When people see an adult wearing braces, they seem to find it hard to look at anything else. Some cannot resist asking them all sorts of questions like ‘do they hurt?’ and ‘how long have you been wearing them?’ No wonder that so few grown-ups used to get their teeth straightened, even though it was perfectly possible and they hated their misalignments. They’d rather deny themselves the benefits of straight teeth and put up with not being able to smile than go through months of having to fend off intrusions into their privacy. In the past few years though, dental researchers have been hard at it to come up with braces that are almost invisible.
With the advent of 3D printing, braces were finally able to move beyond the bracket and wire technology (although this is still in use to great effect with refined materials), creating aligners from Invisalign. Richmond has several dentists that offer this treatment, including Sheen Dental.
In Richmond, Invisalign uses transparent thermoplastic resin trays, similar to mouth guards, that fit snugly over the teeth. The aligners are so thin that it is almost impossible to see them.
Invisalign aligners are 3D printed in a laboratory in the United States for each patient using measurements that have been collected with a digital scanner by their dentist. It takes the original position of the teeth and plots how the teeth need to move to become aligned. The lab then prints a series of aligners, each designed slightly differently from the previous one. Each aligner in turn nudges the teeth incrementally along their required path to become neat rows of straight teeth lying flush with each other.
Each aligner takes about two weeks to do its work and then the next is inserted. Each case is different and the number of aligners required varies, but it is usually between 12 and 48.
In Richmond, Invisalign’s other great advantage is that the aligners are removable, making them and the teeth easier to keep clean. Patients can leave them off entirely for a few hours. The aligners should, however, be worn for at least 20 hours a day every day for the quickest results.