While the first dental braces have been around for centuries, Invisalign® aligners are a rather new device that was invented in 1997. Like metal braces, these aligners are designed with the purpose of straightening teeth, but they do so using clear plastic trays that can be removed from the mouth. There are pros and cons to both treatment types, but many people like that plastic aligners appear almost invisible when on the teeth and do not require any diet restrictions. If a patient has already started braces and is interested in switching to Invisalign®, this change can often be made.
What are the differences between braces and Invisalign®?
Knowing the difference between braces and plastic aligners is important for helping a patient decide if switching treatment types is a good option.
When considering whether braces or plastic aligners are the best option for a patient, it is important to consider what work needs to be done. Braces are more powerful than aligners and use anchors and wires to pull teeth into the desired place. For this reason, traditional metal braces are capable of dealing with more difficult cases or correcting issues that Invisalign® cannot address. Some of the issues aligners can address include
- Overbites or underbites
- A crossbite or open bite
- Gaps in teeth
- Overcrowded teeth
- Crooked teeth
There are several limitations that would require a patient to stick with metal braces. For instance, plastic aligners cannot fix teeth that need to be rotated over 20 degrees or tilted over 45 degrees. Additionally, gaps over 6 mm wide need to be closed by metal braces. Patients who need intrusion and extrusion work or require midline movements will need braces as well.
While Invisalign® can be a great option for many individuals, patients should consider their unique lifestyle. Often, these plastic aligners are a good option for adults who are worried about the appearance of braces or are not willing to make the changes in diet required for metal braces. However, it is very important that the patient is disciplined and wears the aligners for the full 22 hours a day. Some children or busy adults might find it difficult to comply with this treatment plan and will not get the desired results.
Making the switch
If a patient is currently wearing braces and wants to switch to plastic aligners, this can often be done. Some patients with a more complicated case will begin with braces to address a difficult issue and then transition to aligners. Other people get braces but are unhappy with the appearance or level of discomfort and want to try plastic aligners instead. While the cost might be higher in the long run, this is often an option for patients who are willing to pay to make the change.
Switching from braces to plastic aligners is possible for patients who meet the specific criteria for wearing Invisalign®. Individuals should start by first considering the differences between these two treatment types.
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