Invisalign is a popular brand name for clear aligners, which are orthodontic devices made of plastic — a transparent form of dental braces intended to adjust and align teeth. They should be removed when brushing and flossing teeth or whenever you are eating or drinking, but otherwise, they must be worn 20-22 hours per day.

It only takes about 20-150 grams of force to move a tooth. You’re not really moving a tooth in these cases as much as you’re shifting around bone cells. When bone cells are forced to adjust in your alveolar bone (the bone that holds your teeth), your teeth are moved into a new position.

With invisible braces, a computer analyzes a 3D scan of your teeth and applies an algorithm that decides which teeth to move and when to move them, leading to an ideal bite. I call this tooth choreography, and like playing chess, the computer does it with ease. Using that final picture, a clear aligner can be created to cover all of the top and bottom teeth.

Because the computer tells the device that makes the aligner to make a series of invisible braces that essentially only fit after wearing them for a week or two, the teeth follow the shape of the new aligner and conform to it. The whole process starts all over again with the next aligner. The teeth that don’t fit into the aligner in the beginning are “grabbed” and pushed (not really pulled) into their new position. This movement is roughly .25mm per aligner.

Invisalign provides you with blister packaged aligners that you use, in sequence, for a week or two at a time to repeat this process over and over until your teeth are in the desired position.

Which dental issues can be corrected by Invisalign and other clear braces?

When you use Invisalign or similar clear removable braces, you’re able to achieve more than just an aesthetic benefit. One example is correcting a poor bite, which better aligns upper and lower jaws. A good bite allows you to chew better, reducing your risk of gum disease and cavities because your mouth is able to more effectively self-maintain. Some people with very poor bites may even struggle with digestive issues because of not being able to chew the right way, so braces can help improve digestion in these cases. Straightening teeth also makes them easier to floss and brush, since the many areas of the teeth is easier to reach and clean.

People who have trouble pronouncing certain words because of poor tooth alignment may also experience improved speech with Invisalign.

Finally, people with TMD/TMJ and a poor bite might find that their face, jaw, and neck pain improve after their teeth have been straightened and aligned. This change happens when bites are balanced, preventing one tooth from hitting first when you bite down, making chewing more efficient and potentially less painful.

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