Invisible braces are growing ever more popular. But how do they really perform compared to more established orthodontics and what about online providers vs aligners provided by a dentist?
Invisalign is a form of orthodontic treatment using clear plastic retainers to move teeth into a straight position. The name comes from a portmanteau of its task, aligning teeth and the fact it is invisible, because its translucent form is hardly noticeable in everyday wear and often goes unnoticed.
A lot of people may have heard of aligners from recent advertising campaigns that have made them suddenly noticeable. But they’ve been available in dental clinics for nearly a decade and a half, Invisalign W1 is far from uncommon, but as most dental surgeries do not engage in direct online marketing, they have had less of an impact in the public consciousness. This is also probably due to how subtle these clear or invisible aligners are, meaning that they would usually go unnoticed compared to the more traditional orthodontics, which have a strong representation in popular culture if not sometimes negative.
Teledentistry and remote dental treatments
Phases of lockdown and a general movement towards adult orthodontic patients over adolescent ones has created a growing interest in teledentistry; this sort of remote dental treatment uses photos sent via phone apps to perform dental diagnostics.
Aligner based orthodontic work is particularly applicable to teledentistry. This is because the initial assessments can be carried out via a phone and then a mould kit can be sent to the patient. After they have completed their dental mould, they can post this back to the manufacturer who will be able to design and post a set of aligners back to them. The monitoring of the orthodontic procedure is then done via these dental selfies.
Aligners in a dental clinic
Although the process of providing aligners in the clinic is quite similar, the experience and skill of a fully qualified dentist can really only be truly applied in person. It would be quite easy for misdiagnosis to occur with photographs or a dentist to not be provided with the full medical history by the patient.
The majority of clinics who provide dental aligners will have an intra-oral scanner that allows very accurate three-dimensional models to be made of the patient’s mouth. It is far quicker and less invasive than a traditional dental mould. When carried out by a competent dental technician or dentist it is much more accurate than a dental mould too. This is in comparison to teledentistry, as when patients carry out their own dental moulding at home, it is somewhat prone to error and a distorted mould will result in an ineffective set of aligners, perhaps even damaging to the patient’s smile.
Investigations into effectiveness
The British Orthodontic Society carried out an extensive investigation, which showed a significant disparity between the effectiveness of aligners. It compared groups who had received their aligners via teledentistry and those provided by local dental surgeries and followed them over the course of the treatment. This led to the British Orthodontic Society releasing a statement that they only supported the use of clear aligners for mild cosmetic treatments with the direct supervision of a dentist.