By wearing the aligners 20 to 22 hours a day—whenever you’re not eating—the teeth gradually move to a desired position. Each aligner in the series is designed to move the teeth about 0.25 to 0.3 mm every two weeks, at which time the aligners are replaced with a slightly different set, making the movement of the teeth comfortable and unforced.
Invisalign aligners are made of a strong, thin, non-toxic, medical grade plastic. Three dimensional computer imaging software is used to design each set of aligners, based on a pre-agreed treatment plan.
Invisalign orthodontic aligners are designed, manufactured and marketed by Align Technology Inc., a medical device company based in California, which started commercial sales in 1998. As of October 2011, nearly 68,000 orthodontists worldwide have received formal training in Invisalign treatments.
Since Invisalign was launched in Australia in 2002, more than 1,000 orthodontists in Australia and New Zealand have been accredited in its use. Accreditation is granted only after special training has been completed that covers suitability assessments on prospective patients, familiarity with technological aspects of the aligners and the ability to design tailored treatment plans.
More than 1,650,000 patients in over 50 countries have had an Invisalign treatment since 1998.
People choose an Invisalign treatment plan to straighten their teeth for a number of reasons:
You are a good candidate for Invisalign if:
Invisalign may be suitable for anyone over the age of 14, as long as their second molars have fully grown. This usually happens at 12 years of age.
Some dental conditions and other factors can make Invisalign unsuitable.
Invisalign is not suitable for:
Tell your orthodontist about any attachments, such as crowns, bonded to your teeth.
Bridges are used to link two or more teeth firmly together and can create a significant level of resistance to the tooth movement necessary with an Invisalign treatment. Check with your orthodontist as to whether your bridges will be a factor in an Invisalign treatment.
Some people with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) may have problems wearing Invisalign aligners. Ask your orthodontist whether your TMJ issues are likely to cause problems with the Invisalign treatment.
If your premolars have been removed recently or will be extracted soon, you are not a suitable candidate for Invisalign, because the aligners cannot keep the teeth upright without their support.
Your orthodontist is the best judge of whether an Invisalign treatment is right for you, and what level of correction can be achieved with the treatment.
After an initial consultation, your orthodontist will establish whether or not you will benefit from an Invisalign treatment plan. After this has been decided, you need to discuss what you can expect your teeth to look like after the treatment has been completed. If the outcome you expect can be achieved, and if your orthodontist deems you suitable for treatment, X-ray photos and moulds of your teeth will be taken to create 3D models of your mouth and teeth. This information is sent to Align Technology Inc. in the U.S.A. where a treatment plan is designed, and aligners are made to suit your specific needs. This process usually takes about six weeks.
Once your aligners arrive, the treatment can begin. Usually, a six-week appointment is made with the orthodontist to check that the treatment plan is on track.
At the start of every new set of aligners, your teeth will probably feel sensitive and your gums may be sore. You will feel some level of discomfort for a few days, but it is temporary and generally mild in comparison to the potential discomfort experienced with regular braces. The pressure and resulting discomfort is an indication that the aligners are doing their job in moving your teeth to the desired position.
As with other orthodontic devices, wearing your aligners may affect your speech. Some people even develop a slight lisp. These effects are temporary and will disappear when your tongue becomes used to the presence of aligners in your mouth.
No preparation is required before you begin Invisalign treatment. You do, however, need to be committed and fully compliant during the treatment period.
Here’s what you need to do to ensure success in the treatment plan:
The results of treatment vary from person to person. Some people will need a positioner or conventional retainer to keep their teeth in place permanently. Others might have to wear a clear plastic retainer at night for some time after the treatment. You should talk with your orthodontist about what you can expect after treatment.
It is unlikely, but there may be disruptions in treatment due to various reasons, and your teeth may not respond as expected. Tooth decay, gum disease, extractions and other unanticipated events can lead to a less-than-desired outcome.
There are no significant risks involved as long as you follow your orthodontist’s instructions during the entire treatment period.
Here are some things that you need to be aware of before you decide to have Invisalign:
Always go with an Invisalign accredited dentist or orthodontist for your treatment. The difference between a dentist and orthodontist is that orthodontists receive three years of additional training after becoming a dentist. If they are Invisalign accredited, they have undergone special training in the use of Invisalign.
Once accredited, there are designations such as Platinum Elite and Platinum, based on the number of patients treated using the system.
The cost of treatment depends on the complexity of the correction needed and the fees charged by the prescribing orthodontist or dentist.
The average cost of an Invisalign treatment plan ranges between $6,000 and $8,500 (AUD). Many orthodontists offer flexible and affordable monthly payment plans. Interest free options may also be available.
Most insurance policies that have orthodontic coverage will usually cover Invisalign to the same extent that they cover conventional braces. However, the medical benefits differ from policy to policy, so it is best to check coverage with your health fund.
You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined orthodontic treatments at the same time.
This information is correct as of 2017.