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How Does Invisalign Work?

A great alternative to traditional metal braces, Invisalign is a clear aligner that is a less noticeable teeth-straightening method. They are your dream product if you fear looking funny in donning those obvious metal braces.
But how fast does Invisalign work, and what are the benefits of Invisalign? Are they even effective? This detailed guide will help you explore the insights of Invisalign.

How Does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign is quite a popular teeth straightening method for people who do not prefer traditional braces. Since traditional braces can never go unnoticed, in contrast to them, Invisalign provides a more subtle look and is equally effective in straightening your teeth. This is why most people, especially adults who care about the way they look, prefer Invisalign. But have you ever wondered how does Invisalign work to make your teeth straighter?
It’s simple, by applying pressure, just like your traditional braces!
Since Invisalign is a set of trays, it doesn’t apply pressure to your teeth altogether. Instead, different parts of your teeth will move at different times during the entire Invisalign treatment process. So, each new set of aligners you put in works towards specific teeth. Hence, the Invisalign process becomes a more controlled way of straightening your teeth and is less painful than traditional braces.
As mentioned, the Invisalign process involves a set of trays that change their structure at every stage. For instance, when beginning the Invisalign process, the first set of trays looks like the current structure of your teeth. By the time you reach the end of this orthodontic treatment, you will notice that the last set is straighter than the first set. Between these set changes, bone remodeling makes your teeth look straighter and aesthetically appealing. This is great for people who are looking for teeth straightening methods for lesser serious problems as this is a short-term procedure.

Bone Remodelling Process

With Invisalign or any teeth straightening method, the teeth are moved for them to appear straighter. But how can the teeth move when they are some solid bone structure?
The foundation of your teeth is embedded in bone, with a ligament known as the periodontal ligament situated between the bone and the root, acting like a cushion. This arrangement allows for approximately 2mm of movement, and you can feel it if you gently wiggle your teeth.
Inside the periodontal ligament, active cells perform various functions. Some cells facilitate the removal of bone in the direction the tooth is shifting, while others aid in depositing new bone in the vacant space created by the tooth’s movement. This remodelling process initiates due to the pressure exerted by the trays that guide your teeth during treatment. It’s common to experience increased looseness in your teeth when wobbling them during Invisalign treatment, which is entirely normal.

Upon completion of the treatment, the bone requires time to solidify fully around the teeth. Therefore, immediate retention following teeth straightening is crucial for ensuring this process occurs effectively.

What is Invisalign Made Of?

While Invisalign may look delicate, don’t fall for that. They are made of solid and durable material for effective treatment. But what materials make these invisible aligners so strong and a sure-shot treatment for decades? Let’s find out!

1. Polymethyl Methacrylate

Most of the aligners are made of this plastic material called polymethyl methacrylate, which is also used to make acrylics, lenses, and synthetic gums. The strength and durability of this material make it perfect for making aligners.
While some aligners are also made of another plastic material called polyethersulfone, compared to that, polymethyl methacrylate is more durable. While polyethersulfone is more transparent, giving your aligners a better look, they are not that durable and may break if not used properly. Moreover, polymethyl methacrylate is heat resistant, so you do not have to worry about living in a hot climate.
The only drawback of this material used in aligners is that it is too brittle and hard. So, if you chew on it accidentally, it may crack. Repairing this material is also not easy, as it is difficult and expensive.

2. Trimethyl Orthosilicate

Today’s modern-age aligners are made of trimethyl orthosilicate, a material molded in 3D shapes and widely used in the Invisalign brand. While its transparent look makes it a perfect candidate for making aligners, it’s also incredibly lightweight and durable, less likely to break or crack.
The trimethyl orthosilicate material also contains lubricants, reducing friction when wearing aligners made of this material. So you can move your jaw comfortably. This is also better for people who want high-quality aligners without having to be too careful in their everyday activities. Since it’s highly durable, it’s also less brittle than polymethyl methacrylate, so you don’t have to worry about splurging money to repair any chips or cracks. Your Invisalign process gets less expensive when your aligners are used with this material.

3. Acrylic Resin

Acrylic resin is a common material used in many other dental procedures besides aligners. They include bridges, crowns, and dental fillings. Aligners made of acrylic resin are harder than your teeth but not as hard as your bones. While it is a hard material, it’s not uncomfortable to wear. It is stiff enough not to move around in your mouth but also flexible enough to wear it for the entire day without experiencing any irritation.

Invisalign Process

The Invisalign process is a long-term process that changes as per someone’s needs and dental conditions. But overall, in most cases, the Invisalign process stays the same. Here’s a closer look into how the general procedure goes:

1. Initial Consultation

In the initial consultation, the orthodontist discusses the Invisalign process with you in detail. Here, you are made to understand everything about the process – from how fast does Invisalign works to how long does Invisalign takes. You can ask everything you need to know regarding the Invisalign process.

2. X-rays and Photographs

The second step in the Invisalign process is getting x-rays and photographs taken of your teeth. This is a crucial step to follow once you have decided to go for the Invisalign treatment, as the orthodontist needs to know the current status of your teeth and jaw to mold the aligner trays according to your current dental condition.
In some cases, a lateral cephalometric X-ray is also taken, as it provides more detailed images of the cheekbone and jaw to understand the teeth’s alignment properly.

3. Preparatory Work

Some patients undergoing Invisalign treatment may require small composite patches on specific teeth to enhance the grip of the clear aligners, although this isn’t necessary for everyone. These patches, made from the same material as fillings, can be easily removed without discomfort after treatment. Additionally, the amount of interproximal reduction needed varies among patients but involves gently removing enamel between crowded teeth with discs to create space for smoother movement in the future.

4. First Fitting

Once your teeth are prepared for a set of aligners, the first fitting is scheduled. The aligners’ feel is meant to be tight as they are molded for your current teeth and jaw alignment. But just because they are meant to be fitted does not mean they are meant to be too tight or uncomfortable.
Ensure the trays feel comfortable when talking and are not too tight or loose. They shouldn’t be painful but tight enough to make the teeth realignment process successful.

5. Changes in the Mouth

There will be changes in your mouth once you start wearing aligners. These changes are similar to when someone starts with the traditional braces procedure.
Initially, your teeth may ache as they are forced to realign to a certain position. However, this pain may not be that strong compared to the pain felt when wearing traditional braces. In addition to this, your teeth may also feel too sensitive. This might wear off quickly, but you can use toothpaste specially meant for sensitive teeth for early recovery.
Apart from these changes, you may also see a difference in your speech. This is because your tongue is adjusting to the trays in your mouth, so it is not able to move as freely as it used to, and usually fades in couple of weeks.

6. Invisalign Tray Change

The aligner trays are changed every two or more weeks depending on the situation of your teeth. The orthodontist may not change the aligner tray if your teeth are not moved in the desired time.
With every tray change, you are moving up one step further in the ladder of the alignment process. Tray change is a sign that your teeth are re-aligning and the process is working. This is how the Invisalign process works successfully.

Invisalign Aftercare Tips

Once the Invisalign has been set in your mouth, it’s time to take proper care through the treatment for effective results. Here are tips to keep in mind when undergoing the Invisalign process:
  • Regularly visit your dentist for scheduled checkups, allowing them to monitor the progress of your treatment and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Brush your trays daily and soak them at least once a week to ensure their cleanliness. This practice eliminates bacteria, prevents discoloration, and maintains their efficacy.
  • Adopt a healthy, well-rounded diet comprising a variety of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and high-quality proteins. Minimize consumption of sticky, chewy, or sugary foods.
  • Follow the prescribed wearing schedule for your Invisalign trays or retainers (22 hours daily). Deviating from this schedule increases the risk of suboptimal results.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing them at least once daily.

The Importance of Wearing Retainers After the Treatment

So, you are done with the Invisalign treatment and have seen the desired results. Now, what next? Of course, after going through the months of treatment, it’s essential to preserve all the hard work you did. And this is why wearing retainers is essential!
Retainers help keep your teeth properly realigned after the Invisalign process. If you skip it, your teeth will shift back to their original position, and once this happens, you may have to repeat the Invisalign process. Here are some general rules you may want to follow after getting retainers:
  • Ideally, wear retainers for 16 hours in the first 3 months and then every night after completing 3 months.
  • Brush your retainer every day with a gentle toothpaste.
  • Store them in their designated case to avoid getting any scratches on them.
  • It’s ideal to soak them in a retainer cleaning solution once every week.

Benefits of Invisalign

Apart from being a more comfortable and less noticeable option as compared to traditional braces, there are several other benefits of Invisalign. Let’s count them:
  • Removable: Ideally, a dentist recommends keeping your aligners for at least 22 hours a day. You can easily remove them when eating or drinking to avoid staining.
  • Better gum health: Since you can remove them whenever you want, you don’t have to compromise on your oral health and can brush and floss conveniently. They are not made of metal, so you are not going to hurt your gums.
  • Not noticeable: They are clear and almost invisible unless someone gets a really close look. So, if you are conscious of the way you look, Invisalign is the best option.
  • No food restrictions: There’s no restriction as to what food you can eat and what food to avoid as you are already going to remove these aligners when eating.

Key Takeaways

Straighter teeth equals enhanced confidence for people who are conscious of the way their smile looks. And Invisalign is your key to wearing a confident smile! Ditch the metal wires for a more subtle and non-noticeable teeth-straightening method with this popular and millennial favorite – Invisalign.
If you are thinking of getting your teeth straight or are in search of other orthodontic requirements, contact Central Park North Orthodontics for proper guidance and assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Initially, you may feel uncomfortable as your mouth adjusts to it, but Invisalign does not hurt at any stage of the fitting. If you experience any pain, consult your orthodontist immediately to get the issue resolved.
Depending on the severity of your misalignment and compliance with the treatment, every individual takes a different time period to complete their Invisalign process. However, ideally, it takes around 12 to 18 months. In some simple cases, it may take just six months, while in severe cases two years. Follow your orthodontist’s advice for effective and quick results.
It is recommended to wear aligners for at least 20 to 22 hours a day for effective and faster results. And you may require a new set of trays every two weeks depending on the progress as suggested by your orthodontist.

Keeping your aligners clean is super important to avoid staining and dental problems. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Rinse your Invisalign trays with warm water to get rid of any gunk.
  • Gently brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste or clear antibacterial soap.
  • Rinse again with warm water.
  • Soak the trays for about 15 minutes in a mix of equal parts white vinegar and warm water, or use cleaning crystals/tablets.
  • Rinse them once more with warm water.
  • Let them air dry and store them in a clean, dry spot when you’re not wearing them.
  • Avoid using hot water, as it can mess up the trays.
Yes, for optimal results, it’s ideal to wear retainers forever after your Invisalign process. No, you won’t have to wear them 24×7, apart from the first six months, as your teeth are setting in, but your orthodontist will recommend you to wear your retainers at least at night after completing the first six months post your Invisalign process.
Picture of Dr. Nimesh Patel

Dr. Nimesh Patel

Dr. Patel is an orthodontist and maintains a private practice in Rome, NY. He completed his undergraduate education at the Ohio State University. Then, he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. After earning his doctorate, Dr. Patel attended a three-year, dual-degree residency at Columbia University in New York City. Here, he earned his certificate in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics as well as earning a Masters in Oral Biology. During his time off, Dr. Patel likes to stay active by jogging, biking, and hiking.

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