What are Invisalign Trays?
Invisalign trays are the popular clear plastic alternative to traditional bracket and wire style braces. They are switched out every couple of weeks for a new set in order to continue moving your teeth gently into their new, straighter positions.
We’ll take a look at what they are made of, how often you need to change them, how long you need to wear them, and more in just a moment, but first let’s take a look at what some of the experts of orthodontic medicine have to say about Invisalign trays.
There have been several studies done on how effective Invisalign can be. The results are somewhat conflicting, but that is because it depends on how severe your dental issues are (Lagravère & Flores-Mir,2005).
Research has shown that aligners are a good replacement for affixed appliances for patients who have mild to moderate bite issues. However, they are not effective for severe issues (Yassir, Y. A et al. 2022).
Invisalign does have advantages over traditional braces in that they are more comfortable, dental health is improved, and you have a reduced risk of root resorption (Yassir, Y. A et al. 2022).
What Are Invisalign Trays Made Of?
Invisalign aligners are made out of a clear flexible plastic known as SmartTrack. This proprietary material is smooth and comfortable. They’re also very strong and so they can apply a consistent amount of pressure to the teeth so that they are just as effective as traditional metal braces for mild to moderate issues.
They fit snugly to the teeth so they are comfortable to wear, and because they are perfectly clear no one else but you knows that you’re wearing them.
Invisalign has spent over 8 years developing this material and tested out 260 different types of plastic combinations in order to arrive at just the right material.
What Does Each Invisalign Tray Do?
Each tray is designed to move your teeth about a tenth of a millimeter before you get the next set of trays. It will be slightly different from your last set in order to keep your progress moving forward.
The upper tray and lower tray are custom designed to fit specifically to your teeth thanks to the Clincheck software and the iTero scanner, both proprietary programs developed by Invisalign so that you get the best care possible.
What is the difference between each Invisalign tray?
Each tray that you get will be slightly different from the one before so that your teeth will keep moving each time. You get a new set every couple of weeks in order to make advances in your treatment plan.
How Often Do You Change Invisalign Trays?
Typically you will get a new set of Invisalign trays every few weeks, sometimes as short as every week. You need to be sure that you are wearing your aligners at least 20 hours a day but ideally 22 hours a day to get the maximum effect.
Then every couple of weeks you will pick up your new set from your orthodontist to keep your treatment plan on track.
What Determines When You Change Invisalign Trays?
It’s difficult to answer this generically because every person will have a unique treatment plan developed by your orthodontist in conjunction with you and incorporating what you need to have done.
It’s also dependent on what you need in terms of teeth or jaw alignment. More complex cases will take longer, and some folks will have a very short treatment if all they are doing is refining their bite arch or teeth alignment as an adult after wearing braces as a teen.
If you are wearing your aligners as you should, then you’ll have a pattern of when it’s time to pick up your next set of trays. If however you don’t wear them as your orthodontist instructed, it will take longer in between picking up each set because your teeth need to move to a certain position before advancing to the next set ofInvisalign refinement trays.
What To Do With Old Invisalign Trays?
Unfortunately, used Invisalign trays are considered medical waste and as such they cannot be recycled. And, if you’re wondering about unused Invisalign aligners, these cannot be recycled either. They are made from mix of several different types of plastic and so they cannot be designated with one of the numbers inside the chasing arrows and therefore no municipal recycling program exists for them.
So what to do with your Invisalign trays? Once you are done with a particular set, you should hold on to them at least until you are done with the next set. Keeping a spare on hand like this allows you to put in your old aligners if you happen to lose or damage the current set.
You can also bring in your old aligners at your orthodontist appointments so your orthodontist can make any adjustments needed if something needs to be tweaked.
You might wonder what happens to the leftover plastic from making the trays. The good news is this plastic can be reused in things like plastic road speed bumps, plastic wall panels, and the like.
How Long To Get Invisalign Trays?
As mentioned above, everyone’s treatment plan is unique and so your treatment may last as little as 6 months or as long as 2 years or more. It just depends on how crooked or crowded your teeth are or the extent of the malocclusion that you are trying to correct.
Also, something else to take into account is the age of the patient. Adults have set growth plates and the bone in the jaws is denser as compared to teenagers. Because teenagers are still growing, the growth plates are slightly open and it is more common to have rapid cell turnover. So, a parent and a child who are getting Invisalign at the same time may have very different treatment times, even if they have similar orthodontic needs.
Your orthodontist will go over with you how long the estimated time is that you will need to wear your Invisalign aligners. And, as long as you keep wearing them 22 hours a day, you will probably finish right on track.
How To Clean Invisalign Trays?
You should clean your Invisalign trays every time you brush your teeth. You can either use a special Invisalign cleaning solution or retainer cleaning solution, or brush them with a soft toothbrush and a mild toothpaste.
If your Invisalign aligners have gotten stained due to coffee or tea, red wine, or brown sodas, you can trycleaning Invisalign trays by soaking them in a solution of warm water and hydrogen peroxide for a couple of hours to try to help remove some of the stains.
You may wonder about using toothpaste. Some toothpastes are too abrasive as they are meant to scrub your teeth and remove plaque and tartar, but a gel toothpaste may be okay to use. Ask your orthodontist what he or she recommends.
You may also wonder about using mouthwash while wearing Invisalign. Mouthwash contains dyes which may stain your Invisalign refinement trays. It’s best to use this and rinse before putting your aligners back in.
Lagravère, M. O., & Flores-Mir, C. (2005). The treatment effects of Invisalign orthodontic aligners: a systematic review. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 136(12), 1724–1729. https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.archive.2005.0117
Yassir, Y. A., Nabbat, S. A., McIntyre, G. T., & Bearn, D. R. (2022). Clinical effectiveness of clear aligner treatment compared to fixed appliance treatment: an overview of systematic reviews. Clinical oral investigations, 26(3), 2353–2370.https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-021-04361-1