Ask the Dentist: Should I Get Invisalign Teen for My Child?
An ideal smile is perhaps the best gift you could give your teen, but is Invisalign Teen the right option? Dr. Julius Tong answers all your frequently asked questions.
Increasingly, Dr. Julius Tong, an accredited Platinum Elite Invisalign provider with i.Dental, has noticed more teens requesting for orthodontic work. He believes this is a natural result of living in an image-conscious society and a growing awareness of the health benefits of straight teeth. We invited him to share the questions that come up most frequently in his conversations with his teen patients and their parents.
Is it true that Invisalign Teen only works for simple, cosmetic cases?
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Definitely not. This is a common misconception, perhaps because it seems unlikely that a plastic aligner tray can achieve the same results as metal brackets and wires — but it can. Invisalign is backed by over 20 years of intensive research and development and has been proven effective for most cases of crooked teeth, even complicated ones.
Why is Invisalign Teen more expensive than metal braces?
The short answer is: technology. If metal braces are an ‘analogue’ treatment, Invisalign Teen is digital. For starters, instead of using moulds, we use a digital scanner to create a 3D image of your teen’s teeth. This goes into the Clincheck® software, which we use to plan every tiny tooth movement during the treatment. You can ask to review your teen’s Clincheck® results for a simulation of how their teeth will shift during treatment and how they’ll look after treatment.
With Invisalign Teen, you get to see the end results before you even start. In my experience, this can make a huge difference: parents know exactly what they’re paying for, and teens are more motivated to stay on course. The latter is really important because compliance is key to treatment success.
What sort of compliance is expected of my teen?
For Invisalign Teen to work, your teen has to wear their aligners for 22 hours a day, removing them only during mealtimes. You don’t have to worry though — the aligners were made for long wear. They are virtually invisible so your teen won’t feel self-conscious, are comfortable to wear, and do not cause nicks, cuts, and ulcers the way metal brackets and wires often do. In fact, the aligners double up as a mouth guard during contact sports, protecting your teen’s teeth against trauma.
The aligners are also pliable, so your teen can pop them off easily in just a matter of seconds. They are encouraged to brush and floss their teeth after eating and before putting the aligners back on, so there’s also the added benefit of improved oral hygiene during the treatment.
What if I’m still not confident that my teen will comply with the treatment?
Many of my teen patients are sufficiently motivated by their Clincheck® results, which provides a visual simulation of their teeth post-treatment. If you’re still worried, however, i.Dental has a Dental Monitoring service that you can subscribe to for a small additional fee. Dental Monitoring is a mobile app for your teen to upload photos or videos of their teeth on a regular basis. This allows their Invisalign provider to remotely monitor their treatment progress, keep an eye on their oral hygiene, and flag any potential issues. As a parent, you will receive SMS notifications on your teen’s progress so you’re fully informed of what’s happening.
With Invisalign Teen, dentist visits are already quite infrequent — typically once every eight to ten weeks. This can be even more infrequent with Dental Monitoring if your teen’s Invisalign provider is happy with their progress.
What if my teen loses an aligner?
The Invisalign Teen treatment comes with two sets of aligner cases for your teen to safely store their current and immediate-past aligner trays. I encourage my teen patients to get into the habit of putting their aligners into the case the moment they remove it. As the aligners are virtually invisible, there is a risk of accidentally tossing them out if they are wrapped in tissue or a napkin.
If your teen does lose an aligner, the first thing they should do is to wear their immediate-past aligners and inform their Invisalign provider. Depending on treatment progress and compliance levels, their Invisalign provider may give them the green light to start wearing the next aligner, or recommend that treatment be paused while a replacement is custom-made in the United States.
How do I know if now is the right time for Invisalign Teen?
Generally speaking, when the patient is young, there is a better chance of achieving a true fix with orthodontic treatments. Teeth tend to move faster in younger patients, and it is easier for them to adapt to any intraoral appliance. There is also a lower chance of developing side effects like root resorption. We can also leverage their growth spurt to adjust their bite (and potentially turn an extraction case into a non-extraction case) as well as their jaw if needed. The latter, if left uncorrected during their teenage years, may require surgery in adulthood. The Invisalign Teen treatment process can also help inculcate good dental habits from a young age, such as regular dentist visits and post-meal brushing and flossing.
The best way to find out if your teen can benefit from Invisalign Teen now, or if they should wait until maturity, is to have their condition assessed by an accredited Invisalign provider.