A 2019 study found that 1 in 2 British adults don’t like smiling because of their teeth.
The survey found that teeth are a big source of anxiety. In a list of stress factors, teeth came in third, behind finances and relationships.
Good oral health depends on a number of factors but if you’re unhappy with the alignment of your teeth, the likelihood is that you’ve considered having braces, like Invisalign, before. Over the last two decades, Invisalign aligners (also called Invisalign braces) have become increasingly popular with adults looking to straighten their teeth discreetly.
In this post, we’ll answer the most common questions about Invisalign and help you to determine whether they’re the right solution for your teeth troubles.
What Is Invisalign?
Invisalign is a type of clear removable aligner that gradually straightens your teeth. Unlike more traditional metal braces, Invisalign is made of clear plastic and is nearly invisible. The transparent appearance of Invisalign makes it an attractive teeth-straightening option for adults – who tend to prefer modifying their teeth more discreetly.
How does it work?
Invisalign straightens teeth by using a series of clear, removable aligners (trays) which you change every one to two weeks. Each aligner is slightly different to the last, allowing your teeth to slowly, and steadily, move towards their desired final position.
Though many people choose braces primarily to straighten their teeth, Invisalign is also versatile enough to fix a range of bite issues (malocclusions) through the use of Invisalign attachments.
Invisalign attachments are small tooth-coloured dots that are bonded to teeth. They act as an anchor that helps the aligner grip and move the tooth more effectively. Not all Invisalign treatments require these attachments, it depends on the starting position and projected position of your teeth.
How much does it cost?
In the UK, the cost of Invisalign tends to be between £1,500 and £5,000. The cost is based on a number of factors, including:
The severity of your case and whether you need both upper and lower teeth adjusted
The anticipated duration of your treatment
The experience of your dental practitioner
Orthodontic treatment is available on the NHS at no cost if you’re under 18. However, NHS braces are metal, so Invisalign and other clear brace alternatives are only available privately.
How long does it take?
Treatment time varies but it typically takes between six months (for minor adjustments) and a few years (for more complex cases). On average, most cases are completed within one year.
The duration of your treatment will also depend upon how compliant you are with wearing your aligners. It’s recommended that you aim to wear your aligners for around 22 hours per day. Any less than this, will likely extend your treatment time.
To help ensure compliance, Invisalign introduced a blue dot “compliance indicator” to the aligners a few years ago. Now, aligners have blue dots which slowly fade as the aligners are worn. If the blue dots are still visible before swapping to the next aligne, then your dental provider will know that they haven’t been worn for long enough.
How Inconvenient Is Invisalign?
There’s a reason why parents often prefer to give their children fixed braces, Invisalign requires a certain amount of discipline and commitment both during and after treatment.
The commitment doesn’t end as soon as your teeth are in the perfect position either. Teeth can be stubborn! After treatment, be prepared to wear a retainer at night to ensure that they don’t slowly move back.
Eating and drinking
Invisalign has the advantage of being inconspicuous, but it lacks convenience when it comes to food and drink. Eating with your Invisalign isn’t allowed. And drinking anything besides water is a big no-no.
You’ll need to floss and brush your teeth before each and every time you put your aligners in, and regularly clean your aligners to keep them clear and prevent buildup.
Smoking or vaping?
Smoking, vaping, shisha, etc., are off the table when your aligners are in. (If you’ve been thinking of quitting for a while, Invisalign could be the motivation you need here!)
Keeping aligners clean
To keep your aligners clean, we recommend brushing them gently with a manual toothbrush after eating anything or drinking anything except water.
For a deeper clean, you can use aligner cleaning tablets. It can be tempting to clean your aligners with an electric toothbrush but this can be too abrasive.
How noticeable is it?
Invisalign is the preferred tooth-movement option for adults primarily because they are the least noticeable type of brace. However, these aligners are slightly more noticeable if you have attachments, or if there is a gap (“halo”) between the teeth and the aligner. In the case of the latter, you should consult with your orthodontist to ensure that all of your teeth are tracking properly.
If your teeth have visible gaps the size of a tooth, we can ask Invisalign to digitally add a tooth shape in the aligners. We can paint it in the clinic or fill it with a tooth-coloured filling so it doesn’t show a tooth is missing.
Will my teeth hurt all the time?
Each time you start wearing a new set of aligners, you’ll usually feel a slight pain or pressure for the first days. This is totally normal and shows that they’re working. After a few days, the discomfort will subside as the teeth begin to settle. The first few hours are usually the most painful so we recommend swapping aligners before going to bed so that you’re less conscious of this.
What Are the Alternatives to Invisalign Braces?
Invisalign has been around since the late 90s and it’s revolutionised orthodontic treatment. Before Invisalign, metal braces and other less attractive alternatives were the only tangible options for people wanting to overhaul their smiles. Because of their prominence, metal braces were mostly seen as an option for children and teens; adults tended to shy away from orthodontic treatment.
Invisalign aligners have inspired the creation of similar products that prioritise aesthetics:
Ceramic braces: Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces, but they use clear or tooth-colored brackets instead of metallic brackets. They’re less noticeable than metal braces but not quite as discreet as Invisalign.
Other clear braces: Since some of Invisalign’s patents expired in 2017, various competitors have emerged offering clear brace alternatives. This is great news for consumers. Dental providers have started to offer more competitive pricing. Clear braces aren’t necessarily slower than metal or ceramic braces but it will depend on the complexity of your case.
Damon braces: Damon braces use a unique type of technology to optimise the straightening process. Traditional archwires are replaced with lighter, shape-memory, self-ligating wires that need no tightening. There are no elastics, no ties, and no palate expanders. The Damon system reduces the amount of friction each tooth experiences by incorporating a sliding mechanism
With new technologies now available, dental providers can monitor many aspects of your orthodontic progress remotely, saving you a few trips to the dentist.
What Problems Can Be Treated with Invisalign?
Invisalign can treat a range of dental issues, from small alignment problems to malocclusions and overcrowding. It’s most commonly used to treat the following:
Although Invisalign braces are fairly versatile, each dental case is unique. Severe malocclusions are likely only correctable with metal braces. It’s best to consult directly with a trusted dental practitioner to ensure that your needs are fully understood and can be addressed before starting treatment.
Summary: The Pros and Cons of Invisalign
You’ll have better oral health in both the short and long term: The extra time you spend cleaning your teeth, combined with the correction of any spacing issues, will make your teeth healthier and cleaner than ever.
Almost invisible: most people won’t notice that you’re wearing Invisalign.
Comfort: Invisalign is generally more comfortable than many other bracesbecause they don’t have fixed brackets or wires.
They’re removable and easier to keep clean than fixed braces.
They treat a large number of alignment problems
You’ll become more conscious of what you’re eating and drinking: having to brush your teeth after each drink, meal or snack will make you wonder whether that coffee or chocolate is really worth it. It’s pretty common for people to look and feel healthier since starting orthodontic treatment.
They require less trips to the dentist than fixed braces because you receive multiple aligners at once and don’t have to go back frequently for tightening.
They tend to be the more expensive option (£1,500 – £5,000).
Slower to move teeth than metal or ceramic braces.
You might need attachments: The attachments are tooth-coloured dots that are glued to your teeth. They act as an anchor that helps the aligner grip and move the tooth more effectively. They make Invisalign much more noticeable.
They can’t be used to treat severe bite issues (malocclusions): You’ll need ceramic or metal braces to treat more complicated dental issues.
Can be painful: As with any orthodontic treatment, there will be a certain amount of pain or discomfort as your teeth move.
Can be inconvenient: You’ll need to remove them before eating anything or drinking anything except water. This can get tiresome.
Choosing the Right Dental Provider
Invisalign treatment is more than a series of plastic trays, you have to trust your dental provider to ensure that they’re taking your best interests to heart.
When the work is performed correctly, Invisalign is worth it. Having a smile you love will give you a lifetime supply of confidence.
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