Starting on a course of orthodontic treatment can be a daunting process. Having braces, aligners or a retainer installed is a big decision that comes with a large commitment of time, effort and money. That is why it is so important to understand what each type of device means to you. Ultimately, it is your dentist who will give the final recommendation on which device is right for any given patient, but a little foreknowledge can save a lot of anxiety later.
The most common type of orthodontic treatment is the use of braces. These are usually made of metal, although occasionally ceramic or composite materials are used. These can be installed on the inside or outside of teeth, depending on the need. These are then fitted with wire and rubber bands that are slowly adjusted to cause the desired effect. In either case they work by putting pressure on the teeth in order to create a small space in the tooth socket and over time pulling the tooth into that new space while filling the old space with bony tissue.
The biggest advantage of braces over other types of orthodontic devices is that they tend to work a little faster, usually between 12 and 30 months. They are also the only effective course of treatment for patients with severe displacement issues. For some, the look and feel of braces can be uncomfortable, although this can be mitigated with clear braces or braces placed behind the teeth. They also require special cleaning techniques that the orthodontist will teach the patient.
Invisalign treatment involves using a series of plastic trays to straighten teeth. The doctor will use x-rays and computer imaging to determine the course of treatment at the outset, meaning that he or she will be able to give the patient an idea of what the final result of the treatment will look like. Invisalign has the advantage of being invisible and removable. This removable aspect is great from a comfort and cleaning stand point, however if patients wear the device less than the recommended 22 hours per day it can reduce the treatments effectiveness dramatically.
These devices are metal or plastic molds fitted for each individual mouth. These are usually used after a course treatment with braces in order to retain that new shape the mouth has found itself in. These devices are meant to be worn all the time, but can be removed for eating or brushing and flossing. These devices are usually worn for several years after initial straightening is complete.