A Guide to Invisalign Teen

invisalign teenBeing a teenager is not easy at the best of times. Most teens are shy, awkward and very sensitive about how they look. So if a dentist turns around and tells you you’re going to have to wear a brace for the next three years, there’s every chance your average teenager is going to feel a little aggrieved. And maybe that’s just an understatement.

So what can the dental industry do to make braces for teenagers a little bit easier to wear? Well, there is a new concept in orthodontics called Invisalign. Invisalign is designed to be invisible and removable, so it sounds perfect for teenagers who require orthodontic work but who don’t want a mouthful of metal for three years.

If only it was that simple. Many dentists are not recommending Invisalign to teenagers. It’s worth taking a closer look at Invisalign to understand exactly why this is. Then, we’ll be able to explain more clearly why Invisalign Teen is being hailed as the solution.

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a technologically advanced orthodontic system that is designed around aesthetics, as well as results. Conventional braces are usually made from metal, wire and elastic. They are fixed in place so that they exert continual pressure on teeth to move them in the right direction. Of course (as we all know), they don’t look great and they are not particularly comfortable to wear.

Invisalign is an entirely different design. The teeth are moved by using a series of transparent plastic ‘aligners’ ­ they are a little bit like the gumshields used in contact sports like rugby and boxing, although they are only 1 millimetre thick. Therefore, it is very difficult to spot when someone is wearing one. Also, you can take them out to eat or for important social occasions, which also helps to make them much less embarrassing and uncomfortable to wear than conventional braces.

Why don’t dentists recommend it for teenagers?

As a concept, there is no reason why Invisalign should not work as well for teenagers as it does for adults. In fact, the reason why many dentists do not recommend it is nothing to do with the product at all. It is to do with the patients themselves.

While many patients consider aesthetics to be very important when considering different types of braces or orthodontic treatments, your dentist is much more likely to focus on identifying the right product to help you achieve that all-important healthy smile. The challenge that a product like Invisalign creates is that, because the aligners are removable, patients have far more responsibility and ownership of the treatment. Your dentist cannot be there 24 hours a day to ensure that you wear your aligners. With fixed braces, however, they can at least rest assured that, once the braces have been fitted, the treatment will continue as planned.

Many teenagers who require orthodontic work feel as though it is imposed on them. Because they are embarrassed at the thought of wearing a brace, they will take any opportunity that they can to avoid wearing it. If the treatment involves removable aligners rather than a fixed brace, it is much easier for teenagers to avoid wearing their aligners or to lose them ‘accidentally’.

This means that their treatment times (and costs) can be extended because their teeth take longer to move. In the most extreme cases, where the aligners are not being worn enough to move the teeth, dentists have found that they eventually have to recommend a fixed brace anyway. So not only is the treatment extended, it also reverts to being more uncomfortable and more visible - everything that the patient was hoping to avoid.

What is Invisalign Teen?

Invisalign Teen is a development of the Invisalign concept that has a number of enhancements to compensate for dentists’ concerns. The objective is to maintain the benefits of the Invisalign system, yet at the same time to make the course of the treatment easier to monitor so that teenagers get the results they need.

Invisalign Teen has all the benefits of the original Invisalign system. The aligners are created specially for each patient, in exact accordance with how their teeth need to be moved. The aligners are comfortable, removable and discreet. Because they are designed individually, they also work quickly and efficiently: treatment times are often much faster than with conventional braces.

So how has the system been modified for teenagers? Unfortunately, one of the downsides of removable aligners is that teenagers have a habit of misplacing or damaging them. Therefore, Invisalign Teen includes a number of free replacement aligners. This removes the need to commission replacement aligners when one is lost, so that no treatment time is lost.

Invisalign Teen also includes marker tabs that show when each aligner needs to be replaced by the next one in the set. These tabs change colour gradually, so that you can see clearly when each aligner has completed its job.

These tabs are important for two reasons. First of all, they help parents to know whether or not the teenager is wearing their aligner for the appropriate amount of time. Secondly, they enable dentists to see that the treatment is moving along at the right pace.

Together, these two extra features on Invisalign Teen ensure, as much as possible, that treatment is concluded within the appropriate timescales. They help to minimise visits to the dentist and to reduce the likelihood of unexpected extra costs.

Can Invisalign Teen treat all orthodontic problems?

As with the original Invisalign system, Invisalign Teen will not treat every type of orthodontic problem. For many of the more chronic conditions, a conventional brace that exerts greater pressure and a continual force is the preferred style of treatment and still gets the best results. However, Invisalign Teen can be used to correct many of the most common orthodontic problems that teenagers suffer from. This could be overcrowding, large spaces between the teeth or a misaligned bite such as crossbites, overbites and underbites.

What does the procedure involve?

The procedure is similar to the procedure required for the original Invisalign system, which you can also read more about on this site. Every patient has a full consultation with an Invisalign approved specialist. Once you have been accepted as an Invisalign candidate, your specialist will use the latest visualising equipment to create an image of how you want your teeth to look. This information is sent to the Invisalign laboratory, where a highly skilled technician will then create a set of aligners designed to achieve those exact results.

It’s a personalised, bespoke treatment that usually lasts around a year. Most dentists recommend that you wear your aligners for 20-22 hours each day. During an average course of treatment, patients need to change their aligners approximately every two weeks.

Will Invisalign Teen affect my lifestyle much?

As a product, Invisalign has many attributes that make it perfect for teenagers. Obviously, the fact that the aligners are virtually invisible suits young people who feel self-conscious about how they look. But Invisalign is practical too. Because aligners are removable, they are easier to clean than traditional fixed braces and so it is much easier to maintain your oral health during treatment.

Many teenagers lead an active lifestyle, whether that is playing sports or pursuing another hobby, such as playing a musical instrument. Removable aligners make these sorts of activities much easier too ­ nothing needs to get in your way!

Are there any disadvantages?

The only significant disadvantage with the Invisalign system is that the removable aligners give the patient lots of freedom to interfere with their own treatment. Invisalign Teen is designed to put in place some safeguards against this, which enable parents and dentists to assess whether aligners are being worn for the appropriate amount of time each day. For the majority of teenagers, this is enough to help them complete their treatment in the right way.

Some teenagers, however, need the added assurance of a fixed brace to ensure that they complete their treatment successfully. It is in these sorts of cases that a dentist needs to use their discretion and make a judgement about the patient’s habits before recommending the appropriate treatment. A fixed brace may not be as aesthetically pleasing as invisible aligners ­ or as comfortable. However, most parents will usually agree that it is the long-term results that are more important.

This is one reason why your initial consultation should always be with an Invisalign-approved specialist. They will be able to help you evaluate whether the Invisalign programme will get you the results you need.

How much does it cost?

Treatment costs vary from patient to patient and from practice to practice. The imaging technology that Invisalign uses, and the fact that every treatment is entirely bespoke to each individual, means that the cost of treatment can be slightly higher than for other braces. On average, most people can expect their treatment to cost at least £3000.

However, while the treatment can seem expensive, it should be remembered that it is also much faster than conventional braces. Patients also spend less time visiting their dentist during their treatment, as they can remove and replace their aligners themselves.