If you had a choice, would you wear braces on your teeth or clear aligners?
If your answer is clear aligners, you’re not alone. Clear aligners have grown in popularity over the past couple of decades as an option for straightening or realigning your teeth.
Perhaps the oldest and best known clear aligner product is Invisalign, which was introduced to the market in 1998 by Align Technology. Since then, more clear aligners from other brands have come into the market, such as Spark, ClearCorrect, and used.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Invisalign can do, how effective it is, and the pros and cons of this product.
What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is the brand name of a type of thin clear aligner used in orthodontic treatment. The aligner is made from a flexible thermoplastic material named SmartTrack.
As the name suggests, this product is designed to make orthodontic treatment “less conspicuous,” as the American Association of Orthodontists puts it.
Although Invisalign aligners may not be completely invisible, these clear coverings fit tightly over your teeth and are much less noticeable than the brackets and wires of traditional braces.
What types of dental issues can Invisalign correct?
Invisalign can be used for various purposes, including crowding and spacing issues, as well as some mild and moderate bite issues.
The Invisalign website claims that it can be used to treat the following dental issues:
- some types of overbite, underbite, and crossbite issues
- open bite
- gap teeth
- crowded teeth
While still limited, research suggests that Invisalign may be more effective for some issues than others.
For example, a 2017 study suggests clear aligners can be useful to align a person’s arches, but it may not be as helpful in addressing more severe bite problems.
What’s involved with wearing them?
The first step in the process involves a visit to an orthodontist, who will create a 3-D image of your mouth and jaw. They’ll use this image to put together a plan for moving your teeth into their proper place.
Your orthodontist will then use that plan to create a series of customized plastic aligners. These aligners will apply pressure to your teeth, gradually shifting them and moving them into the desired places.
Depending on your orthodontist’s instructions, you’ll switch out one set of aligners for a new set about once every week or two. Typically, you’ll need to wear the aligners for 20 to 22 hours a day.
How effective are these aligners?
You may have friends who’ve had a good experience with Invisalign, but it’s important to go beyond the anecdotal evidence. At the moment, however, there’s not a lot of research that points to its effectiveness.
A 2015 review of 11 studies involving Invisalign aligners notes that research on their effectiveness is limited.
Studies that have been done up until now tend to have small sample sizes, and many studies haven’t included a control group to use as a comparison.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Orthodontics also warns of the lack of clinical research to bolster claims of effectiveness.
However, based on some available research, Invisalign does seem to be more effective than other types of clear aligners. And the newer versions that the manufacturer began producing in 2010 seem to have enhanced the effectiveness of Invisalign by improving the delivery of force upon the wearer’s teeth.
What can affect how well Invisalign works?
For Invisalign to work effectively, it’s important to wear the aligners for 20 to 22 hours per day.
The only time you’re supposed to remove the aligners is when you’re:
- eating or drinking
- brushing or flossing your teeth
- cleaning your aligners
It would help if you were careful when cleaning your aligners. If you use boiling water, it could warp the plastic. This can alter the fit and affect your progress and the effectiveness of the aligners.
The complexity of your orthodontic issues may also affect how well Invisalign works for you. It may take longer for this treatment to work if you’re dealing with more complex spacing or bite issues.
Other variables that may be at work are your sex and age. A study of 30 volunteers found that tooth movement may be affected by the wearer’s age.
According to the study, the rate of movement of your teeth increases slightly from ages 35 to 50. This means Invisalign may be more effective for this age group.
The same study also found that tooth movement between the ages of 50 to 70 didn’t decline for women the same way it did for men.
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