It’s no secret that people are realizing the amazing benefits of enhancing their smile. Social media, selfies, and the desire to be the best version of yourself lead more people to seek out smile improvements. It’s quite a confidence booster.
When it comes to enhancing your smile, while the result is almost always worth it, some people find the journey of wearing braces too much of a lifestyle struggle. Why not have the journey be as enjoyable and as minimally obtrusive as possible? This is where clear aligners come in with some advantages over traditional braces. Clear aligners have come a very long way, even more so have the Orthodontic Specialists who are using them. There are some common questions and myths about clear aligners (or Invisalign® brand) that I often hear my patients ask. I will shed some light on these and hopefully give a better understanding on the truth about clear aligners.
First, let’s give a little background history on clear aligners to understand how far this tool for orthodontic treatment has come. Invisalign® is a brand of clear aligners that is the most well-known clear aligner brand. It is the oldest and arguably most sophisticated clear aligner tool on the market for Orthodontists. In its infancy, Invisalign® was only capable of moving very minor tooth movements, many Orthodontists found very few situations where the clear aligners were capable of doing anything better than braces. Hence why so many people still ask, “Am I a candidate”. Through the years, Orthodontic Specialists worked with the company and helped make changes to the design process, the quality of the material, and the understanding of how teeth moved more effectively with this force system. Attachments were designed and eventually became so sophisticated in their angles and shapes that Orthodontists were attempting more and more challenging movements and seeing predictable and effective outcomes. There is no question that moving teeth with plastic is a totally different ballgame than moving teeth with braces. However, with many years of Orthodontists willing to get creative and analyze the large data pool from Invisalign, together the specialty and Invisalign made so many changes that clear aligners – as a tool – became capable of so much more. Orthodontists are still quite polarized in their opinions and even abilities to utilize clear aligners because it all depends on how much additional education that Orthodontist chooses to obtain from accredited courses teaching more complex clear aligner education.
Therefore, to get back to the initial question: Am I a candidate for Invisalign®?
This depends on a lot of factors. Ultimately you could go to any dentist trying out Invisalign with very little experience and they may tell you yes or no but that does not mean you will be happy with the result or the time it takes. There are some things you need to look for to increase your chances of being a great candidate for Invisalign® and getting beautiful and timely results. The largest factor is who would be doing the Invisalign®? First, choose an Orthodontic specialist. Orthodontists are specialists in moving teeth and have completed a 2 to 3-year intense full-time residency in addition to going to dental school. General dentists doing Invisalign® or orthodontics is like a general doctor performing your heart surgery, and at least for me and my family, I would never let that happen. Comparing Orthodontist to Orthodontist, some Orthodontists have committed many hours in education to learning the tricks and intricacies necessary to achieve amazing results with clear aligners as with braces. Some Orthodontists do just a few clear aligner cases a year and some do hundreds. Having done hundreds, I know that the more I do the more I feel comfortable treating simple to more complex problems and am able to be very realistic with my patients about what to expect with Invisalign versus braces. There are still a few times that I highly recommend braces over Invisalign®, but those are becoming fewer and far between. Therefore, if you find an Orthodontist who is passionate about getting excellent results with clear aligners, you have a high likelihood that you will have some options with clear aligner therapy.
The other big question/myth that many DIY aligner companies are preying on is whether doing aligners are faster than braces. Again, this is all so dependent on the Orthodontist doing your Invisalign®, and the problems you present with. There are some things I find Invisalign® can do faster and some things it does slower. Even with that said, everyone has different biology that makes your teeth move at their own speed. We do our best to give you an expected average time, but the truth is some people’s teeth move more quickly or slowly than average. Just like two people on the same diet and same work out regimen, most likely their results will differ because their biology and genetics are different.
When I treatment plan options for my patients I always discuss multiple options and thoroughly explain what will get the best result and why, while also explaining the difference in the journey experience. Orthodontic treatment does not have to be simply a yes or a no, all or nothing. It really should be about discovering options and what method, timeframe, and goals are achievable and best match up with the patient’s lifestyle. When my patients choose clear aligners, it is often because aligners are typically an easier experience than braces. With clear aligners, you come in for orthodontic visits almost half the amount of times you do with braces. Once you get used to the aligners most of my patients get less sore compared to braces. Then there are the obvious benefits over braces: you don’t have to restrict your foods like braces since you can take the aligners out and eat anything, you can clean so much easier than with braces, and they are clear! Another huge benefit of aligners is you can take a break from wearing them, whether it’s because you have your own wedding, a special occasion, or just want to eat your way through a vacation.
Whatever you choose, just know that there are many options that are very doable and even unobtrusive to a busy life! The longer you wait, the more crowded your smile gets, the more the crowding causes uneven hitting and chipping/wear. Don’t waste another day not having your most beautiful and confident smile, you deserve it!