Clear aligner treatment is a form of dentist-administered orthodontic treatment using transparent plastic devices. Unlike traditional fixed braces, clear aligners are virtually invisible, and can be removed when eating, drinking or brushing one’s teeth.
Clear aligner orthodontic treatment is typically done to correct two primary concerns:
- Functional concerns due to poor alignment:
- Tooth trauma due to the unequal distribution of the bite force – when a patient’s teeth lack proper alignment, some teeth will bear greater chewing load that their anatomical design permits. In the long run, this issue can cause a range of problems with the individual teeth, such as chipping, fracturing, recession, abfractions or tooth loss.
- TMJ disorders – when the bite forces are not equally distributed, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) becomes strained, chronically painful and sometimes locked.
- Periodontal disease – crowded teeth are more difficult to floss effectively. Over time, this will lead to damage to the surrounding gums and bone, and cause periodontal disease.
2. Aesthetic concerns
- Smile transformations – patients can transform the way their smile looks with clear aligners to achieve the aesthetics they desire. Patients can discuss their preferences with the dentist during a consultation, so the treatment can be customized to achieve their goals.
- As a step in smile makeovers – in select cosmetic cases (veneers or crowns), sometimes it is necessary to complete orthodontic treatment prior to starting the cosmetic treatment, in order to create space in the dental arch, or to achieve aesthetic alignment.
Orthodontic treatment with clear aligners can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete, depending on the amount of teeth movement necessary.
- Impressions and pictures of the patient’s teeth are taken and sent to Invisalign.
- The dentist and invisalign technician develop the treatment plan in accordance with the patient’s goals.
- The clear aligners are fabricated and delivered to the office.
- Natour will recommend that each tray is worn for either one or two weeks, depending on the individual case.
- Typically, tooth-colored attachments are placed, which serve as anchors in moving the teeth. Occasionally, hair-thin spaces must be created between some teeth, to allow for proper tooth movement.
- During periodic visits, the patient’s progress is monitored and any concerns addressed.
- At the completion of the treatment plan, the progress is evaluated. If all goals are achieved, a set of retainers is fabricated. If further improvement is needed, a set of refinement aligners will be ordered.
During the course of any orthodontic treatment, it is important to be more diligent than usual with brushing and flossing, since the trays can trap food between the teeth if not properly cleaned out. Also, it is recommended to receive more frequent routine dental cleanings, as the clear aligners can have a “greenhouse effect” in preventing saliva from properly flushing the teeth, and therefore causing faster buildup of tartar and calculus.
When Invisalign is completed, it is critical to be diligent with wearing the retainers at night to maintain the progress achieved.
Although it is much easier to keep the teeth clean while undergoing Invisalign treatment versus traditional braces, there is still some degree of difficulty keeping teeth as clean as when a patient has no trays. This is because the trays limit salivary flow to the teeth while wearing – so there is a higher risk of decay and gum inflammation because of this. It is recommended to have more frequent routine cleanings and to have fluoride treatment applied at each hygiene visit.
A good amount of insurance plans will provide orthodontic benefits regardless of the patient’s age. The majority of the plans that have benefits will only allow them in the context of dentist-supervised (not do-it-yourself) treatment. The allowance for orthodontic treatment is typically a separate one-time allowance, which differs from the annual allowance for routine dental care. The office of Dr. Mazen Natour will handle all insurance matters for its patients. Please call us if you have any questions about your coverage.