If you’d like to straighten crooked teeth, correct gaps in the teeth or solve overcrowding, underbite or crossbite problems then Invisalign aligners could be an option. Here we guide you through the process and stages involved, advantages and alternatives to Invisalign aligners.
What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is an option for teeth straightening through a clear, almost invisible bracket worn over teeth. A mould of the teeth is made but slightly straighter than the teeth so once worn, it puts pressure on the teeth to draw them into a straighter position.
The aligners are changed every two weeks, helping teeth get straighter each time. The big advantage of Invisalign is that it offers patients orthodontic treatment without the embarrassment that can sometimes come with visible braces.
Who can wear Invisalign?
Invisalign can be an option for most people seeking orthodontic treatment. It can help correct gaps, overcrowding, underbites, overbites and crossbites. For more extreme cases such as when a tooth needs removing, there are other more suitable treatments like wire braces.
What are the options?
There are several options. The most popular one is the standard Invisalign treatment which involves wearing several different aligners for about a year. This is best for people who need large realignment work that will take longer to rectify.
The second option is Invisalign Express, which is a much faster option lasting between five and six months. This is generally good for patients with a smaller amount of straightening work required and can cost a lot less as fewer aligners are needed.
Another option is Invisalign Teen, which is aimed at teenagers as an alternative to the traditional brace. Invisalign Teen is similar to the regular treatment but takes into account the likelihood of loss or damage so replacements are made to safeguard against this. Another difference is that the aligners have a coloured tab at the back which gradually changes colour when the aligner is worn so it is easier to tell when it has done its job and needs to be replaced.
What are the alternatives?
There are now many alternatives to Invisalign, the main one being a regular brace, this offers the same results and can be more effective and it does not carry the risk of loss as it can not be easily removed. The disadvantage of a regular wire brace is that it is highly visible and many people are put off by this.
Another, less visible alternative is the Inman aligner, this can be used to straighten frontal teeth (top or bottom) through a coiled spring behind the teeth, drawing in a wire at the front and back of the teeth. This slowly squeezes teeth into position. The Inman aligner is less visible than a regular brace as there is only single wire visible across the front teeth.
ClearStep is another alternative treatment which is very similar to Invisalign but attempts to improve the treatment through regular visits to the dentist when new moulds of the teeth are made, making the treatment more specific.
Other alternatives to consider include cosmetic dental treatments such as veneers. These can be fitted to teeth to fill gaps or make them look less crooked or out of place; the advantage of such treatment is the instant results.
What is the procedure?
Once you have consulted with your dentist and Invisalign is chosen as the best treatment, the first stage is to take a mould of the teeth, this is done using a special dental putty, x-rays and photographs can also be taken of the teeth to build a better picture of the shape and angle of your teeth.
A CT scanner is also used to get a three dimensional image of the teeth and a special software is then used to produce a simulation of each stage, showing you and your dentist what the teeth will look like during and after treatment and how long it should take. The simulation, mould and pictures of your teeth are then sent off to a dental lab where a skilled technician produces a set of aligners.
The aligners are then sent back to your dentist who will instruct you on how to use them; regular check-ups will ensure your treatment is going to plan.
How long does the treatment take?
The treatment time can vary greatly with the amount of realigning required and how dedicated the patient is to wearing the aligner for 20 to 22 hours a day. Invisalign Express can be complete in around five or six months. A regular treatment for more crooked teeth can last longer – somewhere between six and 18 months with several aligners used.
How long does it last?
The effects of the treatment should last a lifetime as long as it is done correctly and a retainer is used after treatment to maintain the shape and angle of the teeth.
Are there any side effects?
There are no notable side effects for the treatment although there can sometimes be a little discomfort when the aligner is first worn, this does not usually last and the treatment is a comfortable one.
How much does it cost?
The cost of the treatment varies depending on the length of treatment, the number of aligners required and the dentist chosen to do the work. Typically treatment price starts from around £3,000 but can be in excess of £6,000.