As the song goes, you’re never fully dressed without a smile. We live in the age of the selfie, and with celebrity culture driving the pressure of beauty standards ever higher, more and more people are looking for modern solutions to improve their appearance and increase confidence.
So what is Invisalign? You may well have heard of it by now, as it has become increasingly popular in recent years as a modern solution to a wide variety of common problems, from crooked teeth to crossbites.
We spoke to Queens Gate Orthodontics, a London-based Invisalign orthodontist practice who told us everything you need to know if you are considering treatment.
What is it exactly?
Invisalign is a series of clear plastic, removable aligners, which you wear for 22 hours per day. As the name suggests, they are virtually invisible, and most patients who are undergoing treatment will report that friends and co-workers had no idea they were even wearing them until they were told.
The aligners can be taken out for meals, and for cleaning your teeth. This gives great flexibility to the wearer, and unlike traditional train track braces you don’t need to worry about the potential embarrassment of getting food stuck in them. The aligners don’t get in the way of day to day life in the same way as other methods, and this is one of the main reasons more people are opting for Invisalign.
Who is it for?
Invisalign is great for people who may be embarrassed about their teeth, but don’t like the thought of wearing traditional, fixed braces. Especially in adulthood, the thought of having braces can be daunting, and many people worry about drawing attention to an area they may already be feeling extremely self-conscious about.
Invisalign is able to treat a wide variety of complaints, and has produced impressive results even in some extreme cases. It is well worth booking in for a consultation with an Invisalign practitioner, and you may well find that your problem can be addressed, even if you previously thought your only options would be more traditional orthodontic treatments.
What can it do?
From one tooth out of place, to a misaligned bite, there is not much Invisalign can’t tackle. The thin, clear plastic aligners are more powerful than you may think, and can even re-shape the jaw.
Patients have seen brilliant results in cases of:
- Over-crowding – where the jaw is too small to accommodate all of the teeth and they overlap and become crooked. Over-crowding makes it more difficult to effectively clean the teeth and can cause decay if not corrected.
- Open bite – often caused in childhood by sucking the thumb, is when the teeth do not meet together. This can make eating difficult and cause damage to other teeth.
- Cross bite – where the teeth do not meet together due to the jaw being misaligned. This can cause many problems including not being able to chew on both sides of the mouth.
- Under bite – where the top jaw is smaller than the bottom jaw, causing the lower teeth to protrude beyond the front teeth. This is unsightly and again can cause difficulties with eating.
- Over bite – where the front teeth overlap the bottom teeth. This can be a hereditary problem, but can also be caused by childhood habits like thumb sucking causing the lower jaw to grow unevenly due to the pressure.
- Deep bites – where the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth significantly. Again this can make eating difficult for patients who suffer from this issue.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders – the temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull, and if the jaw is misaligned this can cause quite significant pain, particularly in the neck and shoulder area. Patients who correct a bad bite will often find they become pain free during and following treatment.
- Widely spaced teeth – where patients have gaps between the teeth, which can cause many people to become extremely self-conscious.
This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, there are so many different orthodontic problems that can be resolved with a course of Invisalign, and your practitioner will be able to assess whether it may be the best option for you.
Does it hurt?
Treatments such as fixed (often referred to as train tracks) or lingual braces (fixed braces worn on the inside, in order to hide them) can also be very painful. Anybody who knows someone who had braces in childhood has probably heard all about how much it hurt, and this can also be extremely off-putting when considering any kind of treatment.
Invisalign is a much more comfortable option, as the aligners are smooth plastic and you will get used to wearing them very quickly. They tend to be mostly painless, although some patients will experience minor discomfort at the beginning of some aligners in the treatment stage, however this is temporary. The most discomfort is typically experienced at the very start of treatment, as the teeth need to make their first movements.
Patients will also find that it takes a couple of days to get used to wearing the aligner, and speech may be affected slightly during this initial stage, but within a very short period of time most people forget they are even wearing them and speech should return to normal.
What can I expect from my consultation?
If you have decided you would like to try Invisalign, the first thing to do is find a practitioner to carry out the treatment and book a consultation. You can enter your postcode on the Invisalign website to find orthodontists in your area, rated according to their experience providing the treatment.
If your consultation goes well and you are suitable for the treatment, the next stage will be to have impressions taken. These are then sent off to create your fully customisable Clincheck. The Clincheck is an interactive model of your teeth and jaw, showing exactly how your teeth are expected to move with each change of aligners, and your practitioner can show you exactly what to expect. This is where you will find out how long treatment will take, and you can discuss your desired result and make sure you are happy. Modifications can be made to the treatment plan if you or your practitioner have any concerns.
Once you and your practitioner are happy with your treatment plan, your fully customised set of aligners will be manufactured, and you will return to be fitted. Depending on your individual treatment plan you will be given a certain number of aligners to take home, which you will change every two weeks. You will return to see your practitioner regularly for check-ups to ensure treatment is going according to plan.
What do I need to do once I’ve started my treatment?
During your treatment you will need to wear your aligners for a minimum of 22 hours per day. While this sounds like a lot, it is plenty of time to remove for regular meals, and it is important to ensure you wear them for the recommended time.
You will be able to drink cold drinks with your aligners in place, but it is not advisable to drink sugary drinks to avoid causing decay, and you will need to remove them to drink anything hot such as tea or coffee.
Brushing your teeth following every meal, before you re-insert your aligners is an important step in maintaining the health of your teeth, as food trapped in your aligners can cause decay. Patients who stick to regular brushing during treatment should not experience any additional dental problems.
It is best to carry a travel toothbrush and toothpaste with you, and you can easily make discreet trips to the bathroom which will become part of your daily routine.
As you will be wearing each set of aligners for two weeks at a time, it is important to keep them clean. You should rinse your aligners when you remove them, and you can gently brush them with a toothbrush. Invisalign Cleaning Crystals and denture cleaner are excellent options for keeping them fresh and sanitised. Be very careful to not damage the aligners, and speak to your practitioner for their cleaning recommendations.
How much does it cost?
Your price will be dependent on your individual treatment plan, and how much work is required. Only an Invisalign Practitioner can accurately determine the cost, but prices are generally between £2,500 and £4,500. Where only minor correction is required it can even occasionally be below this. As a general rule, the cost is often very similar to that of traditional fixed braces, and to many patients the discreet nature of Invisalign treatment is priceless.