If you are thinking about getting braces, you are probably looking at the different options that are available from traditional metal and porcelain to Invisalign’s clear aligner system. More and more, people are choosing the Invisalign® method of straightening teeth, especially adults who are seeking a discreet orthodontic treatment. But, you may be wondering how Invisalign® works.

At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we have extensive experience using Invisalign with our patients. In this article, we give you the information you need to make a decision for yourself. You’ll learn how Invisalign works, how it differs from traditional braces, and what is involved in the process.

The History of Invisalign®

Two Stanford University students, Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, invented the first complete clear aligner system and called it Invisalign in 1997. This concept involved a series of removable clear plastic aligners that were targeted toward adults who wanted a less visible way of straightening their teeth. Before Invisalign was created, there was only the traditional way of using brackets and wires with positioners and retainers to correct crooked teeth and misalignments.

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that straightens teeth through a system of clear plastic trays or aligners that are fitted to a patient’s changing bite. As the teeth move into the proper place, as the patient, you graduate from one tray to the next tray in the set. Eventually, you reach the end of the treatment where the teeth are in the intended space and alignment. Invisalign differs from traditional braces, which are glued onto the teeth, in that the trays can be removed for eating, brushing, and flossing. They are most effective when worn for 20 to 22 hours each day.

What Dental Issues Can Invisalign Fix?

Invisalign addresses most of the dental issues that traditional braces solve. However, they don’t fix all dental issues. Many orthodontists and dentists recommend that this method be used in mild to moderate cases. You should consult with your dental professional, like us at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, when determining whether your dental issue can be treated with clear aligners and to find out the benefits of using Invisalign for your situation.

Issues Invisalign can fix:

  • Overcrowded teeth – Overcrowded teeth are bunched together because the room is limited.
  • Overbite – An overbite is when upper teeth overlap the lower teeth in an extreme way, which can be uncomfortable and cause problems with the jaw.
  • Underbite – An underbite is when the lower teeth position over the upper teeth.
  • Cross bite – A cross bite occurs when the jaw is misaligned in such a way that one or more upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth.
  • Gap teeth – Gap teeth is an issue of spacing between the teeth.
  • Open bite – An open bite is when the upper and lower teeth don’t meet, causing issues when chewing.

What Is the Process of Moving Teeth Using Invisalign?

Invisalign shifts teeth by applying a controlled force to different parts of your teeth during different stages of your treatment. Only specific teeth can move with each new set of aligners that you wear. The plan of moving teeth is determined by using precise 3D digital scanning of your teeth in the first meeting with your dental professional.

There is no one-size-fits-all timeframe for determining how long your treatment will last. Generally, traditional braces and Invisalign take the same amount of time for the same orthodontic issues. The length of time required to complete your treatment depends on the complexity of your case. With Invisalign, you can begin to see changes in just a few weeks and some cases can be finished in six to 18 months, again, depending on the difficulty of the case. More severe alignment issues take longer to fix.

Common alignment issues that Invisalign treats:

  • Closing Gaps: Small gaps can take only 6 weeks to correct. Bear in mind that it is extremely important to wear retainers after correcting gaps because they will reform if the patient doesn’t wear a retainer after the treatment.
  • Crowded Teeth: A mild case of overcrowded teeth can take just 6 months to correct. Severe cases will take longer (24 months or longer) and may require wearing headgear or extracting some teeth.
  • Overbite: An average treatment time to correct overbite issues is 6 to 18 months.
  • Underbite: For minor cases of underbite, it could take approximately 3 to 4 months, while moderately severe cases can be corrected within 12 months. The time with Invisalign is less than with traditional braces for an underbite.
  • Open Bites: Depending on the severity of the anterior bite or malocclusion, for a minor open bite it could take about three months; for a moderate open bite situation, it can take up to 18 months with Invisalign.

The Process of Using Invisalign

There are five steps in the process of using Invisalign.

Step 1. Have a Consultation with Your Dentist or Orthodontist

First, your dental professional needs to see you and determine if Invisalign is the right option for your situation. It is a versatile treatment system, but it isn’t for every dental issue. You must be able to make a commitment in keeping the trays in for 20 to 22 hours per day so the treatment is successful. For instance, at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we will recommend the best solution for your dental issues, which may be a straightening treatment or another cosmetic dentistry option. After we suggest possible solutions, you will also want to check your insurance coverage and look at the cost.

Step 2. A Treatment Plan is Created by Your Dental Professional

When you and your dental professional agree that Invisalign is the best option for you, the dentist will take X-rays, photographs, and impressions of your teeth. These records are sent to the Invisalign company with instructions of how we want the teeth to move. Technicians there put the information into a computer to generate a 3-D depiction of your teeth and simulate how the teeth will move to their desired positions. At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we are able to check their work on our office computers in order to have a back-and-forth exchange with Invisalign so that the course of treatment is exactly what we want. When everything is just right, then Invisalign makes the trays.

Step 3. Start Wearing Your Aligners When They Arrive

It typically takes about a month for the aligners to arrive at your dental professional’s office. When they arrive at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we call you into the office where we will go over the instructions of wearing them with you. The aligners are meant to be worn in a specific order and you wear each aligner for two weeks. As you move through the treatment and graduate from one aligner to the next, you will see your teeth gradually moving into straighter positions. You are able to take an aligner out when you eat, brush or floss your teeth. Other than those times, you should always be wearing an aligner. When you don’t get the proper amount of time wearing an aligner, your teeth movements won’t progress as planned and, when you put in new aligners, they won’t fit correctly.

Step 4. At the End of Treatment, Your Dental Professional May Refine Your Smile

Sometimes, when you have worn the last tray, you may need for us to get in touch with Invisalign to make a few more trays to refine and tweak the straightening. It isn’t unusual for a few teeth to still need some adjustments. There is no additional charge for these adjustment trays.

Step 5. Wear Retainers to Maintain Your Smile

You will need to wear retainers after treatment is complete so the bones in your jaw have time to solidify around your new teeth placements. You can wear a retainer made by Invisalign called Vivera that is a bit thicker and more durable than the other trays. This retainer does not need to be changed out bi-weekly. But, it is essential to wear the retainer during the months after treatment ends and it is highly recommended that you wear it several days each week for the rest of your life. This is because your teeth are constantly shifting and will be prone to go back to their original position without a retainer.

Contact Us for an Invisalign Consultation in Cary or Holly Springs

Contact our professional and knowledgeable dental team at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry if you are thinking about straightening your teeth. We will examine your teeth, take X-rays, and discuss whether you are a good candidate for Invisalign treatment. We will provide you with the information you need in order to make the best decision for your specific dental issues. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.