invisalign clear aligners is a different experience than wearing traditional braces, the importance of maintaining your results post-treatment is exactly the same. You will receive retainers upon completion of your orthodontic treatment, and it is vital that you wear these exactly as recommended by Dr. Chen, in order to protect your investment to a beautifully new smile.