Occlusion refers to the way your teeth fit together when you bite down. When everything is in alignment, the grooves on top of your upper and lower molars will fit together, and your upper front teeth will rest just in front of the lower front teeth. When the teeth don't align, your top front teeth may extend too far over the lower teeth, or your molars might not fit together. Malocclusion, or improperly aligned teeth, can make you feel self-conscious and affect your ability to chew or speak.
If you aren't happy with your teeth, a prosthodontist can help. Invisalign can gently straighten your teeth and correct issues with your bite without the need for metal braces. Learn more about how Invisalign works to see if it's right for you.
1. What Is Invisalign?
Invisalign helps to correct malocclusion of the teeth and bite with aligners rather than metal braces and wires. Patients wear clear, custom-fit aligners over the course of treatment. The patient's dentist creates the fit of the aligners using a digital mold of the teeth. The aligners put gentle pressure on the teeth, straightening them and adjusting the bite. As treatment goes on, patients change out the aligners, allowing for a gradual, ongoing improvement in tooth alignment.
The aligners are FDA-approved and made of clear, flexible plastic. The plastic, called SmartTrack®, is patented and designed exclusively for use during Invisalign treatment. Once positioned over the teeth, the aligners are pretty much invisible. Unless you tell people you have Invisalign, many will not even know you are wearing the aligners.
2. How Does Invisalign Work?
At the start of Invisalign treatment, a dentist creates a digital map of a patient's mouth. The map takes note of the movements of a person's teeth and uses that information to produce a series of aligners. When you wear the aligners, they put pressure on the teeth, causing them to move and re-align. Every few weeks, you switch to a different set of aligners so the straightening process can continue.
3. What Is the Treatment Process?
The first step in the Invisalign treatment process is to schedule a consultation. You can get Invisalign through a dentist who is trained in the process. During the consultation, the dentist will examine your smile and produce a digital treatment plan based on what they observe. The treatment plan allows you to see how your smile will transform step-by-step through the treatment process.
If you approve the treatment plan and move forward, a lab will create your custom-fit aligners. You will change aligners on the schedule set by your dentist, wearing them for the majority of the day.
4. Who Is Invisalign Treatment For?
Invisalign is for adults, teens and kids. Many people who would benefit from wearing traditional braces are likely to find that Invisalign provides a subtler alternative. Although the aligners are clear, Invisalign for kids and teens can feature a small blue dot on the aligners, allowing parents to verify that their children are following their treatment plans.
5. Do I Have to Give up Certain Foods?
If you ever had traditional braces or knew someone who had them, you know that many foods are off-limits. Popcorn, chewing gum, nuts and bagels are just some of the foods people can't eat with traditional braces.
Invisalign is a different story. You can and should remove the aligners when eating. That means that no foods are off-limits to the Invisalign patient. You can go on eating your favorite chewy, hard or sticky foods as you correct your teeth.
6. When Will I Start Seeing Results With Invisalign?
When you start seeing results from Invisalign depends on your teeth and how well you follow your treatment plan. You may notice a difference after just a few weeks. Many patients start to see a visible improvement in their teeth's appearance several months into their treatment plan.
7. How Is Invisalign Different From Braces?
Invisalign and braces are different in several notable ways. The biggest difference is the visibility of the two types of appliances in the mouth. Braces are very visible, as they involve wires, brackets and rubber bands. Invisalign aligners are clear and blend into the teeth.
Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign aligners are designed to be removed from the teeth. You take them off when eating, for example. Traditional braces tend to have a bigger impact on a person's daily life. For example, those with braces often need to modify their diet to protect the metal hardware.
8. Will Invisalign Interfere With My Speech?
Invisalign shouldn't have a significant impact on your speech. Some people notice that they need a few days to adjust to how the aligners feel in their mouth. You might notice that your speech is muffled slightly at first or that you have a slight lisp for a few days. As you get used to the aligners, your speech should return to normal.
9. Does Invisalign Hurt?
Invisalign isn't painful, but you are likely to feel some pressure on your teeth. The pressure will be most noticeable during the first few days after you put in a new set of aligners. As your teeth adjust to the aligners, the feeling of pressure should ease.
10. How Long Does Invisalign Take?
How long you need to wear Invisalign aligners depends on a variety of factors. Although the exact timeline is different for each patient, the average treatment takes between 12 months and 18 months. Your experience with Invisalign might take more or less time, depending on your needs and goals. You should start to see a difference shortly after beginning to wear the aligners.
11. Will Invisalign Help TMJ?
If you are experiencing pain and discomfort due to TMJ disorder, Invisalign might help. Correcting malocclusion can help reduce the strain placed on the TMJ, leading to an improvement of your symptoms. Talk to a TMJ specialist to learn more about treatment options for the disorder and what you can do to get relief.
12. How Often Do I Have to Wear the Aligners?
To get the most benefit from Invisalign treatment, you should wear the aligners as much as possible, preferably for between 20 hours and 22 hours each day. You should take them out when eating or drinking and when you brush your teeth and floss.
13. How Can I Maintain My Straight Teeth After Invisalign Treatment?
Once you're finished with Invisalign, your dentist might recommend that you wear a retainer. A retainer allows you to maintain the results of your Invisalign treatment. Your retainer holds the teeth in place, keeping them from changing position. You have several options when it comes to the retainer you wear, including some that are clear.