How Invisalign Works

By Premier Dental of Ohio

Invisible braces

Invisalign is a method of straightening the teeth with a series of clear plastic aligners.  Traditional orthodontics uses unsightly metal brackets and wires to reposition the teeth.  Invisalign provides a more discreet way to straighten the teeth.  Invisalign is the gold standard in clear aligner orthodontics, creating millions of beautiful smiles over the last few decades.  Here is what you need to know about moving teeth with Invisalign.

Mechanism of Orthodontic Tooth Movement

In order to understand how teeth move, you need to know a bit about tooth and jaw anatomy.  The upper and lower jaws contain important bone known as “alveolar bone”.  The purpose of alveolar bone is to hold the teeth firmly in the jaws and provide support for the forces of chewing.  The roots of teeth connect to alveolar bone through a tiny ligament known as the periodontal ligament.

The attachment of the periodontal ligament to the teeth and bone is essential for proper functioning of the mouth.  (This is what is lost in periodontal disease.)  Moving teeth involves changes in the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth while maintaining the health of the attaching ligament.  The goal is moving the teeth within the bone.

In order to accomplish this, we rely on tiny cells that break down and rebuild bone.  For example, imagine that a tooth has a healthy root with a healthy ligament attachment to healthy bone.  If we want to move that tooth, there is bone in the way, so we need to activate cells that remove bone in the direction that the tooth will go.  As the tooth root moves in a certain direction, we also do not want to leave an empty space behind the tooth.  We need healthy bone surrounding the tooth on all sides.  So we also want to activate cells that build bone on the side of the tooth that we move away from.

All of this cell activation is not something that the dentist does, but it is a natural process the body undergoes in response to pressure on the teeth.  The amount and direction of that pressure is very important to the tooth movement process.  When pressure comes in an excessive amount or an inappropriate angle, damage can result.

How Braces Move Teeth

In traditional orthodontics, we use brackets and wires to move the teeth.  The dentist bonds (or glues) the brackets onto the flat side of the teeth.  Each bracket has a small channel into which fits various types of orthodontic wires.  Your dentist bends and molds the wires to apply pressure in specific areas at specific amounts of force.  When he or she connects the wire into the bracket, it exerts a pulling force onto the tooth.  That pulling pressure stimulates the activation of our bone removal and rebuilding cells.

The dentist changes the wires periodically in order to adjust the amount and direction of the pressure to achieve the exact position of each tooth.

How Invisalign Moves Teeth

Invisalign works differently from traditional braces.  The clear aligners cover every tooth completely.  Your dentist works with an orthodontic lab technician to outline the precise tooth movements involved to reach the final goal position.  These movements are programmed into the actual aligners in small increments so that each aligner moves the tooth about one-half millimeter.

When a patient places the aligners over the teeth, the aligners create a pushing force on each tooth in a prescribed amount and direction.  The pushing force applies the same pressure that activates the bone breakdown and rebuilding cells necessary to move the teeth.

Though the mechanism of pressure differs between traditional braces and clear aligners, the result is the same: precise, prescribed movements of the teeth.

Precautions about Moving Teeth

We live in a day and age when you can purchase just about anything online.  This now includes clear aligners through various direct-to-consumer sources.  These direct-to-consumer products allow you to “skip the dentist”.  There is a high risk associated with skipping the dentist, though.

We have referred multiple times already to the need to a very precise amount and direction of pressure in moving teeth in order to ensure the health of the surrounding ligament and bone.  Most online products do not require dental x-rays as a prerequisite to orthodontic treatment, which means you could be missing vital information about the health of the periodontal structures.  When the wrong amount and/or direction of pressure is applied to teeth, it can cause those little activation cells to go haywire.  They can break down bone instead of rebuilding it.  They can even break down the roots of the teeth in a process known as root resorption. In rare cases, the unsupervised movement of teeth has led to disastrous consequences including loss of front teeth.

Who is a Candidate for Invisalign?

Invisalign is capable of correcting most orthodontic problems.  An experienced dentist, like the ones at Premier Dental of Ohio, can skillfully use Invisalign to align the teeth perfectly.  We commonly realign teeth with crowding, gaps, and crossbites using clear aligners.  When a patient has a complex orthodontic problem, we refer him or her to an orthodontist to receive the appropriate care.

The clear aligner system of Invisalign is (obviously) removable.  Patients remove the aligners to eat and drink (everything except water), as well as perform their oral hygiene routines.  Being removable provides many advantages to Invisalign over traditional braces, but it also creates a disadvantage.  Because the patient can remove them, and because they cannot move the teeth when they are not on the teeth, much of the responsibility for success lies with the patient.  Successful alignment of the teeth with clear aligners requires diligence.  Patients who cannot firmly commit to wearing the aligners on the teeth for a minimum of twenty-two hours each day are not good candidates for Invisalign.

More Questions about Invisalign?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule an Invisalign consultation with one of our experienced dentists!  We can answer any question you have about straightening your teeth with clear aligners.

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