Learning about Invisalign Clear Braces
Recently I was invited by Invisalign, the world’s largest orthodontic company, to their treatment planning headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica. I was part of a select group of 590 GPs led by elite provider Dr. David Galler. What I saw here, in my opinion, is the future of orthodontics. This facility was the brain of the billion dollar company, where over one thousand employees- including orthodontists, dentists and technicians- receive molds of teeth from all over the world, in digital form. These digital impressions are processed through a five hundred million dollar physics software developed by Invisalign. Each tooth can be moved in different ways- with eight different attachments or shapes placed on teeth (push, pull, rotate, intrude, extrude, corkscrew, etc). These would be similar to the metal brackets of traditional braces, but by using custom shapes, different forces are applied to teeth via clear trays. I think of these as “smart brackets”. After the computer comes up with its ideal movement through a physics software, a technician reviews and fine tunes the case via your local Invisalign provider’s preferences. A series of clear trays or “aligners” that look similar to a bleaching tray (virtually invisible) are manufactured that change the position gradually of your teeth from their current position to an ideal symmetry and bite. Trays are changed every 2 weeks and each set is a hair tighter in certain areas, then as the teeth settle in a new position a new tray comes. Average treatment time for the patient is eight months. We have a machine available in our Fishersville, Stuarts Draft and Churchville dental offices called the Itero Element which scans teeth, makes three dimensional models of the mouth- we use this for both Invisalign impressions and our porcelain crown work. The speed of the technology is amazing, that we can scan a patient, and in ten minutes of processing it is running through the physics software at Invisalign’s Design HQ getting ready to be evaluated by their team.
A doctor will use this clear aligner orthodontics primarily for three reasons- 1. improving the symmetry, cosmetics and appearance of the teeth, 2. creating a balanced and harmonious occlusion, and 3. eliminating crowded areas that contribute to gum disease and dental decay. In the future, I believe we will see less metal braces and more clear aligner systems to straighten the majority of teeth. It is similar to what we saw in dentistry with silver mercury amalgam fillings gradually losing ground to the newer white composite resin fillings. As the technology with composite tooth colored resins increased so did their predictability, longevity and performance. Now very few dentists, if any, primarily place metal amalgam fillings. I predict we will see the same trend with clear aligner braces versus older metal braces.
I recommend Invisalign over traditional metal braces for 90% of my adult patients (all but those with a certain class of bite or bilateral posterior crossbites) and 60% of their children (teenage boys are the least compliant patients I have when it comes to keeping the trays in- sometimes metal brackets and wires that can’t be removed are unfortunately, the only effective treatment). I am seeing adults that have never had braces achieve perfect results in less time with Invisalign. I see common orthodontic relapses (someone that had metal braces, whose teeth have shifted) easily fixed. Open bites (where the front teeth aren’t touching)- slam dunks. If someone comes to me with spacing of the teeth, they want corrected, I won’t let them leave without Invisalign- it’s a walk in the park. The benefits of Invisalign over traditional metal braces are substantial- the cosmetics (they’re invisible) is obvious, the speed and technology of Invisalign in my opinion, is second to none. Clear aligners can also be removed when eating or brushing and flossing your teeth. We see much healthier gums and teeth in patients, and we don’t see the chalkiness or scarring of teeth that aren’t cleaned well while wearing metal braces. Metal braces are honestly, much more invasive and harder on the teeth (for typically a longer period of time) than Invisalign aligner treatments. There is also less sensitivity with aligners, where it is a computerized measured movement. In my opinion, the choice is clear, between the two options- Invisalign is superior except in the minority of cases described above. If you’re interested in Invisalign feel free to call my office for a free consult and we can talk privately about what this new technology can do for you.
James W. Willis, DDS