woman with braces holding popsicle

What is Invisalign?

As one of the most popular brands of the clear aligner, Invisalign in Clapham is a relatively new method of performing orthodontics. The goal of orthodontics is to correct the positioning of the teeth and the traditional way of achieving this is with a dental brace.

There are orthodontic retainers which are used after treatment with braces and are designed to stop the regression of the teeth back to their original positions. The clear aligner has a similar name and appearance, but it is used instead of a brace and therefore does not function as a traditional orthodontic retainer.

First clear aligners

The first aligner was created in the 1945 and had the appearance of a mouth guard; the thick rubber aligner was dubbed “the tooth straightener” and was used in conjunction with a metal brace to accelerate treatment. It did not gain mass appeal and was largely forgotten.

The first clear aligners started out as plastic dental splints and where trialled throughout the 1980s but remained a topic for dental researchers.

In the 1990s, Invisalign was founded, and it achieved its patent as a clear aligner. It championed the use of computer modelling in dentistry but the quality of 3D scanning in the 1990s was questionable unless performed in optimum conditions over a long period. So a dental mould would be taken, and from this, a plaster replica could be made and scanned for hours in a studio.

From the 3D scan, a dental technician would digitally reconstruct the teeth into their optimum positions. A whole series of models would then be generated by the software, like a flipbook, smoothly transitioning the position of the teeth.

From these models, the shape of the aligners could be predicted and 3D printed. This was very novel for the 1990s. Advances in both 3D scanning and printing have had a massive effect on the production of clear aligners and their popularity. Progression in the quality of scanning devices and a reduction in their size has led to inter-oral scanning, making the taking of dental moulds redundant. At the same time progress was made in UV laser curing techniques used in 3D printing, and the explosion of 3D printers significantly reduced manufacturing cost.

young girl smiling holding up hands

Are they better than braces?

They’re different in many ways; brace removal and fitting must be done by a fully qualified dentist in a clinic, whereas aligners can be taken out any time at will. However, to be effective they need to be worn as often as possible, only removed for eating and drinking.

The aligners are much more covert than the metal brace but treatment time may be longer. Only after a conversation with your dentist will you be able to to make an informed decision and explore your personal situation.

Are orthodontics cosmetic surgery?

In general no. Orthodontics often has a beneficial effect on your appearance by straightening teeth but this is not its primary goal. A correctly meshing bite is important for good health and to allow normal eating habits. If a patient’s teeth fail to mesh orthodontics are advised.

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