Invisalign, named for the product’s look and function as invisible tooth aligners, is a system that has nearly replaced traditional braces by straightening teeth effectively using clear trays instead of metal wires. There are several reasons more people are choosing this option in orthodontics over braces. The aligners are clear and discreet, they can be removed without an orthodontic appointment, and they can yield faster results. Additionally, there are few food limitations for patients—Invisalign users can enjoy all the foods they love throughout the treatment process. As a cosmetic dentist, Dr. Marc Lazare, D.D.S., M.A.G.D. of New York, NY offers this custom treatment at his Upper East Side practice to patients who are looking for straighter teeth without the hassle of braces.
Why Fix Crooked Teeth?
In some cultures, unique characteristics of the teeth are not seen as problematic or unattractive. However, in the United States, a person’s teeth are viewed as a reflection of oral hygiene, social status, and care for one’s appearance. Even if the appearance of misaligned teeth does not bother a particular patient, there are associated dental health concerns. When the bite does not fit together properly, a patient is more prone to TMJ disorder (TMD), which can occur as the result of irregular wear patterns. Crooked teeth are also more difficult to properly care for. Overlapping dentition can trap plaque and prevent good flossing techniques.
The Benefits of Invisalign
If a patient is a candidate for Invisalign treatment, there are many advantages to wearing the alignment trays rather than having traditional braces placed. Young people hoping to avoid teasing from their peers and adults seeking a discreet, professional approach to straighter teeth will appreciate that the aligners are clear and don’t contain any wires. Plastic Invisalign aligners are removable, and can be safely snapped on or removed from the teeth as needed. Braces, on the other hand, are permanently fixed in place until the teeth have completed the full course of their movement. When it comes to eating habits, there are a number of foods that patients with braces should not eat, like sticky or chewy foods. Invisalign patients don’t have to adhere to the same restrictions, because the aligners can be removed. Caring for the teeth is also easier when there are no metal tracks impeding the movements of a toothbrush or the direction of dental floss.
The Invisalign correction system has been available to patients for over 30 years, and has been developed into a very efficient tooth-straightening option. Treatment times are up to 50% faster when patients opt to use Invisalign versus traditional braces. The process is also said to be less painful, and visits to Dr. Lazare’s office would potentially be less frequent than with other methods of orthodontics.
The Invisalign Process
The first step in the alignment process is to ensure the patient is in good dental health. Any tooth extractions or major procedures should be performed prior to custom-fit regimen. The patient should also have current X-rays on file. Next, a mold or digital scan will be taken of the patient’s teeth. The three-dimensional model will allow Dr. Lazare to visualize all aspects of the teeth as well as the bite. Dr. Lazare works with the patient to form a treatment plan, and will submit the model of the patient’s teeth to Invisalign, where the aligners will be created. Once the aligners have been received, Dr. Lazare can adhere the attachments (tooth colored buttons) to any teeth that require them. These tooth-colored fixtures are what the aligners resist against to correct the orientation and rotations of the teeth. At this point, treatment can proceed—patients must begin wearing the trays as directed by Dr. Lazare.
What to Expect During the Invisalign Process
Over the course of months, patients will wear a new aligner every week. The aligners begin as tight-fitting appliances, but by the end of the weekly correction period, they will fit well over the teeth. The teeth are projected to move about .25 millimeters during each new set of aligners, or the average thickness of a few pieces of paper. Braces-wearers generally need to visit their orthodontist once a month, but Invisalign patients will only need to schedule these visits usually every 4-8 weeks.
There may be some discomfort associated with the repositioning of the teeth, especially after a new treatment set is worn. Over-the-counter pain medications will reduce any sensations, and patients can eat soft foods to avoid placing additional pressure on the teeth. Invisalign will remain on the teeth for around 22 hours a day, and are generally only removed to eat, drink (aside from water) and brush the teeth. Invisalign patients must be prepared to brush their teeth after eating and drinking as the aligners can trap food and bacteria against the teeth, which would normally be flushed away by the saliva.
Invisalign works to straighten the teeth, but can also correct the bite. Through the use of buttons, or anchoring brackets, elastic bands can help to retrain the bite, just like in metal braces. By applying pressure to the jaws, elastics effectively guide them into a preferred placement.
Refinements in Invisalign
The final stage of Invisalign is the refinement process, where some patients undergo minor tweaks in the straightening process to achieve the desired results. When the patient has worn all the trays created for their unique orthodontic plan, they will have their bonded Invisalign features removed to submit a final mold for review. At this time, additional trays may be created to finalize the treatment.
Candidates for Invisalign
While a variety of cases can be fully improved through this alternative to traditional braces, there are some factors that can preclude people from becoming Invisalign patients. Certain types of movements are not possible through this tooth alignment method. If teeth are positioned too far into the gums, they cannot be moved vertically through Invisalign. While elastics can treat bite issues, if the back teeth are affected, correction is not easily achieved. Certain types of tooth rotations and existing dental fixtures may also require patients to pursue different orthodontic options. Invisalign may be best suited for minor to moderate changes, while more extensive corrections can be addressed with metal braces, or a combination of Invisalign and other orthodontic treatments.
FAQs about Invisalign
If you don’t wear your retainer you will run the risk of your teeth shifting back to their original position. The ligaments around the teeth have memory, and the more rotated your teeth were before, the more likely they will drift back without the proper retention. It is most important to wear your retainer for the first 6 months following orthodontic treatment, so that the bone around the teeth will have a better chance to fully fill in the areas around where the tooth was moved from. After this time it is recommended to continue wearing your retainers, unless you are told otherwise by your dentist or orthodontist. At the very least, you should try in your retainer every few days to make sure that it isn’t fitting too tight, signaling some drifting may be taking place. A permanent metal wire splinted to the inside of your front teeth can eliminate the need for the removable retainer, and help to maintain your straightened teeth if you are prone to being non-compliant.
Through a computerized process, patients are provided with aligners that fit over their upper and lower teeth. These clear, plastic shells are swapped out every two weeks. The aligners fit tightly at first, and work by resisting against the bumps that have been bonded to the teeth. Through a several months-long process, the teeth become uniformly aligned and the bite is corrected.
The Invisalign treatment system offers discreet correction in the form of clear overlay trays, creating an improved aesthetic when compared to traditional braces. Invisalign trays are also removable, allowing for more effective brushing and flossing. This newer treatment is said to be less painful, and can offer many fixes in about half the time required for braces. An added benefit is that patients with TMD will have barriers between their teeth to protect against further damage when clenching and grinding while asleep.
Aside from the few exceptions where Invisalign may not be the ideal treatment option, the results are comparable to braces.
While the Invisalign system shifts the teeth to their desired position, patients of both Invisalign and metal braces can experience regression after their full course of treatment. For this reason, a retainer can be permanently fixed to the back of the top and bottom teeth, or removable retainers can be worn at night. Results must be maintained for permanently improved teeth. It should be noted, however, that the bite may not require ongoing management.
To Dr. Lazare,
Thank you for always giving me the best dental work!
Meet Dr. Lazare – New York City’s Premier General and Cosmetic Dentist
Dr. Lazare is a renowned general and cosmetic dentist in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He specializes in oral health and enhancing the look of each patient’s smile. Aside from his regular duties as a dentist, Dr. Lazare remains current in the field of dental by past inventions of dental devices and dental apps, and learning about new technology for his practice. In his free time, Dr. Lazare runs a charity with his family, Kare2Share.org, aimed at providing creative outlets to New York City’s disadvantaged youth. With more than two decades of experience in dental medicine, Dr. Lazare is a trusted dentist in Manhattan and a respected member of the community.
Prospective patients can reach Dr. Lazare’s New York, NY office at 212-861-2599, or by email at [email protected]