The Invisalign® orthodontic system. - An introduction to removable / invisible braces.
What are removable / invisible dental braces?
- Unlike having conventional dental braces (made up of brackets, wires and elastic bands), these systems straighten your teeth via the use of clear, removable plastic tooth aligners.
- That makes having orthodontic treatment practically invisible. And gives you the big advantage of being able to take your braces out whenever you need to.
What do removable tooth aligners look like?
Invisalign® aligners are thin, clear vacuum-molded plastic appliances designed to fit snugly over your teeth.
Comparisons to other dental appliances.
As a basis for comparison, there are two other types of dental appliances that are very similar to Invisalign®.
Slideshow explaining what Invisalign® tooth aligners look like.
- Invisalign® aligners look a lot like bleaching trays.
However, tooth aligners are made out of a thinner, stiffer type of plastic that's more optically clear (medical-grade polyurethane). This makes wearing them less obvious than trays.
- They are also very similar, almost precisely so, to clear plastic vacuum-molded (Essix/Vivera®-style) orthodontic retainers.
Although, tooth aligners are typically made out of plastic that's just a little bit thinner. And the appliance's edges usually have a more scalloped outline.
What do ClearCorrect® and Simpli 5® aligners look like?
For all practical purposes, the aligners worn with the other removable/invisible braces systems ClearCorrect® and Simpli 5® look essentially the same as Invisalign®.
Advantages of Invisalign® vs. metal braces.
As the text in our graphic outlines, there are lots of reasons other than looks alone to choose a removable system over conventional braces.
Slideshow outlining advantages of Invisalign® vs. conventional braces.
And if you're seriously considering having your teeth straightened using this treatment approach, we have lots of information to share. Here's an outline of some of the topics we discuss:
a) Basic information about removable/invisible systems.
- How plastic tooth aligners are able to straighten your teeth.
- The steps needed to get started with Invisalign®. (It's actually a quite sophisticated process.)
- Even though this system has a lot of obvious advantages it also has some inherent disadvantages and treatment limitations.
b) Details about treatment and the treatment process.
- How long does treatment take?
- How much do you have to wear your aligners?
- What are Invisalign Express® and Teen®?
- Costs estimates for both regular Invisalign® and Express®.
- Animations demonstrating some of the basic orthodontic principles often utilized with invisible braces.
c) Information about wearing your appliances.
- When you wear them, just how invisible are Invisalign® aligners?
- How does wearing them affect everyday activities?
- How do you clean them?
- Pain & treatment side effects associated with wearing removable orthodontic aligners.
Invisalign® alternatives. - ClearCorrect®, Simpli 5®
Invisalign® isn't the only invisible/removable braces system. There are other products that your dentist can choose to use for your treatment. They include:
ClearCorrect, Inc., founded in 2006, manufactures an invisible braces product that is, for all practical purposes, the same as Invisalign®. This includes the way the aligners are made, used, worn and look.
On our pages, we consider these two products to be equivalent and make no distinction between them. Your dentist's choice between Invisalign® and ClearCorrect® is most likely one based on cost and company preference, not the product itself.
b) AOA Orthodontic Laboratory, Inc. / Sybron Dental Specialties, Inc.
AOA Orthodontic Laboratories offers three invisible braces systems (Simpli 5® / Red White & Blue® / RW II®) that are, from the patient's standpoint, essentially identical to Invisalign®.
These systems are not, however, directly comparable in the way they are made or the types of conditions they are used to treat. In most instances, these systems are only used to treat cases that involve the realignment of anterior (front) teeth.
For more information, use this link: Simpli 5® / Red White & Blue® / RW II®.
c) OrthoClear, Inc.
For a time there was a competing, directly comparable, invisible braces product manufactured and marketed by OrthoClear, Inc. (founded in 2005).
This product is no longer available. In 2006, in response to on going litigation, Align Technology, Inc. and OrthoClear, Inc. reached a settlement. As a part of this settlement, OrthoClear, Inc. agreed to stop accepting new cases.
d) Other versions of Invisalign®
Align Technology, Inc. has developed variations of their basic Invisalign® system named Express and Teen (see link above), so to meet specific patient needs.
Who makes the Invisalign® system?
Align Technology, Inc. invented the Invisalign® orthodontic system. They began to make it available to dentists in 1998. This was the first invisible/removable braces system to be mass-produced, popularized and adopted into use by main-stream dentistry.
How does a dentist get "certified" to use Invisalign®?
Dentists are required to take some basic coursework.
Align Technology, Inc. requires that all dentists who want to offer the Invisalign® system to their patients must complete a certification course. Initially, this certification training was only offered to orthodontists. Nowadays, enrollment is open to general dentists too.
This training may not be quite as rigorous as you'd expect.
While additional coursework, workshops and seminars are available for those who are interested, the minimum amount of training required before a dentist can participate in the Invisalign® program has historically been a single one-day course.
Buyers beware - Your dentist's level of training and experience plays an important role in creating treatment success.
For the vast majority of general dentists, having a removable braces system to offer means that they can treat much more complex cases than they would otherwise be able to. This isn't, however, always a good thing.
A certain level of expertise is required.
During case planning, Align Technology, Inc. typically defers to the treating dentist's clinical judgment. That means that a case's successful outcome depends on both the dentist's ability to make a proper diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
The level of expertise needed to make these decisions may lie beyond that of many general dentists, many of whom may not be aware of their limitations. For this reason, seeking Invisalign® treatment from an orthodontist can have advantages.
What's the history of removable braces?
The concept on which Invisalign® is based has been around since the 1940's. In 1945 Dr. H.D. Kessling suggested that a series of "positioners" could be used to produce the tooth movements needed to straighten a patient's teeth.
After that point, removable appliances of varying sorts were used by dentists but the laboratory steps needed to craft them were prohibitively labor intense. And it was this difficulty that historically always dampened the widespread adoption of Dr. Kessling's idea by the dental community as a whole.
Now, as a result of the pioneering efforts of Align Technology, Inc., and their accomplishment in melding computer technology with custom manufacturing, the picture has changed. Removable braces technique has now become a practical treatment alternative.
Menu for topic Dental Braces -
- Removable aligners (Invisalign®)
- Lingual systems (Incognito®).
- Ceramic (clear) dental braces.
- Conventional (metal) braces.
- Orthodontic retainers.