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Last updated date: 01-Jul-2023

Originally Written in English

The science behind a smile - Invisalign

     

    Why is it important to have straight, healthy teeth?

    It is well-known that most people desire straight teeth for their physical appearance, as it is conventional that a “perfect smile” is pearly white, symmetrical, and straight. Beyond looks, having straight teeth has multiple dental health benefits.

    Firstly, it is linked to overall health, as some dental diseases may lead to severe complications. For example, patients suffering from gum disease or gingivitis often experience inflammation of the gums as well. Lack of professional treatment of this inflammatory response may cause issues regarding cardiovascular health, as well as diabetes and stroke.

    Secondly, straight teeth make it easier for one to maintain good oral hygiene. Crooked teeth often involve a set of spaces where tiny particles of food remain even after brushing the teeth. Straightening the teeth is the best option for reducing and slowly eliminating those spaces. The existence of cavities typically leads to difficulties in brushing and flossing properly. As a result, an individual that finds it challenging is less likely to remain dedicated to repeating the process regularly.

    In addition to that, misaligned bites not only influence people’s opinions on physical appearance but may also have a strong impact on one’s health. Some of the effects include teeth grinding, tooth decay, gum disease, and jaw muscles pain. When not treated properly, these could lead to pain in certain body parts, such as shoulders, neck, and back, as well as headaches. Another effect of having a misaligned bite regards the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which are located close to the ears, controlling jaw movements. Development of TMD, the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint disorder involves symptoms such as difficulties in chewing and opening or closing the mouth and pain in this specific area. Moreover, when one’s bite isn’t aligned correctly, there’s a higher risk of the tongue being cut or nicked on the sides, leading to open sores that can easily get infected.

    Lastly, experiencing orthodontic problems may have multiple psychological effects. A person that is insecure about their teeth is more likely to avoid smiling and laughing, as they get very conscious about exposing themselves. This usually causes social anxiety, as they could partially isolate themselves due to the fear of being ridiculed by their friends and other people they interact with. They may avoid conversations, refusing to participate in any group or public activities. Being embarrassed by physical appearance is not an easy challenge to overcome, especially when the process of modifying that specific characteristic does not have instant results. Even though modern technology offers multiple methods for straightening one’s teeth, the process may take up to a few years, depending on the severity of one’s situation.

     

    What are some common causes of crooked teeth?

    There is no universal reason for having a misaligned smile, as the cause may differ from one individual to another. The most common causes include:

    • Genetics- some orthodontic issues tend to run in families: unusual jaw size and shape, hyperdontia (a condition characterized by having too many teeth), overbites, and underbites.
    • Poor oral hygiene- not following dental health professionals’ instructions regarding oral hygiene may cause a set of diseases affecting one’s teeth: they could loosen, shift or even fall out.
    • Thumb sucking- it is not uncommon for infants and children to regularly suck their fingers or certain toys, causing their mandible and maxilla to slowly shift over time.
    • Early baby tooth loss- losing baby teeth earlier than expected allows other teeth to shift into the certain space where a permanent tooth is supposed to grow.
    • Other causes of misaligned teeth include not getting the required amount of nutrients from one’s diet in the development stages or certain accidents such as injuries from sports activities. 

     

    What are the most common types of Crooked teeth?

    Crooked teeth

    • Overcrowding- the term refers to the overlapping of teeth due to a lack of space. It is the most common reason why adults require orthodontic treatment.
    • Overbite- it is defined as a vertical overlap of the bottom teeth by the upper ones, sometimes resulting in the front teeth biting down onto the gums.
    • Overjet- similar to an overbite, an overjet consists of an extension of the top teeth past the bottom teeth, but horizontally. This increases the risk of developing problems with speech and eating.
    • Crossbite- when the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones, front and back teeth may be affected. It is possible for this to happen on one or both sides of the jaw.
    • Anterior crossbite (also known as an underbite)- is a type of misaligned teeth characterized by upper teeth fitting inside of lower teeth.
    • Spacing- missing teeth, teeth that have a reduced size, or other factors may cause spacing between two or more teeth. The spacing between the two front teeth is generally known as a diastema.
    • Impacted tooth- the inability of a tooth to erupt through the gum properly is usually treated by removing the tooth or exposing it in order for a brace to fit.
    • Hypodontia- this condition consists of a developmental absence of one or more teeth.
    • Open bite- this happens when the front teeth do not overlap the lower ones. It is called an anterior open bite when it affects the front teeth.

    As previously mentioned, the rapid evolution of technology allowed modern dentistry to introduce a wide variety of options for straightening one’s teeth. Some of these include clear dental alignments and metallic, ceramic, and lingual braces.

     

    What is the Invisalign treatment and how does it work?

    As almost everyone wants to have a beautiful, healthy smile, more and more people opt for a modern orthodontic treatment: clear alignments. These are a set of tight-fitting customized mouthpieces designed to slip over the teeth in order to promote their movement. Invisalign is the most popular and largest producer of clear aligners, yet it is not the only brand. The clear tray aligners used in this form of braces are made of Invisalign’s own blend of plastic and designed based on the shape of each customer’s mouth. The solid material is strong enough to apply pressure on the specific teeth that need to be repositioned. Because of their appearance, people tend to confuse Invisalign aligners with retainers, even though they are actually considered braces, as they actively move teeth in order to shape the mouth and jaw. One of its advantages is that the clear appearance, almost invisible as its name suggests, can be very satisfying for patients.

    It is not uncommon for the process of straightening teeth using traditional braces to take a very long time, up to a few years. In comparison, Invisalign treatments usually take a few months to over a year on average, which is another one of its advantages. The required amount of time depends on the severity of the situation, and on how much the teeth need to be moved and rotated. The more crooked the teeth are, the longer it will take for them to straighten. A particular case is represented by adults that already had braces in childhood and are currently in need of a new treatment because their teeth have slowly shifted over the years. For them, as little as ten weeks could be enough to complete the process.

    The set of aligner trays used by Invisalign is typically replaced at least once every two weeks. Patients say each replacement tray feels different, as the movements of the teeth are a continuous process. Orthodontists recommend wearing the trays for as much time as possible in order to see results. Usually, the required amount of time is from 20 to 22 hours a day, offering the possibility of easily removing the trays for certain actions such as eating, brushing and flossing, as well as special occasions when patients would rather not wear them. Because some patients experience difficulties in taking the aligners out, the market offers an option for easing this process: removal tools. These are defined as mostly plastic devices that are designed to remove the aligner trays from the dental arches. As invisible aligners have become extremely popular, more and more brands started producing their removal tools in their own style. Some of the available options are elastic hooks and simple plastic hooks. Other tools include a chewy that is used for placing the aligner more easily.

    Consulting a medical professional is essential for approaching any type of dental issue. Once a dentist or orthodontist decides what method is the most appropriate for correcting one’s bite, they will develop a plan for moving the teeth. Invisible aligners are considered to be less precise than traditional braces, which is why some people may require other smaller adjustments at the end of the treatment.

     

    How much does Invisalign cost?

    Due to their invisible appearance, clear alignments tend to be more expensive than traditional braces. Typically, the prices are set by each individual dentist or orthodontist, ranging between $5,000 and $6,000.

    However, most orthodontic treatments require wearing retainers at the end of the process in order to maintain the appropriate position of the teeth. Different options for retainers are available, as they can be either removable or cemented to the teeth. Considering this, aftercare costs may vary between $100 and $500 for each retainer. It is important to follow the orthodontist’s advice, as they usually recommend wearing the retainer daily for a certain amount of time or only at night during sleep. If the instructions are accordingly followed, adults who complete the process shouldn’t require any other orthodontic treatment afterward because the size and other characteristics of their mouth won’t modify as much as a child’s.

     

    Is Invisalign treatment covered by insurance?

    There are many dental insurance plans that cover the modern Invisalign treatment as they cover braces, at least up to a certain percentage or dollar amount. As every health or dental insurance plan is different, more details can be found in the benefits package for orthodontic treatment. Moreover, each dental health professional may accept only certain insurance plans, meaning that it is best to specifically ask while booking the consultation.

     

    Is Invisalign treatment a painful process?

    Invisalign treatment

    Generally, the Invisalign treatment is not designed to be painful, yet it can leave one’s teeth feeling sore. Like any other orthodontic process, the teeth may feel uncomfortable due to the pressure that is applied. The level of soreness and discomfort depends on the sensitivity of each patient.

    This effect usually lasts for a few days once a new aligner is put in, which happens every two weeks. Fortunately, it is common for patients to get used to the sensation they first described as uncomfortable and the soreness slowly subsides.  These are a few tips for reducing the soreness more quickly:

    • Wearing the Invisalign aligner as much as possible

    Other than eating, drinking anything other than room-temperature water, and cleaning the teeth, there should be no other reason to remove the aligner. Wearing it as much as possible makes it easier to get used to the sensation and helps results to occur more quickly.

    • Sucking on ice cubes and drinking cold water

    When the feeling becomes truly uncomfortable, cold water may be a great pain reliever, as it helps soothe sore teeth. Small ice cubes might also help but is important not to bite down on them. 

    • Putting a new Invisalign aligner in right before bedtime

    Since new aligners cause higher discomfort levels, putting them in before going to sleep may help accommodate the sensation in the first few hours, while the body is not fully aware of the soreness.

    • Eating soft foods for a few days after starting a new aligner

    The soreness levels do not decrease when the patient takes off the aligner in order to eat or drink. It is recommended to pay attention to what type of food they eat in the first few days, as they might experience issues regarding chewing more solid foods. Even though there are no dietary restrictions while getting an Invisalign treatment, crunchy or hard foods should be consumed when the teeth are no longer extremely sensitive.

    • Pain relievers

    In extreme situations, when the effects are surprisingly strong and no other method works, it is okay to take over-the-counter pain relievers, but only if it is 100% necessary. Most patients do not have to, as they describe the pain as being manageable.

    As mentioned above, these symptoms are supposed to be only temporary. When unusually long-lasting discomfort is experienced during Invisalign treatment it is best to consult a professional that can provide another solution for pain relief.

     

    How to clean invisible aligners?

    Maintaining overall good oral hygiene is essential for one’s dental health. As clear alignments are designed to be removed regularly, it is important to keep them clean as well. Invisalign cleaning crystals are designed to ease the process of cleaning the aligners in good, sanitary conditions. The process consists in dissolving the crystals in water and soaking the aligners for 15 minutes to half an hour. The crystals work by killing the bacteria that causes plaque to grow on one’s teeth and aligners. Invisalign cleaning crystals can be found in orthodontists’ offices, but they are also available online.

     

    Is Invisalign a good fit for everyone?

    Clear alignments

    It is important to remember that clear alignments aren’t the best option for everyone. While developing a plan, only a specialist in dental health can decide the most appropriate method for straightening a patient’s teeth. In order to make the right decision, a dentist or orthodontist needs to look at one’s smile, consider the overall oral health and take impressions of the mouth. Invisible aligners are customized for a tight fit, therefore they are not the best option for children because their mouths are still growing and developing. As a result, the Invisalign treatment is best for adults and teenagers.

    In addition to that, invisible aligners are generally used for people that only have moderately crowded teeth or minor spacing problems. For more severe situations, underbites, overbites, or crossbites it is necessary to approach a more complex treatment.

     

    Invisalign alternatives- “In-Office” vs. “At-Home” clear alignments

    Some brands offer another option for fixing mild to moderate dental misalignments: at-home treatments. As the name suggests, the main difference is that regular office visits are no longer a requirement for the process, making it more affordable and convenient for some patients. However, since elastics or other attachments are not included in the treatment plan, at-home aligners are not as effective as in-office ones. They could be a very good alternative, especially when the dental situation is not severe.

    The largest and most popular producer of this type of aligner is SmileDirectClub, Invisalign’s rival on the market. Compared to Invisalign, one of its advantages is that it is less expensive, and its price tag is around $2,000. They also offer nighttime aligners that are only supposed to be worn during sleep, making it more comfortable for patients. The procedure is also very simple: they offer at-home impression kits, meaning that no consultation is required. People can simply make a mold of their mouths at home, send it to Smile Direct Club and then receive the customized aligner in the mail. It is a very good solution for someone that has an intense fear of dentists, but as mentioned above, the results may not be as precise as the ones with Invisalign treatment.  They are also very limited considering the cases they can actually treat, only being useful in mild cases of crowding and spacing.

     

    Invisalign vs traditional braces

    Invisalign vs traditional braces

    The physical appearance of traditional braces is not the only reason why choosing a clear alignment may be better. As they can easily be removed, invisible aligners help maintain good overall oral health, making it easier to brush and floss. As previously mentioned, braces are more effective in cases of severe and more complex orthodontic cases.

    Professionals say that braces are the most powerful treatment method for the process of moving teeth into the desired position, regardless of the difficulty of the case. Compared to Invisalign treatments, traditional braces have a higher chance of success, as it is a more precise procedure and it is possible to achieve perfect results. Moreover, modern dentistry offers a few options in case patients desire less noticeable braces, making it possible to benefit from the power of braces without concerning about their aspects.

    • Metal braces- they are the most common orthodontic treatment worldwide, being more suitable for children and adolescents compared to Invisalign. The braces applied to the teeth are connected with a wire using elastic ties that come in different colors. Consultations are required every four to eight weeks, as the orthodontist needs to make adjustments in order to move the teeth to the correct position.
    • Ceramic braces- they are very similar to metal braces, working the exact same way. The difference consists in the color of the braces- in ceramic braces, they are less visible, being made of clear, tooth-colored material. They are a more discreet and affordable alternative for metal braces.
    • Lingual braces- they are considered to be the least common orthodontic method available on the market, as not all orthodontists are trained to do them. However, the procedure is more complex than in other types of braces and presents advantages that others do not. Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth, being completely invisible. Moreover, they are more effective than Invisalign treatments, being able to correct all types of misalignments, no matter their severity. This being said, lingual braces may be the best option for one that doesn’t want noticeable braces and cannot opt for clear alignments, as their situation is more complex. Since they are placed behind the teeth, they could affect one’s speaking ability and cause irritation to the tongue. These symptoms are only temporary, typically going away after a few weeks from the appliance of the braces, when the mouth gets accustomed to the new sensation.

     

    Conclusion 

    When evaluating orthodontic treatments for yourself or a loved one, it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. Before your smile transformation, you'll want to understand exactly what Invisalign is, what it's made of, how it works, and how long the process of treatment will take. Invisalign has taken the orthodontic world by storm and is available in several different options to fit each patient's needs. This patented treatment is a great alternative for patients who aren't allowed to use metal braces or choose not to wear their traditional aligners during every waking hour. This treatment also moves teeth faster than traditional methods and encourages patients to continue wearing their aligners longer. Best of all, Invisalign is virtually invisible, so you can smile all the way—without anyone knowing you're straightening your teeth.