The 6 Stages of Invisalign
Invisalign might seem as if it’s been an option in the orthodontic toolbox for a long time, but the company that started it isn’t even twenty years old, and even then, it took a little while for the idea of using Invisalign’s clear plastic trays to catch on. The treatments really didn’t start gathering mainstream acceptance until around 2004. According to the Invisalign website, Invisalign now accounts for 6% of teen orthodontics and an impressive 31% of adult orthodontics.
Even though the majority of patients are using methods other than Invisalign, most at least inquire about the treatment. After all, Invisalign has some distinct advantages. Namely, the treatment is almost invisible. Also, because the trays are removable, patients can eat whatever they want and clean their teeth without any issues. So if you’re curious about how the Invisalign process works, here’s a rundown:
1. Have a consultation with your orthodontist
If you’re interested in Invisalign, we first have to determine if it is right for you. Invisalign is a versatile treatment system, but it doesn’t work for all orthodontic issues. Beyond clinical considerations, we also have to consider a patient’s ability or willingness to keep the trays in almost 24 hours a day, and patients or their families of course will want to check on insurance coverage and consider cost comparisons. But we wish to emphasize that even if you don’t ultimately receive treatment from us, you should receive Invisalign treatment from an orthodontist and not a dentist. Many dentists are now Invisalign providers, but they lack the additional training and specialization that orthodontists have, and outcomes are often inferior.
2. Your orthodontist creates a treatment plan
Once you’ve decided to begin Invisalign treatment, we take x-rays, photographs and impressions of your teeth. These records are sent to the Invisalign company along with our instructions of how we want the teeth to move. Invisalign technicians input the information into a computer to generate a 3-D rendering of your teeth and a computer model how they will move to their desired positions. We can check their work on our own office computers. There is sometimes a little back and forth between our office and Invisalign regarding adjustments until they get the course of treatment exactly right. When we are satisfied, we ask Invisalign to make the trays.
3. Wait for your aligners
It might take about a month for the aligners to arrive at our office.
4. Wear your aligners
Come to our office when the aligners are ready, and we will give them to you. They are all different and are meant to be worn in a specific order. Each aligner should be used for two weeks. As your treatment progresses, each new aligner will serve to bring your teeth into straighter and straighter positions. You can take out an aligner to eat or brush, but otherwise, you should basically always be wearing one during the treatment process. If you don’t, your teeth movements won’t progress according to plan, and as you put in new aligners, they won’t fit correctly.
5. Your orthodontist refines your smile
When the last tray has been worn for two weeks, you might very well be done with your Invisalign, but more often than not, a few teeth might still need some adjustments. It’s not rare for this to happen. We’ll inspect your teeth and may get back in touch with Invisalign to order a few more “refinement” trays. Again, they might take up to a month to arrive. Invisalign expects many patients to need refinement trays and there’s no additional charge for them.
6. Maintain your smile
You will need to wear retainers after treatment is complete to give the bones of your jaw time to solidify around your new teeth placements. Invisalign makes a product called Vivera which are similar to their other trays, but they’re a little thicker and more durable. They’re not meant to be changed out bi-weekly as Invisalign trays are. You can also use a wired retainer. It is essential to wear your retainer during the months immediately after treatment, but ideally you should wear a retainer a little each week for the rest of your life. Your teeth are always shifting and moving, after all.