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.
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.
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.