In the 2021 Superbowl, the Kansas City Chiefs played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now the winner may have been Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, but for Invisalign, the real MVP was the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. When the camera pans to Mahomes after each play, you can see him chewing sideways on his Invisalign tray. This not only annoys dentists and orthodontists across the world as his Invisalign tray gets destroyed, but it also has inspired thousands of patients to consult with their dentists about Invisalign and other clear aligner therapy solutions and companies.
Invisalign and other clear aligner therapy options may not be suitable for every case and person, but it has helped to create a much easier, more affordable, and oftentimes more efficient treatment for patients.
The process of aligning teeth with special trays is called clear aligner therapy and Invisalign is only one name brand of this type of treatment. There are actually many different companies that manufacture the same types of clear aligner trays for patients, and in many cases, these can be more affordable options.
So how does clear aligner therapy work?
During an initial consult appointment, an intraoral scanner is used to recreate a 3D image of the teeth and gums and how they relate to each other. This scan captures the anatomy of the bite, while additional pictures are taken of how the patient looks when they smile in relation to their eyes and nose. The detailed scan of the teeth is then used for the doctor to digitally plan where the teeth will eventually be positioned and how they move throughout treatment. It’s extremely important to undergo clear aligner therapy with a dentist that is trained in this treatment and understands tooth movement to maintain the health of the bone and gums. Inexperienced individuals or infomercial products can easily move teeth too fast or in an improper orientation, both of which can land a patient in a worse position in the end than where they began. Once your dentist has a good plan, the doctor has a special orthodontic aligner company 3D print each stage of movement of the patient’s teeth. These models are used to fabricate the aligners for the patient to achieve the desired outcome. Once the trays are ready, the dental team works to place special “attachments” on the surface of the teeth to help the trays grab onto the surface of the tooth and engage movement. These attachments are tooth colored and often referred to as “buttons” that will click into the aligners. Depending on the case, the doctor will generally prescribe a patient one set of trays for 2 weeks at a time.
What are the benefits of clear aligner therapy?
Patients commonly ask for clear aligner therapy to correct an aesthetic issue with their smile – that’s great! However, clear aligner therapy can also correct other common and more serious dental issues. Severe crowding can be an issue in the front teeth, which can lead to gum disease because the patient is unable to properly clean their teeth. Expanding the alignment of the teeth makes room to fix this crowding and not only makes for a more appealing smile, but also allows the patient to easily brush and floss to maintain good oral hygiene. Other issues include a narrowing of the mouth which can cause deterioration of the back teeth. A narrow mouth can cause teeth to hit each other in an unnatural motion rather than gliding as we eat. Using clear aligner therapy to expand this bite can significantly help. Another added benefit of expanding the mouth to its natural and ideal bite is to dramatically increase a patient’s ability to breathe during sleep. Sleep apnea is the inability to properly breathe at night. Studies in head and neck medicine have been showing that changing the bite and structure of a mouth may help to alleviate symptoms. Oftentimes, without dental intervention, sleep apnea is treated by a special breathing mask, which is required to help maintain breathing patterns at night. Now, by idealizing the mouth by aligning the bite, we have seen drastic increases in the volume of oxygen per breath, leading to more healthy patients with fewer apnea symptoms. Who knew that by using simple trays to move teeth, we could accomplish so much?!