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We want to make it easy for you to become an informed participant in your oral health care. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to help you feel comfortable asking us whenever you have a question. No question is ever silly, and we are here to help you with any concern you happen to have.
We've gathered some of our most commonly heard questions here for you to look through. If your question isn't answered here or you'd like more information, don't hesitate to give us a call!
Invisalign is the brand name of one of the largest orthodontic companies in the world, Align Technology. They are based out of California and have been in existence for over twenty years. Many orthodontists and general dentists, such as myself, have become certified to be providers of Invisalign through their dental school education or continuing education. Invisalign charges dentists and orthodontists a fee for every patient that uses their system, and helps to design and manufacture the aligners that move a patient’s teeth into better alignment. It is an alternative to traditional braces.
Other companies have recently started to challenge the dominance that Invisalign has held over the clear aligner market. Various smaller companies attempt to compete with Invisalign by charging dentists a slightly lower fee while trying to provide the same service. The biggest difficulty that smaller companies face is that Align Technology has had decades of data and feedback, allowing them to continually optimize the efficiency and predictability of Invisalign. Competitors are playing catch-up and competing by imitation right now. However, technology advances quickly and the competitors may one day be as good, or even better than Invisalign.
A relatively new form of competition is the Smile Direct Club. This is another competitor of Invisalign that essentially cuts out the dentist or orthodontist and markets directly to patients. Patients can take impressions of their own teeth and send them through the mail to Smile Direct Club, and have aligners shipped directly to them. In most cases, a dentist or orthodontist does NOT see the patient during the course of treatment. Personally, I feel there is a lot of inherent risk in allowing patients to control their own treatment without dental supervision. Very simple cases where only a few teeth are slightly out of position may go smoothly, but I feel more moderate to complex cases require a dentist to be involved. Time will tell if Smile Direct Club produces consistent, quality results.
Since the Invisalign aligners (clear plastic devices that fit over your teeth and move them) are manufactured by Align Technology, some patients may wonder why they cannot be sent directly to the patient through the mail. In other words, what role does the dentist have in the Invisalign process? First, the dentist checks if the teeth are in good health. Teeth that are weak, decayed, or have gum disease may be compromised or even ruined if they are moved orthodontically. Second, the dentist takes either scans or impressions, as well as photographs of the teeth, to be sent with a prescription to Invisalign.
When treatment starts, small tooth-colored attachments are placed on the teeth by bonding them. These attachments allow the aligners to pull and push in specific locations to move the teeth in very specific directions. Sometimes, IPR is performed, which can be thought of as flossing with “sandpaper floss.” The dentist removes tight contacts between teeth so that they have room to move into proper position. Lastly, only a dentist can remove the bonded attachments and polish the teeth smooth. Typically, I also recontour some teeth, polishing sharp edges, and smoothing certain areas to perfect the final look.
Invisalign is very predictable and works extremely well when done properly. However, as with any medical or dental procedure, there are risks if performed improperly.