What is Invisalign?
Invisalign uses a system of clear aligners that snap down over your teeth. These aligners are changed periodically and slowly move your teeth into position without having to wear unsightly braces. Most people won’t be able to tell you are wearing anything.
What kind of impressions, x-rays, or pictures are needed?
At a minimum your dentist will need to take a set of 8 photographs of your face and teeth and take special upper and lower impressions of your teeth. Most dentists will also take a panoramic x-ray and occasionally a lateral cephalometric x-ray. All of these help them create a customized treatment plan to align your teeth.
What happens in the first appointment?
In the first appointment your dentist will bond some “composite buttons” on your teeth. These “buttons” are made out of the same material used for fillings on your teeth. The buttons allow the Invisalign trays to apply special forces to your teeth and move them more effectively.
If necessary, your dentist may also do some reshaping of the enamel between your teeth. This is known as “interproximal reduction”. Small sandpaper strips or discs are usually used to do this.
Once those two things have been done, your dentist will try in your first set of Invisalign trays. The trays will snap down over your teeth and they will feel super tight! You may struggle getting them back out. If the trays fit correctly your dentist will give you the next couple of sets of trays and have you change them out every one to two weeks. Invisalign has actually adjusted the recommendations recently and now say that trays should be changed once a week instead of every two that they used to recommend. That’s it for the first visit.
What will it feel like?
The first couple of days to a week after you put the first set of trays in, your teeth will be very sore and sensitive. This is normal and will go away with some time.
Each time you switch to a new set of trays you’ll experience a little bit of soreness again. Again this is normal. The soreness shouldn’t be nearly as bad with each successive set of trays.
You may also struggle to speak correctly for the first couple of weeks after starting Invisalign. It takes a couple of weeks for your tongue to get used to the new position it needs to go to. If you practice speaking to yourself, you’ll get over this learning curve faster.
How often do I have to wear my trays?
You’ll want to wear your trays for a minimum of 22 hours a day. That means you can take them out to eat and when you brush and floss. That’s about it. The more consistent you are with wearing your trays, the better results you’ll get. If you don’t wear them often enough your teeth can actually move backwards several trays! I’ve seen this happen before.
What kind of complications can I expect?
There aren’t usually too many complications associated with Invisalign treatment and most are temporary or can be fixed easily…
- Rarely people may be allergic to the material used to make the trays
- Trays can break occasionally, especially if you’re rough with them
- People tend to throw their trays away accidentally
- Occasional TMJ or jaw pain
- Speech problems
- Mild-moderate tooth soreness
- Teeth may not move as expected which requires extra trays and time
Are there any tricks to make Invisalign more effective?
- Your dentist may give you something called “chewies” to bite on when you first put your trays in. This helps to push them all the way in so that they are able to create the best forces on the teeth. If they don’t give you chewies you can either buy some from Amazon or you can use something else. Cotton rolls or plastic pens work well. Basically you want to bite on something firm in order to push the trays all the way on to your teeth. This is what it looks like…
- Wear your trays as much as you’re possibly able to
- Wear your retainers when treatment is over! You don’t to waste your big investment by not doing this.
Is there any way to speed up treatment?
Yes, there are a couple of options that can be used to increase the speed of treatment by 20-50%. Not all dentist and orthodontists offer this.
Acceledent – This is a special device that bite on for twenty minutes a day. The device generates small vibrations that help your teeth move more quickly. The biggest challenge is doing this consistently every single day. You can expect a 20-30% decrease in overall treatment time with this device.
Propel – Propel helps treatment go more quickly than with Acceledent but it is much more invasive. This protocol involves your dentist or orthodontist make small “micro-perforarations” in the bone around your teeth. These small holes create changes in the bone that allow your teeth to move more quickly. Treatment can be sped up by 30-50%.
How do I clean my Invisalign trays?
Rinse out your trays with water after you take them out and before you put them back in. You can brush them with your toothbrush but don’t use toothpaste as this will scratch the surface and make it accumulate more build-up and stain. You can use regular dish soap to clean them if you’d like.
Is there anything special I need to do for my teeth while I’m wearing my Invisalign trays?
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks as the sugar can get trapped in the trays and rapidly cause decay on your teeth
- Brush and floss better than normal
- Avoid foods and drinks that are heavily colored and can stain teeth (coffee, dark tea, dark sodas, red wine). If the stain sits in your trays it will stain your teeth quickly.
- Always brush your teeth before putting your trays back in. I know it is a pain to carry a toothbrush with you everywhere but it is definitely worth it to avoid developing cavities during treatment.
Can I whiten my teeth with my Invisalign trays?
Yes! Invisalign trays work great for whitening because they seal against your teeth really well. Place a small dab of whitening gel in the tray and seat it in place over your teeth. You can do this for about 30 minutes every day until you get the whitening results you want. For more information on the different concentrations used and where to get them, check out my whitening product guide.
Can Invisalign be used to treat anyone?
Invisalign can treat most orthodontic cases today, especially if used by a very experienced provider. I personally work with some orthodontists who use it almost exclusively. There are some specific situations, especially with younger children, impacted teeth, and severe jaw problems that cannot be treated with Invisalign though. Age doesn’t make a difference in whether you are a good candidate for Invisalign or not. My grandfather did Invisalign at age 70!