Many people choose Invisalign as an alternative to traditional braces to get straighter teeth. If you or your kids need orthodontic care, you can find out here what Invisalign is, how it works, what problems it can fix, and everything else you need to know about these state-of-the-art plastic aligners.

What is Invisalign Made Of?

Invisalign aligners look similar to teeth whitening trays and are made from flexible, medical-grade, biocompatible plastic (polyurethane resin) that’s virtually invisible in the mouth. They’re fabricated in an Invisalign lab, customized for each individual patient from X-rays or digital scans taken by a dentist. Unlike regular braces, Invisalign avoids the use of metal brackets and wires.

The makers of Invisalign – U.S.-based global medical appliance company Align Technology – says Invisalign appliances have the most advanced clear aligner technology in the world. This now includes proprietary SmartTrack thermoplastic material that has made Invisalign even more comfortable, with greater control over tooth movements.

What is Invisalign SmartTrack?

SmartTrack is the result of several years of research by dental biomechanics specialists. It improves the flexibility of Invisalign aligners and lessens pressure on teeth as they’re moved into their correct position.

SmartTrack ensures aligners keep their shape and fit while maintaining mild pressure to move teeth up to twice as fast as regular braces. It also makes it easier and more comfortable to put your aligners in and remove them.

How Does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign applies moderate force in a sequence of precisely regulated tooth movements. You wear a series of aligner trays 20 to 22 hours a day, with a new aligner every one or two weeks.

Treatment on average takes 12 to 18 months, compared with two years or more with regular braces. You should be able to see how Invisalign is gradually starting to move your teeth into their correct position after a few weeks.

What Problems Can Invisalign Fix?

Invisalign is designed to rectify mild to moderate cases of crooked, crowded, or gapped teeth, and bite issues such as:

  • Overbite – when upper teeth protrude in front of the lower teeth.
  • Underbite – lower teeth jutting out over upper teeth.
  • Crossbite – when upper teeth close on the inside of lower teeth.
  • Open bite – upper and lower teeth not meeting properly.

Benefits of Invisalign

Invisalign typically produces the same results as conventional braces but in half the time and with several advantages. It allows you to get on with your everyday activities with no concerns about discomfort, your appearance, what you can eat, or keeping your teeth and gums clean. Dr. Ballard a Sandpoint orthodontist adds that another benefit to Invisalign is that you don't have any restrictions on the activities your do due to the aligners being removable.

Key benefits of Invisalign are:

  • Removability. While traditional braces are fixed appliances that stay in your mouth all the time during treatment, Invisalign aligners are removed for meals and snacks. This makes for better oral hygiene – effective brushing and flossing while wearing braces is difficult. You can also continue to enjoy your favorite foods, with none of the dietary restrictions associated with braces.
  • Appearance. Because Invisalign aligners are made with clear plastic, they’re barely noticeable, allowing you to smile and speak without embarrassment as your teeth are being straightened. And once your Invisalign treatment is completed, you’ll be able to show off your newly straightened smile with confidence.
  • Comfort. Invisalign has smooth, rounded edges with no metal brackets or wires to irritate your mouth. In a 2005 clinical trial, many Invisalign patients said they experienced no pain. Those who did get some discomfort reported that it diminished within a few days of putting in a new aligner.
  • Convenience. Unlike braces, Invisalign aligners don’t require constant modifications, so you only need to visit your dentist every six weeks or so to make sure your treatment is progressing as planned.

Types of Invisalign

Invisalign has different systems for adults, teens, and children.

Invisalign for Adults

Teeth can still shift out of alignment in adulthood, but it’s never too late to get Invisalign treatment. Studies indicate that adults are as likely to need orthodontic therapy as teens and children, and an estimated 25 percent of Invisalign users in the U.S. are adults.

Invisalign Teen

Designed specifically for teenagers, Invisalign Teen has an indicator to confirm that the aligners are being worn for the recommended time – a blue dot becomes clearer the longer your teen wears their aligner. Invisalign Teen also comes with spare aligners – handy if your youngster is prone to misplacing things.

Invisalign First

Introduced in April 2018, Invisalign First Phase 1 orthodontic treatment is available for kids from around the age of six to 10, when permanent teeth start to replace primary teeth. It’s designed to correct orthodontic problems often seen in growing children, including teeth crowding, gaps or protrusion, and narrow dental arches.

How to Look After Invisalign Aligners

Invisalign aligners need to be kept clean to avoid a build-up of staining and bacteria.

  • Brush your aligners each night with a mild toothpaste, followed by rinsing with tepid water.
  • Rinse your aligners each time you remove them.

An Invisalign Cleaning System is also available – packs of crystals you dissolve in a cup of water to break down plaque and kill bacteria.

Is Invisalign Right for Me?

Invisalign treatment is suitable for most people and as we’ve seen can fix many orthodontic problems. However, it’s not the best option in some cases – including large gaps between teeth and teeth that need to be significantly rotated.

That said, the scope of Invisalign treatment is being constantly widened, with more complex issues becoming treatable thanks to advances in technology, and more experienced Invisalign dentists can treat a broader range of orthodontic issues.

A dental office specializing in Invisalign treatments can help you make an informed decision on whether Invisalign will provide an effective teeth straightening solution for you or your youngsters.