One of the most common questions patients ask is “What is Invisalign?” and “Does it really work?”
Advances in orthodontic technology have provided orthodontists with more treatment tools than ever. This is exciting news because we are able to offer our patients multiple treatment options so they can find one that best fits their lifestyle and smile goals. Sometimes, it is difficult to decide which treatment method is best for you.
Here is my quick explanation…
Braces and Clear Aligners are tools your orthodontist can use to straighten your teeth. Just like a chef may use an electric oven vs a gas oven, or a journalist may use a Mac vs Windows computer – they are different tools used to achieve the same goals.
Invisalign is a brand name for a type of clear aligner. Like Nike or Adidas, Invisalign is just one of many clear aligner brands. Other clear aligner brands you may hear of are Spark and Clarity. A skilled orthodontist can use any clear aligner brand to get the same result.
Do Clear Aligners (like Invisalign) really work?
The Answer: In MOST cases, YES!
With proper diagnosis and treatment planning from an orthodontist, clear aligners work really well. Aligners are plastic replicas of your teeth. They put gentle pressure and specific forces on your teeth to move them over time. Your orthodontist uses 3D technology to plan your specific tooth movements and create your clear aligners.
What is the difference between Braces and Invisalign?
Both are tools that are used to move your teeth. Both apply a force to move your teeth. One difference is that clear aligners push your teeth into position, while traditional braces (brackets and wires) pull your teeth into position. Both treatment options have pros and cons. Which tool is right for your depends on your specific personality, lifestyle, bite, and smile goals.
Invisalign (or other clear aligner brands):
Pro: Clear aligners are removable, so you take them out to eat, snack, and drink. The pro of this is that you don’t have any food limitations during treatment.
Pro: Because you can remove your aligners, this allows you to easily brush and floss your teeth as normal.
Pro: Clear aligners are less noticeable than traditional braces. However, Invisalign and other clear aligners are NOT completely invisible. With clear aligners we must use attachments to help guide your teeth into proper position. Attachments are tooth colored bumps that are glued to your teeth during treatment. While this is still less noticeable than braces, you CAN see the attachments from close up.
Con: Patient compliance is a key factor in treatment success. Teeth move through your bone due light pressure and specific forces applied over time. TIME under pressure is a key factor in treatment success; therefore, you really do need to wear your aligners 22 hours/day to efficiently move your teeth. If you slack off wearing one of your trays, your next tray will not fit properly and your teeth will not move as planned.
Con: While being able to remove your aligners to eat and drink is usually considered a pro, this may also be considered a con. You must remove your aligners when you eat and drink, especially anything hot or sugary. So, if you routinely sip your coffee throughout the day or snack frequently, you may not be able to wear your aligners in 22 hours/day, which will decrease your treatment success and increase your treatment time.
Traditional Braces with Brackets/Wires:
Pro: Brackets and wires are always on your teeth, so they are always working. This takes a lot of the compliance off of the patient because you can’t remove your brackets and wires (well…technically you could, but it would be difficult and dangerous to do so). You will still need to wear rubber bands, so some compliance is still involved, but not nearly as much as with Invisalign or other clear aligners.
Pro: Braces can be fun! Many patients love the way their braces look and enjoy picking out their braces colors every visit. Many of our patients pick special colors for certain sports teams, holidays, or special events. You get to change your braces colors every visit!
Pro: There are more esthetic braces options available, such as our ceramic “clear” braces. These are more noticeable than Invisalign, but much less noticeable than traditional silver braces.
Con: You have some limitations in which foods you can eat with braces. Really sticky or hard foods should be avoided because they can cause your brackets to break. You must be very diligent with brushing your teeth and take extra care to brush all around your braces.
Can Children Get Invisalign?
YES! Invisalign is a great tool for patients of all ages. I love treating children, teens, and adults with clear aligners. Each person and smile is unique so part of my job is to determine which tool will get the best result for each patient, no matter their age.
I hope this helps determine which treatment option is best for you or your child. As always, please reach out if you have any questions. We are happy to help you decide if braces or Invisalign is the right fit for you.
Have a great day!
— Kirsten Frazier, DMD MS