At Aura Orthodontics, we’ve helped thousands of patients straighten their teeth with Invisalign. After treating so many smiles, we really have the Invisalign process down and we strive to make it stress-free, effective and fun (really!). So how does Invisalign work? Read on as we walk you step by step through the journey of straightening your teeth with clear aligners.
What is Invisalign?
Before we get into the Invisalign process, first let’s talk about the basics of Invisalign. Invisalign is a way to straighten teeth without braces. The treatment involves a series of clear, removable, BPA-free plastic aligners that slip over the teeth like thin, way more comfortable mouthguards. Each set of aligners is pre-programmed to achieve certain tooth movements, which are prescribed by Dr. Vishal Sharma, Dr. Julia Koo or Dr. Everett Lin, Certified Specialists in Orthodontics. As you go through the series of aligners, your teeth move little by little into their ideal places.
The aligners are smooth and custom-made to fit your teeth perfectly so they’re extremely comfortable. There are no metal brackets or wires that can cut your lips or the inside of your cheeks. You also don’t have to worry about food restrictions or changing up your oral hygiene routine because you take the aligners out to eat, and brush and floss your teeth. Yet, perhaps the biggest benefit is they’re virtually invisible and most people won’t be able to tell you even have aligners in your mouth.
Now, what about Invisalign Teen? Well, Invisalign Teen relies on the same principles as Invisalign and also involves removable, clear aligners. However, the aligners are designed specifically for younger patients and have eruption tabs to accommodate erupting molars. They also have features that will give parents peace of mind like compliance indicators to show if they are being worn enough and a few free replacement aligners included in the system.
The Invisalign Procedure
How does Invisalign work? Here are the Invisalign steps from your first visit to your new smile:
Step 1: Complete a Virtual Consultation
While we do offer in-person consultations, due to the coronavirus, we’ve temporarily switched to virtual consultations. However, even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, a virtual consultation is still a great way to get a head start on the Invisalign process from the comfort of your own home. You’ll provide us with some information about yourself and your smile concerns, snap a few pictures of your smile, and hit “send.”
A Certified Specialist in Orthodontics, Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin or Dr. Koo will evaluate your photos and details and then we’ll reach out to discuss your treatment options and give you important information, such as how long your treatment will last, the Invisalign cost and our financing options. You’ll feel informed and confident about moving forward. Then, when the coronavirus situation stabilizes or you’re ready to come to the office, we’ll get you in for an in-person visit.
Step 2: Create a 3D Image of Your Smile
When you get to our office, we’ll take low-dose digital x-rays of your teeth and Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin or Dr. Koo will perform a thorough examination of your teeth and jaws. This will allow them to develop an accurate diagnosis and Invisalign treatment plan. If you have any questions from when you had your virtual consultation, we’ll be more than happy to answer them.
Then, we’ll use our iTero scanner to take a quick, comfortable intraoral scan of your teeth. You won’t find any messy, goopy impressions here. Instead, a team member simply passes a handheld wand over your teeth and gums and the wand snaps images in motion. The process takes a few minutes and you can breathe normally throughout it.
The digital impressions are sent instantly to our computer and a 3D model of your mouth is created. This gives Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin or Dr. Koo a real-time, lifelike, computerized model of your dental anatomy so they can plan your treatment from every angle.
Your orthodontist will map out each individual tooth movement directly on the model. Thanks to the software, they can visualize different outcomes and design a smile that complements your facial features and enhances your oral health. Before you leave, we’ll even be able to show you what your new smile will look like using the Invisalign Outcome Simulator.
Step 3: Receive Your Custom Invisalign Aligners
Dr. Sharma, Dr. Koo or Dr. Lin will send off their specifications to Invisalign and the company will print out custom aligners according to the doctor’s prescription. What you may not know is that Invisalign is really just the lab and they make the aligners according to your doctor’s treatment plan. This highlights the importance of going to an experienced provider like Aura Orthodontics for your treatment!
You’ll come by our office and pick up your aligners, which are all designed at the start of your treatment, when they’re ready. Since they are crafted from your Invisalign treatment plan, which is created based on a 3D model of your mouth, you’ll get an amazing fit. The smooth plastic is also very comfortable. If we have to achieve certain tooth movements, we may also bond Invisalign attachments to your teeth at this point. These tooth-colored attachments aren’t noticeable but they can give us more leverage to shift teeth in the direction we want. Before you leave, we will fill you in on wearing your aligners and how to care for them.
Step 4: Wear Your Aligners According to Plan
For the best results, you should wear your aligners for about 22 hours per day. You’ll take them out to eat, and brush and floss your teeth. To ensure you don’t lose them, any time you remove your aligners, make it a habit to put them in their Invisalign case. Depending on your needs, you’ll change to a new set of aligners every one to two weeks, advancing you to the next stage of your Invisalign treatment plan.
Does Invisalign hurt? No. You won’t feel any real pain but your teeth can be a little sensitive when you first start treatment or when you put in a new set of aligners. If that’s the case, you can stick to soft foods for a day or so or take an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary (whatever you’d take for a minor headache). Any discomfort will subside in a day or two.
While we don’t need to make adjustments to your aligners, which is a benefit of Invisalign vs. braces, you will come in for the regular checkups, usually every six to eight weeks. This lets your orthodontist monitor your progress. These visits are short and easy.
Step 5: Show Off Your New Smile
Another benefit of Invisalign vs. braces is that you’ll be able to see your progress much more clearly throughout your treatment since your teeth aren’t covered in brackets and wires. Yet, it’s still a momentous occasion when you take out your final set of aligners and reveal a new smile. How long does Invisalign take? It really depends on the severity of your case and how well you follow the instructions for wearing your aligners. For most patients, however, treatment lasts a year to about the same length as braces treatment.
Step 6: Wear a Retainer
When you are wearing your Invisalign, you’re in the active phase of your treatment. However, there’s still one final step in the Invisalign process and that’s the retention phase, which is when you wear a retainer. During the active phase of treatment, your ligaments and supporting tissues loosen and your bone goes through a remodeling process, allowing the teeth to shift into their new places. It takes some time for new bone to form and the tissues to tighten up in order to hold your teeth in their new spots. This is why once you take the constant pressure of your aligners away, the teeth have a tendency to drift. Wearing a retainer is the only way to prevent this from happening. It holds the teeth in their new positions, locking your bite into place.
The good news is, we offer clear retainers that work just like your Invisalign aligners. They’re also made from smooth, clear, BPA-free plastic and are virtually invisible. We’ll take digital impressions using our iTero scanner again but this time of your new smile. We’ll use these impressions to create custom retainers for you. Most patients only wear their retainers full time for a short period and then switch to wearing them at night.
Am I a Candidate for Invisalign?
Thanks to our high level of experience (we even teach dentists how to use the treatment properly), most patients are candidates for Invisalign at our practice. For people with more severe cases, we can facilitate complex tooth movements with Invisalign thanks to Invisalign attachments and rubber bands. So, if you’ve been told you’re not a candidate for Invisalign elsewhere, feel free to visit us for a second opinion!