What Are “Clear Braces” Systems Like Invisalign?
Invisalign and other clear-aligner treatments are orthodontic devices that, like braces, help to straighten teeth and correct bite patterns over time. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign employs transparent plastic trays (similar to athletic mouthguards) that fit snugly over the teeth.
How Do They Work?
The process begins with a checkup and consultation to determine if you’re a good candidate for Invisalign or similar clear aligner system. After you have been confirmed as a good candidate, the doctor will digitally scan your teeth and custom fit you for a series of clear, BPA-free plastic aligners. At the next appointment, you will receive your first batch of trays. Your doctor will ensure a proper fit, answer any questions you have, and let you know what to expect going forward. From there, you will have to wear your aligners between 20 and 22 hours per day. As you wear the trays and swap them out for a new set every two weeks, your teeth will gradually shift into the correct, straighter position over time. While aligners alone are sufficient in most cases, some patients might need to have raised “buttons” attached to the surface of teeth to help provide extra traction for teeth to shift. Throughout the treatment, you will have to return to the dentist’s office about once every six to eight weeks to have your progress evaluated and received the new sets of aligners you’ll be using until the following appointment.
How Do I Care for My Teeth During Clear Aligner Treatment?
As mentioned, your aligners need to be worn for at least 20 hours each day; really, the only times they should be removed are when you’re eating, drinking hot beverages (the heat can warp the shape of the trays), or brushing your teeth. Since the plastic aligners completely cover your teeth, it’s very important that you brush your teeth after each meal or snack to make sure that there isn’t any food trapped against them. Even after a clear aligner treatment is completed, most patients will have to continue to wear a nighttime retainer to maintain the results they’ve achieved.
What Are the Advantages of Clear Aligners Versus Traditional Braces?
In addition to the benefit of straighter teeth that all orthodontic devices can deliver, there are several significant advantages that clear aligners have over traditional braces:
- Plastic aligners are a transparent orthodontic device that’s almost imperceptible.
- Removable trays allow you to continue to eat all of your favorite foods during treatment.
- Smooth plastic of aligners allows you to continue to be active in all the sports you love without worry of cuts and other injury to the inside of the mouth.
- Aligners mean you’ll never have to deal with broken brackets or wires, so you can avoid emergency appointments altogether.
- Removable trays allow you to keep brushing and flossing as you normally do throughout the treatment process.
What Kinds of Tooth and Bite Issues Can Be Corrected with Clear Aligners?
Beyond the normal straightening of crooked teeth, Invisalign and other clear aligners can help correct a number of issues:
- Open bite
- Gaps in the teeth
- Mix of baby & permanent teeth
Until fairly recently, metal braces were almost always superior to clear aligners when it came to handling these orthodontic issues. However, Invisalign and other companies have continued to innovate and produce technology that now delivers results that are comparable to metal braces.
How Long Do Clear Aligners Take to Straighten Teeth and Correct Bite Issues?
The length of time required to completely achieve a person’s orthodontic goals with Invisalign or similar clear aligners is – as is the case with metal braces – going to vary a great deal depending on the particular issues being addressed. Some individuals’ teeth can be completely straightened in as short as six months. For certain issues, like overcrowding, the treatment can take 24 months or longer. As a fairly broad rule, most clear aligner treatments take between 9 and 18 months to complete.
How Much Do Clear Aligner Treatments Cost?
As with treatment time for clear braces, treatment cost will likewise vary considerably depending on your particular circumstances. The major factors affecting the cost to you include your oral health, how much orthodontic work needs to be done, where you live, and how much your insurance will cover. Without factoring in any coverage from insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from about $3,500 to around $8,000 for Invisalign or a similar clear aligner treatment — the average cost is a little over $5,000. Compare those numbers to the $3,000 to $7,000 most people pay for metal braces, with a similar average cost of $5,000.
Where Can I Learn More?
Here are some websites that contain a wealth of information about clear braces: