Invisalign® is a wonderful innovation in modern orthodontic treatment. It’s usually faster than braces, requires fewer visits to the dentist, and is far less noticeable than braces. Adults and teens love the idea of Invisalign, especially when compared with the prospect of wearing stainless steel on your teeth for two years of your life. Best of all, the aligners are removed when you eat, so there are no dietary restrictions, and you never have to worry about food getting stuck in your braces.
If you are the parent of a teen with mild-to-moderate crowding or misalignment, you may be wondering whether Invisalign is an appropriate treatment. We all want to see our children be proud of their smiles, and Invisalign seems like a convenient way to correct a crooked grin.
While it’s true that Invisalign is an excellent way to straighten your teeth without the hassles associated with traditional braces, it’s not the best choice for everyone. You will need to take into consideration your child’s age, alignment concerns, drive, and personal habits. These factors all play a role in determining whether Invisalign is the right choice for your teen.
Invisalign is only recommended for adults and older teens, because the treatment assumes the jaw has finished growing. The age at which facial growth stops may vary somewhat between patients, but 16 years is the average youngest age for Invisalign. The only way to know for sure is to schedule a consultation with your dentist, so they can assess your child’s anatomy and development.
Invisalign is only recommended in mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment and crowding. It cannot address bite dysfunction, nor can it pull down teeth that need to be shifted vertically. For example, if your child has a serious overbite, under bite or cross bite, traditional braces are still the best way to correct it. We certainly don’t expect you to be able to determine the severity of your child’s misalignment on your own, so we encourage all parents to bring their child in for a consultation. At this appointment we will do a full diagnostic assessment and write up a treatment plan for appropriate orthodontic treatment.
Invisalign is far different from traditional braces in the fact that patient compliance plays a major role in the quality of your outcome. If your child is deeply motivated to change his or her smile, this will help ensure a successful course of treatment. Invisalign is designed to be worn 20-22 hours per day, which means the patient must wear the aligners at all times when not eating or cleaning the teeth. This includes when they sleep at night. If the parent is the driving force behind treatment (and not the patient) this can often result in inadequate wear time, which renders the treatment plan less effective. If your child is highly motivated to improve the appearance of their smile, this can help ensure they will be committed to following the treatment protocol. If the child is more indifferent, there’s a greater chance they will “cheat” on their wear time, which disrupts the treatment plan.
Commitment to successful treatment is also dependent on how well a teenager can change his or her eating habits. With Invisalign, you cannot eat or drink anything other than plain water when wearing the aligners. Period. Eating when wearing Invisalign can damage the aligners, and drinking coffee, sodas, juice, or milk can result in an increase in tooth decay and staining.
In addition to this, patients must brush and floss the teeth after every meal. This ensures there is no food residue on the teeth when wearing the aligners. You see, ordinarily our teeth are constantly coming into contact with our saliva, which rinses away food particles and neutralizes the bacterial acids that lead to cavities. Without the natural benefit of saliva, the teeth need to be kept very well cleaned when wearing the aligner trays. Otherwise, bacteria and plaque may run rampant on the tooth enamel and lead to rapid development of cavities, or even gum disease.
Will your child be able to adjust to carrying an oral hygiene kit with them anywhere they go? Will they be able to resist snacking between meals and slowly sipping a soda in the afternoon? Some patients have no problem adjusting their eating and hygiene habits, and even use it as an excuse to be more mindful about their diet and meal times. Only you and your teen can predict whether they will easily adjust to the changes required of Invisalign.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether Invisalign is something you want to pursue for your teenager. Many young people have success with this treatment, but you have to consider the individual circumstances of the patient. If things still sound good to you, contact us to make an appointment for an orthodontic consultation with Dr. Scott Lee at our Mesa, AZ dental office.