For a very long time, metal braces were the preferred option among orthodontists for straightening patients’ teeth and bite. These braces are the tried and proven method, but the so-called “railway tracks” are not always well received, especially by adults (for obvious aesthetic reasons).
Attempts to improve the appearance of braces over time have yielded options such as clear braces, or even metal braces that fit behind the teeth, known as lingual braces. These alternatives certainly succeed in improving appearance but the clear braces were found to be not entirely discreet and the lingual braces not entirely comfortable. Then came Invisalign.
The Invisalign solution involves a series of clear plates known as aligners that gradually move your teeth in a pre-determined position as you progress through the adjustment stages. There are many advantages to Invisalign. Comparable in cost to conventional braces, it is hardly noticeable in the mouth, if at all, and it is also much more comfortable than braces. It has minimal impact on your lifestyle since it can be removed for eating, drinking, an important work meeting or even that hot date! Another big advantage I see among my patients is the improvement in their oral hygiene. Unlike braces, Invisalign can be removed for brushing and flossing, and certainly my patients become much more aware of their oral hygiene throughout the process.
The question I am most often asked by patients is whether Invisalign does the same job as braces and whether it would work for them. In the 10 years during which I have been using Invisalign, I have seen mixed results among orthodontic patients across the board. The outcome really comes down to two main factors.
The first factor is the experience and treatment planning of the clinician. The predictability of what Invisalign can achieve has improved greatly since its introduction in 1999. Using sophisticated computer software called “Clincheck”, we can now give patients a good idea of how their teeth will look before we put in the first aligner. The feasibility of this result comes down to what the clinician sees as achievable and how he or she plans the movements that are built in to each individual aligner.
The second factor is the compliance of the patient. If the aligners are not worn, Invisalign doesn’t work. I always tell my patients “Invisalign works in the mouth, not in the box at home”.
With a well thought out plan and good compliance, I can genuinely recommend Invisalign as an option to braces in many cases. However, this solution is not yet considered a complete substitute for traditional braces. A clinician who is experienced in Invisalign and knows what it can achieve will ideally also be skilled in providing braces, enabling him/her to discuss with you the best options for straightening your teeth and bite.