Invisalign Teeth: Precisely What to Expect

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Invisalign teeth – is the treatment process worth it to get them?

Everyone wants a beautiful smile with straight and white teeth; however, most people need help getting there. In the past few years, more and more people are having success with the new orthodontic treatment called Invisalign teeth straightening treatment. But is Invisalign treatment the right choice for everybody? Here is everything you need to know about Invisalign teeth straightening treatment.

If you are given a choice, would you wear clear, virtually invisible aligners or traditional metal braces? Most people would choose the former for obvious reasons – they are discreet.

Indeed, clear aligners have grown into popularity over the past few years as an alternative treatment for teeth straightening treatment, and Invisalign has been leading the way. What makes Invisalign aligners so attractive?

A quick background on Invisalign brand

Introduced in 1998, Invisalign is perhaps the oldest and most popular clear aligner in the market. Their clear aligners are made of a thin and flexible thermoplastic material called SmartTrack. These aligners are custom-designed based on the molds of the patient. The Invisalign treatment plan involves multiple aligners with tiny increments that gradually move and reposition all of your teeth at once by exerting gentle pressure. Patients are given new aligner trays every two weeks or so throughout the treatment. Treatment time varies based on the specific orthodontic issue, complexity and severity, and cosmetic goals of the patient.

The word Invisalign is a play on “invisible aligners”, and it is exactly what its name suggests; it is designed to treat a wide range of orthodontic issues all while looking virtually invisible to the naked eye.

While Invisalign aligners aren’t completely invisible, they fit snugly over your teeth and are less noticeable than traditional braces. Because of this, Invisalign treatment has become a more popular choice for teenagers and adults who want to avoid the hassles and often unappealing aesthetics of regular braces. For the most part, it has been an effective treatment for crowded teeth, crooked, gapped teeth, overbite, etc.

How effective are Invisalign teeth aligners?

While many can attest to the benefits and effectiveness of Invisalign, it is important to go beyond anecdotal evidence. Therefore it is encouraging to know that systemic reviews in 2018 and 2019 showed that Invisalign indeed, is a viable alternative to conventional orthodontic treatment options when it comes to treating mild to moderate malocclusions in non-growing patients.

Moreover, based on some valid research from Trusted Source, Invisalign does seem to be more effective than other clear aligners in the market by improving the delivery of force on the patient’s teeth.

What affects Invisalign efficacy?

For Invisalign treatment to work, the clear aligner trays must be worn for at least 22 hours a day. This means one must wear his/her braces even while sleeping throughout the night.

The only time the aligners can be removed is during eating or drinking, brushing and flossing teeth, cleaning the aligners, or playing contact sports.

When it comes to cleaning the aligners, never use hot water to rinse the aligners, as it could warp and deform the thin plastic and alter its fit. This could totally affect the progress and effectiveness of the treatment.

As said previously, multiple studies show Invisalign works best for mild to moderate cases. With that said, the complexity of the orthodontic problem may also affect how well the aligners work for each patient. Treatment duration could be longer for patients with complex bite problems and spacing issues.

Moreover, variables like age and sex may affect the level of efficacy and duration of the treatment. In one particular study, Invisalign proved to be highly effective for ages 35 to 50 in both men and women, as the rate of movement of the teeth increases slightly around the age range.

How much is an Invisalign treatment plan?

Based on their own website, the cost of the whole Invisalign treatment is close to or similar to the cost of getting traditional braces. That means expect to pay around $3,000 to $5,000. Obviously, the price fluctuates depending on different variables as well, such as your location, the complexity, and severity of your case, the length of time needed to fix your specific problem, insurance coverage, etc.

While some orthodontic issues are considered cosmetic, many insurance providers cover a part or all of the cost of Invisalign treatment, especially if the treatment is deemed medically necessary. Moreover, you need to check with your insurance provider to see if your dental insurance includes such coverage.

In many cases, you can use your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to cover some of the cost of your Invisalign treatment.

If you don’t have any form of insurance coverage, you can ask your dentist or orthodontist about their payment plans for the services they offer. Most dental clinics offer monthly treatment plans for extensive and expensive procedures. Obviously, make sure to ask this before you agree to any treatment.

So, is Invisalign teeth straightening treatment right for you?

Do you have a fairly straightforward bite or crowding problem with your teeth? Do you feel self-conscious about the idea of wearing metal braces? If your answer to both questions is yes, then you may want to consider Invisalign treatment.

However, clear aligner treatments like Invisalign, may not be for everyone.

Since the aligners are custom-built for a tight and snug fit, they are best for teens or adult patients. Straightening a child’s teeth and changing their jaw structure can be quite complicated. This is because young people’s jaws and mouths are still developing and growing.

Moreover, as said earlier, Invisalign and other clear aligner treatments are best used for patients with mild to moderate malocclusion problems. While there are some cases that report successful treatment of complex and severe malocclusion problems, patients with severe cases of underbites, overbites, crossbites, spacing, and overcrowding may need the more complex and comprehensive treatment of traditional braces. Your dentist or orthodontist will help you decide the best route of treatment for you.

Orthodontic issues Invisalign can fix

The following is the list of orthodontic issues that can be treated by Invisalign. Again, this still depends on the complexity and severity of the case, or presence of other issues:

  • Crooked teeth – Invisalign can fix a wide range of crooked teeth. While severe cases may require additional treatment (or braces) due to severe jaw misalignment, in many cases, Invisalign is enough to fix this dental problem given the right time, consistency, and conditions.
  • Overbite – When the upper teeth close too far relative to the bottom teeth, it is called overbite, the most common form of malocclusion that can be fixed with Invisalign. This makes chewing and biting food difficult. Not to mention it looks awkward. Invisalign can fix this by aligning the teeth together properly.

Depending on the age of the patient, there are different types of overbite:

  • Still growing (around 12 years of age) – Invisalign Mandibular Advancement treatment can redirect the patient’s tooth growth to influence proper bite and jaw position.

Adults can no longer use the previously mentioned appliance. Also, Invisalign alone may not be enough to fix severe cases of overbite. This is why elastic bands or a small bar called motion appliance are used alongside the clear aligners.

  • Underbite – When the bottom teeth are way too forward relative to the upper teeth, it is called an underbite. This can become quite a problem if left untreated as it can contribute to poor oral hygiene, tooth decay, gum problems, etc. Underbite can also cause difficulty speaking and wear and tear of the teeth. Invisalign can address underbite by pushing the lower teeth back to its normal position. Severe cases of underbite, however, will require traditional braces or surgical intervention to effectively move the jaw.
  • Crossbite – When some of the upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth rather than outside, that is called a crossbite. This can cause wear and tear to the teeth by chipping away the enamel. It is also a high risk for gum recession. Invisalign can fix this by moving and positioning the teeth to their appropriate place.
  • Gapped teeth – Spacing issues such as a gap between two or more teeth can lead to various problems, such as food getting stuck between teeth, gum disease, and even pain. Invisalign can fix this by closing the gaps to create a healthy and more aesthetic smile. There are, however, limitations as to how much space the clear aligners can close.

For severe cases of gaps, however, it is important that retainers are worn after the Invisalign treatment to keep teeth from moving back to their previous positions and forming new gaps.

  • Open bite – When the upper and lower teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed, that is called an open bite. Invisalign can fix this problem by moving both the upper and lower teeth to the right position.
  • Crowded teeth – Teeth can twist and overlap each other when there is not enough room in the jaw to accommodate all of them. This can be caused by numerous factors, such as abnormally shaped teeth, cleft lip or palate, early loss of baby teeth, etc. By applying gentle and constant pressure, clear aligners can gradually help align teeth to correct crowding.

Overcrowded teeth can be problematic as it makes it easy for food to get stuck between tight spaces and form plaque buildup that leads to tartar, which then leads to tooth decay and gum disease. While severe crowding may require tooth extraction, Invisalign treatment can fix overcrowding issues by gradually pushing teeth into proper direction and alignment, moving each tooth to about a quarter of millimeters with each set of aligners. As the teeth moves and shift, they create more spaces in the mouth and eventually solve overcrowding. Again, this depends on the complexity and severity of the specific problem.

Limitations of Invisalign treatment

While Invisalign treatment can fix a variety of teeth misalignment and bite issues, it doesn’t have the same capabilities and force to move teeth as traditional braces. Thus, complex and severe cases that require significant force and movement of teeth need the time-tested metal braces.

So what can Invisalign not fix? Here are a few examples of its limitations:

  • Tooth shape- Some people may have teeth that are not ideal for fitting inside the clear aligner trays of Invisalign. Pegged, short, and rounded teeth, or teeth with severe tips aren’t ideal for Invisalign to grip on. Therefore, moving them into their desired direction and position may be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
  • Tooth position – In cases of severe tooth overcrowding, a tooth (or multiple teeth) may rotate just to fit. If the rotation exceed 20 degrees for the molars, Invisalign will not be able to effectively move them into their desired direction and position. Rotation degrees can be more with canines, incisors, and premolars.

While Invisalign can fix a slight tilt, whether forward or backward, the clear aligners cannot pull the tooth effectively to the right position if the tilt is more than 45 degrees.

  • Midline Movements – In some cases, a patient may have front teeth that don’t match their midline (the imaginary line in the middle of the face). Invisalign can correct midline discrepancy up to 2mm to the left or right per arch. Anything larger than that will need braces.
  • Large gaps between teeth – Invisalign trays can only close a maximum of 6mm of space per arch (top or lower teeth), whether it’s one gap between two or multiple gaps.
  • Intrusion and extrusion – One of the ways orthodontics can fix teeth alignment and bite problems is by raising or lowering teeth position in the jawbone so their height can be uniform. Braces can have enough force to do this. Invisalign clear aligners however, can only achieve limited movement in front, and very minimal movement in the back of the teeth.
  • Previous dental work – Previous dental work may preclude patients from being a candidate for Invisalign treatment. A dental bridge, for example, will make it impossible for Invisalign trays to work. The same goes with porcelain veneers and crowns, as the teeth may not be able to hold Invisalign attachments (hooks) as their surface can’t be bonded and hooked with Invisalign rubber bands.

Is there an age limit for Invisalign treatment?

There is generally no age limit for Invisalign treatment. Young teens and even older adults can benefit from this hassle-free teeth straightening alternative. However, the trays can only work when all of the baby teeth have emerged or been extracted.

Moreover, the teeth straightening process takes place as long as you wear the aligner on the trays, which should be at least 22 hours per day. Thus, it requires commitment on the part of the patient to follow through with that guideline, otherwise, the treatment plan doesn’t work.

Cavities and other periodontal problems

The treatment plan starts with a thorough dental checkup. Your dentist or orthodontist must see that your teeth and gums are in good shape and that you have fairly good dental health overall before starting the Invisalign treatment. This is because wearing the aligner trays for long hours a day may increase the risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay if underlying issues are not addressed first.

Your dentist will give you clearance before you can proceed to an Invisalign treatment. Moreover, it is extremely important that you observe better oral hygiene throughout the process. Failure to follow the guidelines as directed by your dentist can increase your risk of cavities and periodontal problems with Invisalign.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does wearing the clear aligners hurt?

A. No. Though there will be some discomfort and even soreness, it will not hurt as much as compared to traditional metal braces. This is actually one of the bigger pros of Invisalign over traditional braces; it is less painful and a lot more comfortable than having metal brackets and wires over your teeth.

The discomfort and soreness usually last a couple of days. And this becomes a cycle each time you replace your aligners, which is about every two weeks.

Q. Will the aligners affect my speech?

A. No, they shouldn’t. The clear aligners will fit snugly to your teeth. While it may feel awkward at first, you will get used to the aligners and will eventually learn to relax and speak naturally with them.

Q. Can Invisalign aligner trays cause damage to my teeth?

A. No. While there is a small risk, as with any other orthodontic treatment, your teeth can only get damaged through mistreatment of your clear aligners, such as drinking fluids with it other than water. However, this can be easily avoided by your orthodontist and your discipline to follow proper care instructions and good oral hygiene. Invisalign treatment is not painless. You will feel some discomfort or soreness, especially after you replace your aligner with a new one. But this should never cause damage to your teeth. Invisalign triggers a cellular response at the roots of the teeth to promote movement. It rarely causes damage to the teeth.

Q. Should I wear my Invisalign aligners at night?

A. Definitely yes. The alignment only happens when you wear the aligners. Thus, it should be worn almost all the time. The guidelines say you should wear your aligners for 20 to 22 hours a day, every day throughout the duration of the treatment for it to be effective. You should only take it off when eating, drinking, brushing, flossing your teeth, or when doing contact sports.

Q. Can I use my Invisalign aligners as night guard?

A. Yes and no. This actually depends on your specific situation. While the aligners look like night guards, they don’t work like night guards in the sense that their purpose is not to provide a cushion between your upper and lower teeth. The aligners are not designed to withstand jaw clenching and teeth grinding.

If you suffer from bruxism (you clench your jaw and grind your teeth excessively during sleep), then there is a good chance you will not be eligible for Invisalign treatment, as the aligner trays can easily get worn down and possibly break from your bite force. However, if you only slightly grind your teeth, then the Invisalign aligners may act as a buffer for your teeth. This, of course, differs from one patient to another. So it is best to discuss it with your orthodontist.

Q. Can Invisalign teeth straightening treatment move or change your jawline?

A. Yes, Invisalign treatment can actually move and change your jaw. The degree of movement, of course, depends on how much your orthodontist wants to move your jaw to position it better before undergoing any treatment. In most cases, however, the Invisalign treatment will be accompanied by attachments (bonded on your teeth) and rubber bands (Invisalign rubber bands) to apply more force and effectively shift your teeth and jaw to get the right position and bite alignment.

Q. Can Invisalign aligners move my molars?

A. Yes, Invisalign can move any teeth that require correction, and this includes the molars. Molars are positioned awkwardly in the sense that they are difficult to access and move, even for traditional braces. Moreover, moving molars can cause a lot of pain. With Invisalign’s clear aligners, on the other hand, it can move molars without causing major pain (with some discomfort, of course). How much and how fast it can move the molars depends on the severity of the problem. More often, it would take numerous trays to see any significant movements in the molars.

Q. Can Invisalign correct misaligned bite?

A. Absolutely, yes. This is actually one of the biggest selling points of the brand.

Q. Can the clear aligner bring my teeth forward?

A. Yes, the aligners can move your teeth forward or backward, depending on what is deemed necessary to fix your teeth and bite. Though some cases of overbite, underbite, or overcrowding may require reinforcements to add more pressure, such as elastic bands.

Q. Does Invisalign treatment come with whitening?

A. Yes. Invisalign actually has two options in their Professional Whitening System treatment program. Both systems are designed to straighten and whiten teeth at the same time. Also, some dental clinics and companies have their own teeth whitening products that work with the aligners. Ask your dental care provider about it for more details.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.