What are My Treatment Options?
If your child is ready for orthodontic care, one of the first discussions to have with your orthodontist is which procedure is right for him or her; the options might be much more plentiful than you ever imagined.
If you’re like most people, you associate orthodontists with braces, but these days that is just one arm of what I or any orthodontist does. Here are some of the services most orthodontists will provide their patients with during the course of routine treatment:
- Metal tie-free braces
- Invisalign clear removable aligners
- Clear braces
- Expanders to match jaw size and tooth size
- Habit appliances to eliminate thumb sucking
- Space maintainers
- Retainers to prevent crowding and shifting of teeth
- Functional appliances to help improve facial balance
- Early treatment and growth modification
- Customized appliances designed uniquely for each patient
While many of these services may seem self-explanatory to you, several will probably not. In the course of the next few questions, I will try to elaborate on several of them, including:
What is Invisalign?
No doubt you’ve heard all about the revolutionary Invisalign® system for teeth straightening. Chances are, though, that while you’re familiar with the brand name of this amazing new product, you might not be familiar with exactly how the system works. In this section I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about Invisalign.
For starters, the Invisalign system is the virtually invisible way to straighten your teeth and achieve the dazzling smile you’ve always dreamed of. Using advanced 3-D computer-imaging technology, Invisalign depicts your complete treatment plan, from the initial position of your teeth to the final desired position.
After that, a series of clear aligners are custom-made for your teeth – and your teeth only – to move them little by little. Each aligner is worn for about two weeks before being replaced by the next in the series, until the final position of your teeth is achieved. When will that be, exactly? The amount and duration of each aligner series differs for every mouth. Your Invisalign treatment time will be determined by your doctor, based on your specific needs.
What are the primary benefits of Invisalign?
Like the word that inspired them, Invisalign aligners are practically clear; or as close to “invisible” as one can get. No one may even notice that you’re wearing these virtually invisible “braces,” making Invisalign a seamless fit with your lifestyle and day-to-day interactions with others.
Invisalign is also removable. Unlike braces, you have the flexibility to eat and drink whatever you want during treatment by simply removing the aligners before a meal or snack. And you can also remove the aligners to brush and floss as you normally would for fresh breath and good oral hygiene.
Unlike braces, there are no metal brackets or wires that could cause irritation to your mouth with the Invisalign system. Furthermore, since your office visits during treatment don’t involve metal or wire adjustments, you will likely spend less time in the doctor’s chair (and that’s always a good thing for young patients!).
Finally, Invisalign allows you to view your virtual results and treatment plan before you start so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete.
How do I get started with Invisalign?
It’s simple: just make an appointment with your local orthodontist for an initial consultation. Most doctors will offer a free initial consultation to see if you are a good candidate for Invisalign.
How will Invisalign effectively move my teeth?
Aligners are the foundation for, and work in concert with, the Invisalign system. Like brackets and arch wires are to braces, Invisalign aligners move teeth through the appropriate placement of controlled force on your child’s teeth. The main difference is that Invisalign not only controls forces, but also the timing of the force application.
During each stage, only certain teeth are allowed to move. These movements are determined by your doctor as he or she maps out your unique Invisalign treatment plan.
What are aligners made of, and what do they look like?
The virtually invisible aligners, which are made of a thermoplastic material uniquely developed for the Invisalign treatment plan, look similar to tooth-whitening trays. Invisalign aligners are custom-made for you and only you to move your teeth in the sequence determined by your doctor.
How old is the technology?
In 1945, Dr. H.D. Kesling envisioned that one day modern technology would enable the use of a series of tooth positioners to produce the kinds of movements required for comprehensive orthodontic treatment.
Technology has made this vision a reality. Using advanced computer technology, Align Technology produces Invisalign, a series of customized clear appliances, or aligners. Each aligner is worn sequentially by the patient to produce extensive tooth movements in both upper and lower arches.
How many patients are being treated with Invisalign?
More than 2,000,000 patients worldwide have been treated with Invisalign. The number of Invisalign smiles grows daily. Will yours be next?
Has the FDA cleared Invisalign?
Invisalign aligners are classified as Class II medical devices by the FDA, and Align Technology, Inc. has held the necessary 510K clearance from the FDA since 1998 to be able to sell and market the Invisalign system.
Do Invisalign aligners contain Bisphenol-A (BPA)?
No. Invisalign aligners and Vivera Retainers do not contain Bisphenol-A or phthalate plasticizers. These aligners and retainers are made with USP Class VI medical grade, high molecular weight, polyurethane resins.
Tests have been conducted to determine the biocompatibility of these materials, and show that they are biocompatible and pass all applicable regulatory requirements and thresholds for human wear in the mouth. Of course, as with any medical device, you should consult with your health professional about your aligner or retainer treatment and any applicable risks of use.
Are Metal Braces Still Used?
The fact is, metal braces still have a valued place in the orthodontic world, and despite advances and breakthroughs of products like Invisalign and even clear braces, aren’t going extinct anytime soon!
Why are metal braces still so popular? Well, for one thing, metal braces are very strong and can withstand most types of treatment. Today’s metal braces are smaller, sleeker, and more polished than ever before.
Older, traditional metal braces require an elastic o-shaped rubber band, called a ligature to hold the arch wire onto the bracket. These elastic ties collect more plaque and bacteria, making it harder for patients to clean the teeth and gums.
You may have heard of “speed braces.” These are sometimes also referred to as “self-ligating brackets” or “tie-free braces.” Self-ligating means that the brackets do not need the little o-shaped rubber bands (ligatures) or metal tie wires to hold the arch wire onto the bracket. Several companies have developed braces for holding the wires in place without ligatures.
By using self-ligation technology, the brackets allow the wire to slide back and forth. This advancement allows for fewer adjustments and fewer appointments. These types of braces do not need rubber bands to hold the arch wire in place. They use a “door” to secure the arch wire to the bracket. They are smaller than traditional metal and less food gets trapped around them when you eat.
Your orthodontist might use an advanced self-ligating bracket that does not require physical tightening of the wire to the braces. It is a twin bracket made of metal or clear ceramic, and utilizes a special built-in clip. The pressure from specific types of arch wires activates the clip and delivers specific amounts of force to each tooth, resulting in fast, directed results.
Naturally, orthodontists are very excited about the hygiene benefits of these self-closing or tie-free metal braces. Patients are excited that their braces are small, smooth, friction-free and straighten their teeth in fewer visits with less discomfort than braces with wires that are “tied-in.”
What are Clear Braces?
Ceramic braces are very strong and generally do not stain. Adults like to choose ceramic because they “blend in” with the teeth and are less noticeable than metal. These are the type of braces actor Tom Cruise had.
Older types of ceramic braces required white or clear ligatures (tiny rubber bands) to hold the wire on to the braces. New tie-free ceramic braces systems combine the same efficient tooth movement with exceptional esthetics because they no longer require the small rubber bands that could stain with certain foods or drinks.. Patients no longer have to decide between metal braces or clear braces that could stain.
It’s not uncommon for individuals who have undergone orthodontic treatment earlier in life to find their teeth have drifted out of alignment over the years. Most adults won’t think twice about bleaching their teeth to roll back the effects of time. Yet few think about the role orthodontics can play.
Adults of all ages can enjoy the same cosmetic and health benefits of properly aligned teeth with braces.
Benefits Beyond Beauty
Improperly aligned teeth can do more than undermine your confidence. They can make proper cleaning and brushing more difficult, contribute to enamel loss and even set the stage for more significant problems down the road. Fortunately, discrete treatment can help keep you aligned with a healthy, happy lifestyle.
The Solution is Clear
Orthodontists believe that every individual has the right to live their life with a smile they truly love, particularly children. Healthy, straight, attractive smiles don’t just make your child healthier but happier and more self-confidence. And isn’t that what we all want for them?
State-of-the-art orthodontic treatment helps you achieve the smile of your dreams faster, easier and more discretely than you ever imagined. Embrace the confidence that comes with beautifully aligned teeth and put your smile on display. Schedule a consultation and ask your orthodontist which treatment is right for you.