What’s all the buzz about Invisalign? You can barely turn on the TV without seeing commercials that tout the effectiveness of this treatment. More and more adults and even teenagers are looking into this alternate form of orthodontic treatment. Many of my patients who come into my orthodontic practice arrive with the idea this is the treatment for them. It’s important to understand that Invisalign is a series of aligners that are custom-made for you. Each aligner moves your teeth slightly in predesigned directions. Each new aligner is typically changed each week, with each one gradually moving the teeth into the new position. Invisalign requires some adjustment in your daily habits and is dependent on complying with its limitations. Many articles are online regarding these facts and should be read before considering this alternative form of treatment.
The important issue here is who is best suited to provide your treatment and what information is important in making that decision?
Invisalign is a type of orthodontic treatment that is an alternative to wearing braces. For that reason, careful thought should be given to whom will provide your treatment… an orthodontist or a general dentist? An orthodontist is first a dentist, with 2-3 years additional training in their specialty. It’s important for the patient to ask who is a better-trained specialist in their field. A good example is to ask oneself “Who would I seek treatment in problems with the heart? A cardiologist or my family doctor?” That is a choice we should all consider.
As mentioned before orthodontists are dentists, as well. Orthodontists attend dental school with general dentists and then go on to study orthodontics in another school for an average of 30 months. Orthodontics is the study of cranial-facial deformity, occlusion, smiles, and moving teeth. Orthodontists study how to treat malocclusions (or misaligned teeth) and to change and re-direct treatment should they determine their treatment plan is not effective based on the initial diagnosis. The doctor doesn’t just move teeth. The doctor is creating a new and improved bite and a beautiful face.
The expertise of an orthodontist when you are being treated with Invisalign is very important when moving teeth. Through their training, an orthodontist learns how to move teeth in the bone by incorporating light pressure and forces. It is very important when doing this for the health of the teeth and gums. This avoids bone, gingival recession, and root resorption.
When studying a case, an orthodontist would be more likely to see the “big picture”. The doctor may be concerned about how to change the occlusion to the ideal position, how to move the teeth more gently, how to change a deep bite or gummy smile, or how to change the entire face. This could result in longer treatment time as opposed to simply aligning crowded teeth. This could potentially affect the cost of your treatment. On the other hand, a general dentist fully relies on the Invisalign technician to design their case and determine how many aligners are needed. A general dentist is not fully trained to recognize the nuances associated with orthodontic treatment.
General dentists take continuing education courses to become educated in Invisalign treatment. However, orthodontists study Invisalign while attending school in their specialty. Orthodontists are not required to attend Invisalign continuing education courses. Invisalign does offer specific courses for orthodontists and many do take advantage of them. Conversely, Invisalign requires general dentists to attend continuing education courses in order to be a provider.
There are some limitations with Invisalign. In some cases, treatment can be achieved faster with the use of braces. Sometimes treatment with braces can be less expensive than Invisalign treatment or the cost can be more due to the complexity of the case. Should you have dental insurance, it is important to talk to your carrier about your options prior to your consult. The orthodontist should always be willing to discuss all options and the two of you should make the decision together.
Invisalign makes it easier for the patient to choose their provider through their ranking system. The Invisalign Ranking System is based on the number of cases started annually by a specific provider. Here are the details that rank Invisalign providers…
- Preferred – Treats 10 case per year.
- Premier – Has treated at least 50 total cases. Treats at least 25 cases every 6 months.
- Premier Elite – Has treated a least 300 total cases. Treats 50 cases every 6 months
- Super Elite – Has treated at least 2000 cases. Is ranked in the top 1% of providers. Many providers have even taught the process to other dentists in special training forums.
For your reference, here is a list of questions you should take to your initial consult..
- Are you a certified specialist in orthodontics?
- Is my treatment more effective with Invisalign or braces?
- Is treatment time different with Invisalign or braces?
- How long have you been an Invisalign provider?
- How many patients do you currently have under treatment?
- How many cases have you completed?
- Are you confident my case is an Invisalign case?
- How long will I be in treatment?
- Do you utilize braces if my Invisalign case can’t be completed or if some finishing improvement is needed?
To be fair, a general dentist who has taken the time to truly understand Invisalign treatment and how to go about diagnosing and setting up the case can provide equally good treatment. This especially applies to simple cases where bite corrections are involved. It is good practice to seek a second opinion with a specialist and let them know exactly what the general dentist recommends. As an orthodontist, we see upward to 50 patients each day and therefore have the knowledge and expertise in orthodontics.