What are the steps of getting Invisalign®?

This page details the process that takes place from the first stages of planning your Invisalign® treatment until it is actually begun.

These steps include:  1) The initial (complementary) consultation,  2) Taking "records",  and  3) Approval of the treatment animation.

The Invisalign® process -

1) The initial consultation.

Once you've decided that you like the idea of having Invisalign®, there will probably be lots of things that you will want to know before you make the final decision to go ahead and have it. The way you get this information is by scheduling a "consultation" appointment.

During the consultation you'll get to ask the dentist questions, and they'll get to evaluate you.

Actually, this initial appointment serves two purposes. First of all, it's your chance to get some answers about invisible braces that nobody else, except a dentist treating your case, can provide for you. Things like:  How much will my treatment cost?  and  How long will it take?

This exam is also an opportunity for the dentist to confirm that removable braces (standard or possibly Invisalign Express® or Teen®) make a good choice for treating your situation.

Systems like Invisalign® are just one, of many ways, to straighten teeth. They aren't right for treating every type of case or, sometimes, another method will offer specific advantages. That's what this initial consultation is all about, learning.

Ask if the consultation is complementary.

When you call to make your appointment, ask if there are any fees involved. You'll probably find that this initial consultation is complementary. The appointment itself will likely be fairly short. You'll probably be talking with the dentist for about 15 minutes or so.

2) Taking the "records" for your Invisalign® case.

Before your dentist can begin to plan your Invisalign® treatment, they'll first need to collect some information that documents how your teeth and bite are right now. This is called "taking records."

The types of data they'll need are photographs, x-rays, dental impressions and a bite registration. Here are more details.

The records a dentist needs to start an Invisalign® case.
  • A) Dental impressions - A dental impression is simply a copy of your teeth.
         To make one, your dentist will place impression putty in a tray and then squish it into place. Once the putty has set, they'll have an imprint of both your teeth and their surrounding gum tissue.
          As an alternative, Invisalign® allows dentists to submit digital (optical) impressions, if they have that capability.
  • B) Bite registration - Even if your dentist has a perfect copy of your upper and lower teeth, it may not be obvious to them how the two fit together. That's why a bite registration can be important.
         Your dentist will spread a layer of fast-setting paste on your teeth and then have you close down. When the paste sets, they'll have a record of your "bite."
  • C) Dental x-rays - X-rays allow your dentist to evaluate tooth root and jawbone health as well as current root positioning. Either a full-mouth series or panoramic x-ray (or both) might be needed.
  • D) Photographs - Invisalign® requires a series of 8 patient pictures for every case. This includes front and side full-face photos, front and side close-ups of your teeth closed together, and close-up pictures of each dental arch.

How long does a "records" appointment take?

Taking records for an Invisalign® case usually requires about an hour, or maybe an hour and a half, of appointment time. Your dentist may do some of the work but more likely most of it will be delegated to one of their assistants.

Some dentists require a down payment at the completion of this appointment. Rather than be caught off-guard, you should check to see what your dentist's policy is.

3) The Invisalign® prescription form.

Once your dentist has collected all of the information that they need, they'll fill out an Invisalign® prescription form. This is just a formal document that specifies details about your current status, the way your dentist wants your case treated, and the type of tooth-alignment changes that are sought.

Your records will then be sent to Align Technology, Inc.

All of the items created during your records appointment will be forwarded to the people who make Invisalign®. They have the ability to receive the forms, photos and x-rays via the Internet. The impressions, unless they're digital ones, will have to be shipped.

4) Invisalign® will transform your impressions into digital information.

Technicians at Align Technology will perform a digital scan your dental impressions using a CT (computed tomography) scanner. They'll then take this data and create an on-screen 3-D model of your upper and lower teeth.

A technician will create your treatment simulation.

Once the virtual modeling of your teeth has been completed and your prescription form has been evaluated, an Invisalign® technician will create an on-screen animation showing a sequence of tooth movements that can give the treatment results that your dentist has requested.

5) Your dentist will evaluate and OK your treatment animation.

At this point, your treatment simulation will be made available to your dentist (online) via Align Technology's ClinCheck® software. This software gives your dentist the ability to evaluate your animation from any angle. Your dentist can request changes to the proposed treatment plan, if they feel they are needed.

Ask if you can see your treatment animation.

Your dentist may want to show your simulation to you, so they can get your input.

Even though it is just an animation, getting a chance to visualize what the alignment of your teeth will be at the completion of your treatment is a unique feature of Invisalign® and not something that's available with other orthodontic techniques.

Once everyone's satisfied, the dentist will give their approval and a go-ahead to Align Technology, Inc.

6) Invisalign® will make your aligners.

The set of Invisalign® tooth aligners used to treat one patient's case.

Once your dentist's approval has been received, Align Technology will take your case's digital information and use it to manufacture a series of upper and lower dental casts. Depending on the complexity of your case, this may involve as few as ten or as many as 30 or more pairs of casts.

Each cast will represent a specific stage that your teeth will need to take at a specific point during your treatment. Individual aligners are then fabricated on each cast.

Once the fabrication process has been completed, your complete series of aligners, all of those needed for your entire course of treatment, will be delivered to your dentist as a single shipment.

After records are taken, how long does it take to have the aligners made?

There are a couple of variables involved with how quickly the records your dentist takes get transformed into your set of aligners. One of them is simply how quickly your dentist (possibly with you there too) can evaluate and OK your simulation. Any changes made to the treatment plan (the animation) will add additional days to the needed turn-around time.

In some instances, it may be possible for your dentist to receive your aligners in as little as 3 weeks or so. More realistically, it will probably take 4 to 6.

7) Now everything is set for you to begin your Invisalign® treatment.

Once your dentist has received your set of aligners, they'll need to appoint you for a visit so you can get started with your treatment.

During this appointment they'll discuss with you how many hours each day you'll need to wear your aligners, as well as how to take care them. They'll also give you your next set of aligners and tell you when you'll need to switch to them. They'll also appoint you for your first checkup visit.

Invisalign® Braces
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