“I am interested in Invisalign”

“I am interested in Invisalign”
Posted on 08/04/2015

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Every day at our offices we have on average 2 or 3 new adult patients visit us for a consultation. Of those at least one will utter the phrase “I am interested in Invisalign” when asked, “What brings you to see us?”

Align Technology is the company that manufactures the clear aligners called Invisalign. They do hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year and thus have deep pockets for national direct consumer TV and print marketing. As a result, today most people have been exposed to Invisalign as a commonly advertised product. Which I will admit for an orthodontist is both good and bad.

Why is this Good?
This is good because millions of people have become exposed to a more esthetic alternative to traditional braces for fixing their teeth. Which in turn has given an opportunity for many adults to pursue orthodontic treatment through our office who would have not previously done so. For more than 10 years now, our office has enthusiastically supported and endorsed clear aligner therapy (Invisalign) as an alternative to braces. In that time span we have treated over 1,000 patients using Invisalign and on average are now treating over 200 patients a year, a number that continues to grow by the day. Our office is recognized as a Top 1% Invisalign Provider in the world, a distinction that only a few practices in the state have reached. We have decided to not just embrace Invisalign as another tool in our ‘orthodontic tool belt’ but to be an expert leader in this new treatment technology.

Why is this Bad?
When an adult comes into our office and says, “I am interested in Invisalign” what they really should be saying is “I am interested in Invisalign to straighten my teeth” or “to fix my bite” or “to give me a beautiful smile”. You see Invisalign is not the desired commodity. Straighter teeth or a better bite is the desired commodity. Invisalign is just one of the tools we can use to accomplish that service. Now you may say that I am fussing over semantics. However, a cultural phenomenon is taking place where people are being conditioned to believe that all orthodontic treatment is created equal. It is absolutely not and consumers need to be aware of that. Invisalign or clear aligner treatment is not magic. It will not straighten your teeth or fix your bite all by itself. It needs to be individualized and customized for each person based on a number of very specific diagnostic criteria. Once created it must be monitored closely. Just like any tool, it is only as effective as the expertise of the operator.

How does Invisalign work?
Invisalign is a series of clear aligners that provide light forces to the teeth to move them in any direction. The treating doctor will program and sequence all of the desired tooth movements on a digital setup. Invisalign then creates a series of aligners based on this digital sequence of tooth movements. Each individual aligner has the ability to move teeth ¼ of millimeter. Individual aligners are usually worn for 2 weeks at a time for a minimum of 20 hours per day. Following the 2 weeks the current aligner is replaced by the next aligner in the series and worn for the same time period. The goal being that each individual aligner in the series progressively moves the teeth toward the desired final outcome set up by the treating doctor. In our office we prefer to see our Invisalign patients every 8 weeks to ensure teeth are moving in a predictable manner. If teeth are not moving as expected we will intervene to make sure no unwanted complications occur and to ensure teeth get back on track.

What are the advantages to Invisalign over conventional braces?
The most obvious advantage is the subtly of Invisalign. The clear aligners are thinly fabricated and fit very tightly around the teeth. As opposed to braces they add very little additional bulk to teeth. This not only adds to the esthetic value but it provides very little burden to the lips and tongue. Speaking is usually minimally affected if at all. Aligners are removed for brushing and flossing, which means oral hygiene habits can remain unaffected. No emergency visits are seen in our office for Invisalign patients whereas our braces patients sometimes require an emergency appointment to repair a broken bracket or fix a pokey wire.

Invisalign or clear aligner therapy can be an equally effective and in some instances more efficient alternative to traditional braces. However, each patient’s treatment needs to be properly diagnosed, customized, and monitored closely by an orthodontist or trained dentist. Invisalign or clear aligners in itself are not magic. Consumers need to remember that what they are paying for is a quality result and the long-term maintenance of that result. In my next blog post I will discuss the dangers of low-cost at-home do-it-yourself orthodontics and 2 companies that are currently marketing such products.

Dr. Justin Wild DDS, MS