How Invisible Braces Can Make A Visible Difference

How Invisible Braces Can Make A Visible Difference


There was a time when fixing a wonky smile meant a metal mouth for months on end. That time has passed. Invisalign’s promise is as good as its name suggests: barely there, clear plastic aligners that will shift your teeth into position without anyone else really noticing. A couple of pros told us more about why they’re so popular…

Everyone has heard of it, but what does Invisalign actually stand for?
Sarah: It’s a technique to straighten your teeth using transparent – almost invisible – removable aligner braces. The braces – or ‘trays’ – are similar to whitening trays but much thinner and more closely adapted to the shape of your teeth and gum line. High-grade, premium acrylic makes them flexible and strong.

Sunita: Essentially, it gives patients an alternative to ugly metal brackets. It involves wearing a series of custom-made aligners to shift your teeth into their proper position.

How long’s it been around for?
Sunita: About two decades. Seven million people have now been treated with Invisalign.

Sarah: Actually I was one of the first people to put my teeth through the process.

Why’s it become so popular?
Sunita: Many people want to fix their smile without shouting it to the entire world. Social media has helped show them what transparent, retainer-like aligners such as Invisalign can do – so long as they are worn properly for 20 to 22 hours a day.

Sarah: It’s far more aesthetically pleasing than conventional braces and, because Invisalign braces are not bonded to the teeth, you can remove them for eating, contact sports or if, for example, you’re socialising or in the public eye.

And what does it do?
Sarah: The trays are made from acrylic. Over the last 20 years, Invisalign has trialled over 250 different acrylics to find the one that delivers the optimal flexibility, strength and durability. The trays are built from a 3D digital scan of your teeth taken in your clinic. The scan is then used to virtually plan the tooth movements – this virtual plan can be finessed if necessary, before the aligners have even been constructed. This is Invisalign’s USP: patients can feel confident of their result before their treatment has even started. Such virtual planning is not possible with fixed braces.

Sunita: Invisalign aligners are also smoother and often considered more comfortable than metal braces.

"Social media has helped show what transparent, retainer-like aligners such as Invisalign can do – so long as they are worn properly" - Sunita

Any other benefits to know about?
Sarah: Orthodontic treatment that aligns the teeth can increase social confidence for smiling, reduce bite interference and thus enamel wear on the teeth and correct crowding, which will make flossing and brushing much easier. These are all good oral health benefits. And, of course, there’s the convenience of being able to take out your aligner tray for social occasions.

Sunita: Because the aligners are removable, you can also eat anything you like – so long as you brush your teeth afterwards! Straighter teeth mean a healthier mouth, a more pleasing appearance, and teeth that are more likely to last a lifetime. Correcting orthodontic problems can put an end to issues such as bad breath (halitosis), gingivitis (gum inflammation), tooth sensitivity and chipping of teeth.

How do you know if Invisalign is for you?
Sarah: These days, Invisalign is not just for crooked teeth. It can handle overbites and overjets, and also be used to accommodate an implant or a bridge. It’s also safe to use over crowns, veneers, bridges and implants. It is best to see an orthodontist for a consultation to check that your teeth and gums are healthy – and whether or not your smile would actually benefit from going through this process, which does require some commitment and expenditure.

Is there anything Invisalign can’t do?
Sunita: Most adults with mild to moderate crowding or spacing are a good candidate for Invisalign. Invisalign has a difficult time fixing cases that are too severe. That’s simply because issues like large overbites require more advanced orthodontic procedures to shift the jaw. Although Invisalign is perfect for older teenagers and adults, children and young teenagers do not always make good candidates for it because their teeth are still growing. Also, if you are not dedicated, you might be not a good candidate for an aligner that is all too easy to remove.

Is there any pain?
Sunita: Some people report a little; others report a lot. Patients mostly describe the pain as a pressure or tenderness—it may be related to the removal of the aligners in and out of your mouth. Pain tends to be at the beginning of the process or for the first few days when wearing a new aligner. Also, rough edges may irritate the gum tissue, causing ulcers.

"A virtual plan means patients can feel confident of their result before their treatment has even started" - Sarah

Can it affect your speech?
Sarah: No. There may be some slight lisping for a few hours with the first aligner, but the aligner trays are so closely adapted to the teeth they do not interfere with speech like some other brace systems might do.

How long does the whole process tend to take?
Sunita: From three months up to two years, depending on the complexity of the case. In that time, you can expect to have around eight to ten appointments.

What about aftercare?
Sunita: Just wear your retainers and have regular dental check-ups. Wearing the retainers is crucial. They maintain the tension on your teeth to hold them in place following Invisalign treatment. Without them, teeth can shift back to their original position. In fact, this is often the mistake that leads people to seek Invisalign in the first place: they didn’t wear their retainers after first getting braces, leading their teeth to shift.

Finally then, how much does it cost?
Sunita: Invisalign is not available on the NHS. It typically costs slightly more than regular braces. The prices varies according to the complexity of individual cases, ranging from £1,500 to £5,000. To make it more affordable, we offer interest-free options for splitting the cost across 12 months.

Dr Sarah Richardson is a specialist orthodontist at Elleven Dental
Dr Sunita Shetty is practice principal at Victoria Dental Centre

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