Two Invisalign clear aligner trays sitting inside of a blue aligner case



Using clear plastic trays to straighten teeth

9 min read

While traditional braces are still the most popular form of straightening teeth, Invisalign dental aligners have been growing in popularity over the years. Invisalign, and all aligner systems, use clear plastic trays that move teeth without traditional brackets and wires.

Invisalign is a popular option for patients looking for an aesthetically clear option. It is also popular for patients that cannot have braces on their teeth, such as musicians, fashion models, or anyone that is frequently in the public eye.

Using a plastic tray with downward force to move teeth is actually an old orthodontic mechanic, first developed as a tooth positioner device in the late 1960’s, that has been made new again with current plastics and technology.

Why do patients choose Invisalign?

One of the main reasons patients choose Invisalign is due to the ability to remove aligner trays when needed. People also enjoy the clear aesthetics, which can make it difficult to be seen by others (traditional braces and the Skarin System have clear bracket options as well).

How does Invisalign work?

Invisalign uses a series of clear plastic aligners to move your teeth into position. This method is different than traditional braces because it does not require metal brackets or wires. Instead, each aligner can move your teeth up to 0.30 mm per aligner tray.

Each set of aligners is recommended to be worn for two weeks at a time as your teeth shift into position. They can be removed for eating, drinking, and bushing your teeth, but aligners must be immediately put back on the teeth when finished. If aligners are not consistently worn, your teeth will not move enough to get the tray to fit and each succeeding tray will fit less and less well, resulting in needing to restart treatment with new scans or expensive tooth impressions, which will result in longer treatment.

In general, the average number of aligners worn for treatment ranges between 20-30, but this is highly individualized for each patient. Some patients need less than 20, others need a lot more than 30. This is why it is hard to say just how long treatment will take until coming in for a consultation since each patients’ teeth and mouth are different.

It is possible for Invisalign treatment to take less than six months, but if you are looking for the fastest form of treatment, our Skarin System straightens teeth up to 5x faster than aligners. What might take five months with aligners take one to two months with Skarin System. Again, this is different and individualized for each patient.

Is Invisalign right for me?

With all forms of orthodontic treatment, every device has its own benefits and limitations. As Dr. Skarin will discuss during your consultation, orthodontics is the art of compromise. You will need to decide for yourself based on various concerns including cost, complexity of your bite, the kind of lifestyle you have, how much time you have for treatment to take, and how tolerant you are to pain. Dr. Skarin discusses all of these concerns during his complimentary consultations.

When it comes to Invisalign, it is important to consider that treatment requires regular checkups with Dr. Skarin to ensure your teeth continue to align correctly and that the aligners are fitting properly. If the aligners do not fit properly, your teeth will not align well. Sometimes patients need to have additional aligners made because teeth do not always move the way we expect them to. There are various reasons why teeth are not aligning properly. This is why checkups on a regular basis are necessary for treatment.

Second, Invisalign is not appropriate for everyone. It is recommended for people who have mild to moderate tooth misalignment. This is one of the big limitations of aligners. Aligners are affixed to the teeth by small plastic bumps called “attachments” that are hardened on the teeth. When the aligner is placed on the teeth, it snaps into place over those plastic bumps.

These bumps are similar to traditional orthodontic brackets in that they are cemented on the teeth, but unfortunately they do not move the teeth with the same amount of control and precision as regular braces. This means, if your teeth are significantly out of line or if your bite malocclusion is rather severe, Invisalign may not be the best choice. This is why it is important to see an orthodontist for Invisalign, since they have the most experience knowing just how effective the treatment will be.

Finally, Invisalign is generally more expensive than traditional braces. Invisalign has similar lab fees for every orthodontist, which means prices for Invisalign across all orthodontic offices are relatively similar (roughly around $5,000 for 12 - 24 months of treatment). There is variation between offices, but the variation is much less than when going with braces treatment. Dr. Skarin charges based on the difficulty of the case, but when choosing Invisalign, he has less ability to adjust the treatment cost due to the built-in fees with Invisalign.

Does Invisalign hurt?

All forms of orthodontic treatment result is sore teeth. Currently, pain experienced by patients with Invisalign or clear aligners versus regular brackets is hotly debated. Research suggests that overall there is little difference between aligners and braces. Some research suggests aligners are less painful, but even they claim that the biggest limitation is that pain is self-reported and subjective. The speed of the case is also not compared equally.

If pain is a serious concern for you, Dr. Skarin and a skilled orthodontist can apply a much lower level of force on the teeth by using braces than they can with Invisalign. This is why it is hard to compare pain between braces and aligners. Invisalign only has one speed of movement and cannot be easily adjusted. On the other hand, braces have many different ways to adjust force levels on the teeth, which means comparing the average amount of pain for braces versus Invisalign is not the same comparison.

Each tray can move teeth up to 0.30 mm every two weeks, but braces can move teeth a much further distance every two weeks. This means even if Invisalign is self-reported less pain, the treatment speed is slower than braces that are reported as painful. If an orthodontist were to tighten braces only as tightly as to allow 0.30 mm of movement every two weeks, in order to make it equal to that of aligner, the pain level would be similar. This has been reported in research studies as well.

How does treatment work?

The first step in getting straight teeth with an aligner system is to schedule an appointment with Dr. Skarin. He will need to see where your teeth are now, evaluate the reasons they are in their present position, and then determine how to correct the malocclusion so that function, stability, and aesthetics are maximized. X-Rays will be taken, which help evaluate bone levels and the health of your teeth. Then an intraoral scan or physical impression or “molds” or your teeth are taken. These molds are used by Invisalign to make a set of clear plastic aligners. These aligners are designed to slowly move your teeth into the correct position.

Once the aligners are created, you will need to come in for a fitting appointment. During this appointment, Dr. Skarin will affix the small plastic buttons or “attachments” on your teeth and then apply the first aligner tray to ensure your treatment gets started on the right foot. You are then given a series of aligner trays that are labeled for different weeks. Every two weeks you will replace your aligners with the next labeled tray as directed by Dr. Skarin. If you look at the series of aligner trays, you will notice that each liner is gradually straighter than the previous one.

Dr. Skarin will also request you come in for regular check-ins to evaluate the fit of the aligners to make sure you are staying “on track.” These check appointments are generally scheduled every two sets of aligners (four weeks), but this interval could change if the reduction of the widths of the teeth with enamel reduction is needed to allow for proper alignment.

Why choose Skarin Orthodontics for Invisalign?

Many orthodontists specialize in mainly offering Invisalign treatment. We do not. Dr. Skarin is well versed in any and all kinds of treatment. We absolutely use Invisalign, but it is more important to Dr. Skarin that your treatment is a success and that you are thrilled with your overall experience and results.

Before considering Invisalign, we would suggest reading reviews or “What I wish I knew before…” articles on the internet. There are many aspects of aligners we have not touched on. For example, aligners can be removed, but they do stain very easily when putting them back on after eating food.

We would also suggest looking at pictures of people that thought Invisalign was invisible, only to be surprised to find that they need “attachments” cemented onto most of their teeth, which makes wearing their Invisalign trays look almost as visible as having regular braces. It is also not uncommon for patients to be surprised to find out that their doctor has to lengthen their treatment and add even more trays.

For us, we want every patient to feel good about their choice and we will be as honest and thorough as possible so you will know exactly what to expect with any treatment you choose. There are many times when patients want to get Invisalign and Dr. Skarin will warn them that they will need to go to another orthodontic practice to have it done simply because he feels Invisalign was not the right choice for them, but there are also many patients where aligners were a great choice for the patient and their results were fantastic.

We invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our offices to talk with Dr. Skarin about making the best orthodontic choice for you.

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