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Invisalign Guide: 9 Steps to Confidently Straighten Your Smile

The demand for discreet orthodontic solutions has become significant in recent years as individuals of all ages aim to perfect their smiles without the conspicuous appearance of traditional metal braces.

Among the orthodontic treatment options, Invisalign has surged in popularity, touting a virtually invisible method that appeals to adults and teenagers alike. Invisalign treatment doesn’t intrude on the patient’s appearance or lifestyle. It signifies the evolving nature of dental technology and the rising standard for aesthetic and comfortable dental care.

What is Invisalign?

Free photo portrait of beautiful patient holding Invisalign aligners in dental clinic

Invisalign is a clear aligner used in orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth and treat various dental issues, including crowding, spacing and mild to complex cases. The aligners are made from a flexible thermoplastic material designed to make orthodontic treatment less conspicuous. 

Invisalign treatment involves wearing clear, removable aligners that gradually shift teeth into their proper place. The aligners are custom-made plastic trays based on a 3D scan of the patient’s mouth and jaw. 

Invisalign works by wearing each aligner daily for about 20 to 22 hours, removing them only for eating, brushing, and flossing. The aligners are replaced every one to two weeks, with each new aligner applying slightly more pressure to continue to shift teeth.

Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign aligners are more comfortable and virtually invisible. It can adapt to meet a patient’s ever-changing orthodontic needs, including baby teeth, from age six and up.

Pros and Cons

Invisalign clear aligners provide the advantage of being nearly invisible and removable and can also treat complex orthodontic problems. However, it requires dedication and can affect speech initially.

To understand more about the advantages and disadvantages of an Invisalign system, here is a table:

Advantages of Invisalign Disadvantages of Invisalign
Nearly invisble, making them less noticeable than traditional braces. Must be worn 20-22 hours per day, requiring discipline and self-motivation
Removable, allowing for easier cleaning and no dietary restrictions. Speech may be affected initially and speaking with aligners takes practice.
Shorter treatment time compared to traditional braces. May require enamel-coloured attachments in some cases.
Can treat complex cases. Invisalign aligners must be taken out for eating, drinking, and cleaning, which can be inconvenient.
 

Differences between Braces and Invisalign

Braces and Invisalign are orthodontic treatments used to straighten teeth, but they differ in visibility, maintenance, and treatment duration. 

Traditional braces consist of metal brackets and wires attached to the teeth, while Invisalign uses clear aligners that are custom-made for each patient. Braces are more effective in moving teeth into the desired position as they are fixed into the teeth, while Invisalign is removable and requires discipline as it needs to be worn for 20 to 22 hours a day.

Braces require more maintenance, such as frequent brushing and flossing, and certain foods must be avoided. On the other hand, Invisalign is removable and allows for easier maintenance but requires discipline to wear the aligners for at least 22 hours per day. The treatment duration for braces is typically longer than Invisalign, which can take 6-24 months, depending on the case’s complexity. 

The cost of both treatments can be similar, and insurance coverage may vary. Ultimately, the choice between braces and Invisalign depends on the individual’s orthodontic problem, lifestyle, and personal preference. A comparison table of the pros and cons between Invisalign and braces is provided below:

Treatment Pros Cons
Braces Effective for complex cases, can achieve better results, multiple types to choose from More visible, discomfort and pressure, requires more maintenance, certain foods must be avoided.
Invisalign Virtual invisible, removable, less maintenance, comfortable Limited in how much teeth can be moved, requires discipline to wear aligners for at least 22 hours per day, may require attachments, may not be suitable for complex cases
 

Types

Invisalign offers a range of treatment options tailored to different needs and levels of orthodontic issues. Each type of Invisalign aligner addresses specific concerns and provides a discreet and comfortable alternative to traditional braces.

Invisalign Express

Invisalign Express is ideal for mild tooth crowding, spacing, or orthodontic relapse. It uses ten aligners and can take as little as three months to complete.

Invisalign i7

Invisalign i7 is designed for minor corrections, such as orthodontic relapses, mild crowding, or spacing issues. It uses up to 7 aligners and can take as little as three weeks to complete.

Invisalign Lite

Invisalign Lite is suitable for mild to moderate orthodontic issues, such as overcrowding or alignment problems, which use up to 14 aligners and can take as little as six months to complete.

Invisalign Full

Invisalign full is the most popular Invisalign treatment used for moderate to severe orthodontic issues. It uses up to 48 aligners and can take as little as 12 months to complete, which provides a noticeable difference in the alignment of teeth.

Invisalign Teen

Invisalign Teen is designed for adolescent patients who want to straighten their teeth discreetly. It includes indicator dots to notify the wearer of when to change the aligner.

Invisalign Teen can take up to 12 months to complete.

The Invisalign Journey

The journey of undergoing the Invisalign system includes consultation, creating a customised treatment plan, wearing and maintaining oral hygiene and aftercare. Let’s discuss each step of the Invisalign treatment process.

1. Consultation

During the initial appointment, a dentist will assess whether Invisalign is suitable for you. They will take x-rays and discuss your treatment goals. The dentist’s expertise is important in this step, as a thorough evaluation will inform the effectiveness and customisation of your treatment plan.

2. Intraoral Scanning

Instead of traditional putty impressions, Invisalign uses 3D intraoral scanning technology to create a complete 3D impression of teeth.

3. Clincheck Development

With your x-rays and 3D scans, a customised treatment plan is developed. The Clincheck software allows you to see the predicted results of each aligner, the number of aligners required, and the estimated duration of treatment. It will be discussed with you by your dentist.

4. Receiving Aligners

Free photo two Invisalign aligners and a box for it

You will receive your first set of aligners, which are clear, removable trays that gradually shift your teeth into place. During initial fittings, small adjustments may be made to achieve the perfect fit. Your dentist will advise you of the exact wear time per day when to expect it, and how to handle any adjustments.

5. Wearing Aligners

Wear your aligners for at least 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, brush, and floss. Learn how to put on and remove aligners properly.

You may experience discomfort, speech difficulties, and adaptation to wearing aligners. Consume soft foods and practice speaking exercises.

6. Tracking Progress

Regular appointments at the dental clinic will track the progress of your treatment. These sessions are important for ensuring your teeth are moving as planned, and adjustments can be made to the treatment plan if necessary.

7. Replacing Aligners

As your teeth gradually shift, you’ll transition through different sets of aligners. Each set is worn for about one to two weeks, and sticking to the schedule is vital for the progression of your treatment.

8. Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Maintaining oral hygiene while wearing Invisalign aligners is crucial to prevent bacteria buildup, staining, and unpleasant odours. Here are some tips for effective cleaning with aligners and proper oral hygiene practices:

Daily oral hygiene

Brush your teeth before placing aligners in and after every meal. Brush at a 45-degree angle to your gum line to reach hard-to-reach spots. Floss regularly to remove any food debris from between your teeth that may be trapped by the aligners. Rinse your mouth with water after eating if you can’t brush immediately.

Cleaning aligners

Clean your aligners gently with lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush to prevent plaque and bacteria buildup. Avoid using abrasive toothpaste, scented or coloured soaps, denture cleaners, mouthwash, hot water, or a dishwasher to clean your aligners.

Keeping aligners safe

Keep your aligners in their protective case when you’re not wearing or cleaning them. Don’t eat or drink anything (except plain water) while wearing your aligners. Don’t store your aligners where it’s warm or humid, which can increase levels of bacteria.

9. Completing Treatment

Free photo young arab man with beard holding Invisalign, smiling happy and positive, thumb up doing excellent and approval sign

Once the final set of aligners has been successfully worn, you will have a completion appointment. During this visit, your dentist will ensure that the treatment goals have been met and that you are satisfied with your new smile. Post-treatment records such as x-rays or digital scans may be taken to compare with pre-treatment records and to document the success of the Invisalign system.

10. Aftercare and Retainers

Upon the completion of your Invisalign treatment, aftercare is critical to ensure that your teeth do not revert to their former position. This phase typically involves wearing retainers as prescribed by your dentist.

Initially, you might need to wear them full-time, and eventually, you may transition to wearing them only at night. The precision and dedication with which you adhere to your retainer schedule are paramount for maintaining your teeth’s new alignment over the long term.

FAQ

Is Invisalign painful?

Invisalign can cause mild pain and discomfort, particularly when first wearing new aligners or during the initial stages of treatment. This pain is typically described as pressure or tenderness around the teeth and jaw. 

The pain is a sign that the aligners are working to move the teeth into their desired positions. Most patients experience pain that lasts 1-3 days after wearing a new aligner.

Will Invisalign hurt?

Invisalign aligners may cause some discomfort when first placed or when changing to a new set, but this is normal and should not disrupt daily routine.

How long will treatment last?

Treatment duration varies depending on the case complexity and can take about one year for most patients.

Can I travel with Invisalign?

Yes, you can travel with Invisalign. Just remember to keep your aligners in their case and follow the recommended wear time.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Invisalign is safe and does not consist of metal wires and brackets, making it compatible with mouth tissue and teeth.

Is there any diet restriction with Invisalign?

No, Invisalign does not restrict your diet, as you can remove the aligners when eating or drinking.

How much does Invisalign cost?

Invisalign treatment cost varies depending on factors like the length and complexity of your case and your insurance coverage.

Will Invisalign work as well for severe cases as it does for mild to moderate cases?

Invisalign can be effective for a wide range of cases, but severe cases may require additional treatments or traditional braces.

Will Invisalign affect my speech?

Some patients may experience temporary changes in speech when first wearing Invisalign aligners, but this typically improves with time.

Conclusion

Invisalign treatment is designed to straighten teeth discreetly and comfortably with clear, removable aligners. While it comes with mild discomfort, particularly during the initial stages, this is a sign of progress, with pain lasting only a few days after a new aligner is worn.

The treatment’s duration varies but generally takes around a year for many patients. Patients can maintain their regular diet and travel easily with the aligners.

Oral hygiene is paramount during treatment to ensure the effectiveness and health of the teeth and gums. A commitment to wearing retainers as prescribed post-treatment is essential to maintain the new alignment long-term.

Each patient’s journey with Invisalign is unique, and a thorough evaluation with a dental professional is imperative to ascertain the best treatment plan for achieving straighter teeth and a perfect smile.

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