Invisalign was developed in the late 1990s as an alternative to standard braces. It accomplishes the same orthodontic outcome – straightening the teeth – but with a brace system that is almost completely invisible. It uses a set of removable transparent aligners specifically made for the wearer. To make sure the aligners fit perfectly, a scan of the teeth, gums and mouth is made using the iTero digital scanner. The scan is fast and very accurate.
The aligners work slightly differently from normal metal braces – they are designed to apply different levels of force to different individual teeth to gently move them into position, as opposed to metal braces which apply a consistent force to all of the teeth.
Once a scan has been taken a set of aligners is produced (generally 20-30 different aligners in total) which are swapped out roughly every two weeks until the entire set has been worn in sequence – this process gradually moves the teeth into position over time. A check up every 6-8 weeks is recommended to make sure the aligners are having the desired effect.
Another advantage of the Invisalign system is that, as they are removable, you do not need to follow the standard oral hygiene and food avoidance guidelines for metal braces, as you can remove the aligners to eat and to clean your teeth.
Invisalign aligners are also a lot more comfortable than metal braces – there will be some slight discomfort when you put on new aligners which generally eases over a few days. This discomfort is actually a good sign, as it's an indication the aligners are working the way they should.
Invisalign is suitable for children, teenagers and adults, however it is most suited to cases where more minor tooth movements are required. Where the alignment required is more complex and/or a high degree of precision is needed, metal braces are generally the way to go.
In summary, the advantages of Invisalign over metal braces are…
- More comfortable (and no irritation from brackets / wires of metal braces).
- Almost invisible (which means wearers are in less of a rush to complete treatment).
- Shorter treatment periods for less complicated cases.
- No dietary guidelines need to be followed and generally less tooth staining. No specific cleaning / maintenance required (although aligners do need to be cleaned before a meal).
Limitations of Invisalign
- Not suitable for complex alignments.
- Not as precise as metal braces.
* the one exception to this is that you still need to avoid some foods and drinks that may stain the aligners, such as the spice turmeric.