Invisible braces have really taken off in the past few years, no longer is it always necessary to have those visible train track metal braces with metal brackets and wires. Coupled with the fact that we now know that it is possible to perform perfectly good orthodontics on adults means that the drive to have orthodontic systems which are less visible has really pushed advances in technology.
This blog post is dedicated to all of those different types of invisible braces and asks the question, are they the best option for teeth straightening?
What are the benefits of invisible braces?
Clearly (that’s the deliberate pun by the way) invisible braces are just that, virtually invisible.
The slight paradox with many orthodontic systems is that people often want to have orthodontics to enjoy straighter teeth which give them more confidence… And yet, the mere process of having braces fitted doesn’t do much for one’s confidence, and so many people decided not to have traditional orthodontics.
Therefore, invisible braces give you the possibility to have a really great result with orthodontic treatments without having to suffer the perceived embarrassment from having conventional braces.
What are the different types of invisible braces?
There are a variety of different ways to make braces less visible:
- Using a totally clear aligner. Many systems have sprung up recently using these clear aligners. Out of the mouth, they look very much like a sports mouthguard and are made from a clear plastic. The plastic aligners worn for approximately 2 weeks each time, each aligner puts pressure on your teeth moving them towards their final destination.
- Having the brackets and wires tooth coloured. Whilst these are not completely invisible they are far more imperceptible than conventional metal train track braces. These systems usually have clear brackets and tooth coloured wires.
- Orthodontics on the tongue side of your teeth. By putting orthodontics behind your teeth it is possible to make them completely invisible when viewed from the front. Not everyone is suitable for these as it depends on how your teeth bite together and whether there is room, however, if you are suitable these can be a great way to have totally invisible braces.
Is Invisalign really better than braces?
Invisalign is just one of the trade names for the clear aligners type braces, other systems are also available. typically Invisalign type braces can be compared to conventional braces as follows:
- Invisibility. Invisalign aligners are usually completely imperceptible whereas conventional metal braces are very noticeable.
- Removability. Invisalign can be removed for cleaning and eating, this can make it far more convenient in social situations. Fixed braces cannot be removed and may collect food.
- Irritation. Invisalign type braces are made from a clear plastic which is completely smooth, this means there is far less chance of them irritating your cheeks. Fixed braces can irritate the inside of your cheeks when they rub.
- Brushing your teeth. Because the clear braces are removable is possible to continue brushing your teeth in the normal way and cleaning in between them with an interdental brush. Fixed braces on the other hand can be more problematic to clean, particularly if you’re out and about after meals.
How will Invisalign straighten my teeth?
Moving teeth is actually very simple, all we need to do is to put pressure on them in the correct place and using the right amount of force and they will move. The difficult part is applying pressure in exactly the right place!
Fixed orthodontics work by having wire which pulls your teeth into the correct position, Invisalign straightens teeth by applying pressure in exactly the right place inside a clear plastic aligner. Conventional fixed braces are then adjusted each time you visit your dentist or orthodontist, the wire is tightened and the teeth continue to move, this protest continues throughout the whole orthodontic treatment. Invisalign works slightly differently to straighten teeth, because the clear braces don’t move you need to replace it approximately every 1-2 weeks with a new one.
At the beginning of treatment digital planning software will calculate exactly how many aligners you will need and therefore how long the treatment will last. Most people need approximately 16-20 aligners.
Which takes longer braces or Invisalign?
This is a great question but the answer really depends on how much of your teeth need to be moved. Systems such as the Inman aligner which use an innovative spring which pushes and pulls at the same time can straighten teeth in as little as 12 weeks, although because this system is removable brace some people prefer to opt for an invisible brace rather than have wires showing.
Minor orthodontic treatments with Invisalign can often be undertaken in less than 5 months, this compares favourably to other brace treatments such as ClearSmile Brace or 6 Month Smiles.
The smaller the amount of adjustment the quicker the treatment will be, also front teeth can be moved faster than back teeth because the roots of front teeth are much smaller. If your orthodontic treatment includes back teeth then treatments will typically take longer and may require you to see an orthodontic specialist.
How to fix my teeth without braces?
Did you know it’s not always necessary to have braces to straighten teeth? If you only have a couple of teeth which need straightening, particularly if they are at the front then dental bonding could be an option.
Dental bonding will apply a thin layer of a specially made tooth coloured resin, this resin is delicately placed by your dentist over the surface of the tooth to rebuild it in a more appealing and straighter alignment.
Dental bonding doesn’t actually straighten teeth but it gives the illusion of a street tooth from the front and this is often a perfect way to straighten teeth without braces. In more extreme cases where more movement is required then dental veneers may be used in exactly the same way.
Using veneers are bonding also has the advantage that it is possible for your dentist to correct an unsightly tooth shape or to whiten your teeth and make them lighter, this is simply done by using a whiter dental veneer or dental bonding composite material.
Why are aligners so expensive?
A common concern is the price of aligners, it’s worth mentioning at the beginning that many dental practices will offer finance for this type of treatment, often resulting in having braces for less than a cup of coffee per day!
There are multiple reasons why aligners are so expensive:
- Continual professional development of the dental team. There is a considerable amount of training and education which is required in order to be able to deliver this type of aligner, over and above the standard training provided to each dental team member.
- Modern technology. Many of the most up-to-date aligners use digital scans or at least digitisation of the impressions, these are then imported into the software which is then able to plan the treatment so precisely. License fees for this software are quite expensive, as is purchasing any hardware.
- Cross infection control. Modern cross infection control procedures require that dental surgeries have separate areas for cross infection control, this is to ensure that you are kept completely safe whilst visiting the dentist.
- Maintaining the dental team. some team members such as the dentist and hygienists will be fee earning themselves however, there will also be a large group of the dental team which don’t actually earn a fee themselves, this will include reception team, nurses and practice management. All of these team members are required in order to deliver the highest standard of care.
- Keeping the surgery up-to-date. Dental surgery equipment is incredibly expensive, the temptation for a dental practice could be to use cheap imports from overseas however the quality of these is often much lower. For this reason, high-quality private dentists prefer to use the very best equipment in order to provide the best level of care for their patients.
- The cost of the aligners themselves. The aligners themselves are also quite expensive as they need to be purchased from high-quality manufacturers, these are sometimes digitally produced using the latest CADCAM technology, other times they are produced by highly skilled dental technicians who manufacture them to precise tolerances, unfortunately, this keeps the cost up.
Invisible orthodontic aligners really can be one of the best ways to straighten crooked teeth, offering comfortable and virtually invisible treatment. They can’t be used in every case but for more minor tooth movement or anterior (front) cosmetic orthodontics, they really are an exceptionally good choice.