The British Orthodontic Society reported a recent surge in treatments. This includes three-quarters of orthodontists (84%) even during the pandemic. Case increases are particularly true for invisible braces (Invisalign) treatments, where clear aligner treatments are big business.
If you are looking to straighten teeth, the question is, do you go down the route of traditional fixed braces, or do you opt for Invisalign?
Before we dive into the ins and outs of invisible braces vs fixed orthodontics, we need to clear something up.
When we talk about invisible braces in this context, we’re talking about clear aligners and not invisible (lingual) braces that sit behind the teeth. Got it? Good! Then let’s proceed.
What is Invisalign treatment exactly?
Invisalign is a way of straightening teeth and is different from your stereotypical fixed braces. It’s a comfortable treatment consisting of a series of removable clear plastic aligners worn over the teeth – a little like a mouthguard.
Used for both adults and children, Invisalign does away with brackets and wiring altogether, favouring a series of removable clear plastic aligners known as trays. This makes it an ideal option for those looking to straighten teeth with complete discretion and the minimum of discomfort.
How do Invisalign clear aligners work?
As the name suggests, each Invisalign tray is made from BPA-free polyurethane, making it virtually invisible when worn in the mouth. Each aligner is custom-made to fit your smile at a specific time during treatment and is created using the latest CAD/CAM scanning and printing technology.
So how do they move teeth?
Aligners are similar to fixed braces in that they apply gentle sustained force to shift teeth. The difference is that while fixed braces use archwires to force teeth into movement, clear aligners such as Invisalign harness the natural forces of compression and tension to guide teeth into position.
Here’s how the process works.
Each custom aligner is designed to be used at a particular stage of your teeth straightening journey and utilises natural processes already occurring in your mouth.
It’s important to remember that teeth are dynamic and are continually in a state of flux. Every time we bite and chew the periodontal ligament (the elastic ligament that attaches the tooth to the jaw ), the cementum and jawbone react to the changing pressures in the mouth. Aligners simply harness this movement and manipulate it to move teeth.
Typically, each aligner is designed to move the periodontal ligament approximately 0.25mm. As the ligament moves, bone tissue is absorbed and repositioned to stabilise the tooth in its new position.
Although the periodontal ligament can be moved in 3 days, it can take up to two weeks for bone tissue to reposition. For this reason, patients should wear each of their aligners for this two-week period.
After two weeks, the current aligner has done its job and is swapped out for a new aligner, and the whole process starts all over again.
When a new aligner is first worn, it can feel very tight. That’s because each aligner is designed to fit the new tooth position and not the position the teeth are in now. Because it takes around three days for the periodontal ligament to move, patients should feel a little less tension on their teeth after day three.
Typical treatments consist of 20 sets of aligners. However, it may be as few as 10, or as many as 40—depending on your specific needs. Throughout the process, treatments are regularly monitored by your Invisalign dentist.
Invisalign vs braces: A comparison
Invisalign has many advantages over conventional metal braces, which is why it’s quickly becoming a favourite amongst British patients. Here are just a few reasons why Invisalign may be your preferred choice over metal braces:
1: Visible vs invisible – The first significant difference between invisible braces and traditional braces is the product’s visibility. Rather than wearing metal brackets on your teeth, you wear clear plastic aligners. You can’t see them, so they won’t affect your confidence or change how you interact with other people.
2: Removable vs fixed – Invisalign invisible braces are a removable treatment option, unlike fixed braces. This means they are more comfortable, and because you can remove them, it’s easier to keep on top of your oral hygiene. Alternatively, braces require additional oral hygiene care, and you may need to use special interdental brushes or other equipment to keep your teeth and braces clean.
3: Diet restrictions vs no diet restrictions – As aligners are removable, there is no need to adjust your diet as you remove them to eat. Conversely, with fixed braces, you may need to avoid sticky foods like toffee or chewing gum or foods that could be problematic to braces, such as popcorn, nuts and hard, crunchy foods such as crisp apples.
4: Speedier vs slower treatment times – Treatment times with clear aligners can be quicker than with fixed braces (although this will depend on individual circumstances).
5: Less vs more dental visits – As aligners are issued in batches, you don’t need to visit the dentist as often as you would if you had fixed braces.
While Invisible braces have their advantages, they may not be for everyone. It’s only fair, therefore, that we list some of the disadvantages of clear aligners.
1: Compliancy vs non-compliance – As aligners are removable, it’s easy to forget to wear them or leave them out for longer periods than recommended. You must be compliant with treatment and wear them for the suggested number of hours each day, usually 22.
2: NHS availability vs non-availability – Aligners are not available on the NHS, and the treatment is generally more expensive than traditional braces. That said, many dentists offer payment plans allowing you to pay for treatment in instalments.
3: Suitable vs non-suitable – If you have more complex orthodontic needs, aligners may not be a suitable option for you. In these cases, dentists usually recommend fixed braces.
So now we’ve talked about how Invisalign works and made a direct comparison versus traditional fixed orthodontics, let’s answer the million-dollar question.
How much does Invisalign cost?
Typically costs range from £2000 through to £5500.
Because every treatment and every case is different, however, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
Costs depend on several factors, including whether treatment is covered by dental insurance, the complexity of the treatment, and the fees charged by your dentist commensurate with their expertise and location.
For example, here at Foxbury Dental, Invisalign costs from £2000 depending upon your current oral condition, although we often run special promotions and offer 0% finance.
If you want to know more about individual costs and how we can help you get a straighter, healthier smile, book a smile consultation with Dr Jimenez and her team.
What to expect during the process for Invisalign invisible braces?
Getting Invisalign is an easy 6 stage process. Here’s how it works:
The first step in determining whether orthodontic treatment is necessary is to examine your teeth and bite. If you have a misshapen bite, overlapping teeth, crowded teeth, or bad bite alignment, it may be determined that treatment with orthodontics is the right option for you.
Our dentist uses proprietary ClinCheck software to map out the path to your smile. Treatment is fully customised using a 3D visual interface that virtually maps out every tooth movement. In doing so, patients get to see their completed smile (albeit a virtual one) before they begin treatment. ClinCheck software is also the basis for treatment planning.
3: Treatment Planning
The primary objective of treatment planning is to create a customised plan based on your ClinCheck session. This will determine how many aligners are needed, how long the process will take, and what cost.
After your clear aligners have been made, you’ll be given your first set of invisible braces.
With traditional braces, patients need to have their braces adjusted once a month. However, invisible braces are issued in batches; thus, you don’t need to visit the dentist as often, and appointments are typically scheduled every six weeks. This is purely so your dentist can check your treatment’s progress and arrange for you to receive your next batch of aligners, so interim visits are usually quick.
Sometimes, teeth may need tweaking after the treatment has finished—that’s where Invisalign refinements come in. They are minor adjustments made to your invisible braces after your initial treatment is complete to ensure that your teeth continue to move properly into their final positions. You can find out more about invisible braces refinements here.
Retainers are an integral part of the Invisalign process. These clear plastic retainers fit over your teeth and help keep them in place after aligner treatment has finished. Failure to wear retainers after treatment can result in teeth shifting back to their old positions.
Typically, patients will wear their retainers for around 22 hours a day for the first few weeks while the teeth and jaw stabilise. Then, retainers are worn overnight for about six months and removed every morning.
The bottom line
The decision to get orthodontic treatment is a big one and not to be undertaken lightly. Invisalign is not necessarily for everyone, but If you’d like to know more about the orthodontic options available and whether fixed or removable invisible braces are right for you, talk to Carmen and her team at Foxbury Dental.
Come and talk to her about your smile goals, and she will discuss your options, giving you a clearer picture of the path ahead,
Are you ready to straighten your smile? Get in touch today.
Still a little unsure, check out these frequently asked questions below:
What can Invisalign fix compared to fixed braces?
Invisible braces can be used for straightening the teeth in mild to moderate cases, including:
- Crowded teeth
- Open bites and,
- Slight tooth gaps.
Conversely, traditional braces can be used in all cases, including the most complex.
How long does Invisalign take compared to fixed braces?
Treatment times vary depending on how complex your problem is. For example, it may take as little as four months to adjust protruding front teeth. Or it may be a couple of years for more extensive work.
Whereas fixed braces take 18 months – two years on average to complete treatment.
How do I find an Invisalign provider near me?
You could always ask your local dentist if this is a service they provide or check out their website. Failing that, anyone considering treatment can use this postcode search tool to Identify their nearest provider.
Does Invisalign hurt?
One of the significant advantages of invisible braces is that no metal wires or brackets are attached to your teeth. These can often rub against the soft tissues of the mouth, causing discomfort and abrasions. Clear aligners are smooth and will not cause these problems.
However, all orthodontic treatments cause slight discomfort for a couple of days each time the braces are adjusted while the teeth become accustomed to the pressure. This is also true when changing aligners, and wearers may experience some mouth tenderness until the tissues settle down. Discomfort usually lasts for 2-3 days.