You may be thinking of getting Invisalign, but wondering what all those attachments and elastics are for. In this post, our BC and Alberta orthodontists explain how Invisalign works and share some tips on how to get the most out of your treatment.
How Invisalign Works
Many people choose Invisalign clear aligners for their orthodontic treatment. Similar to braces, Invisalign can help correct a number of orthodontic issues, such as a misaligned bite, open bite, teeth grinding and more.
Your orthodontist can capture digital scans of your teeth so a sequence of aligners can be custom-made to fit your mouth. The aligners will apply pressure to your teeth to move them into their proper positions. Typically, you'll wear an aligner for a week or two before replacing it with the next one in the sequence.
You may require attachments and elastics or rubber bands with aligners such as Invisalign. Non-removable attachments are small, button-like structures connect directly to your teeth and are designed to blend in with your smile. Elastics are also placed far enough back that they are typically not visible when you smile.
We'll share more about what Invisalign attachments do, who might need them and more.
What are Invisalign attachments and what do they do?
Think of aligners as similar to wires for braces, which act as a track to guide teeth. Invisalign attachments, then, are akin to brackets for braces. They offer leverage and grip to help your aligners fit against your teeth. In most cases, attachments are needed to help achieve your Invisalign treatment goals.
The shape of an Invisalign aligner differs from the shape of your teeth, bringing your teeth into their corrected positions. In some cases, such as if your orthodontic treatment necessitates more complex tooth movement, attachments may be needed to help the aligner have the desired effect.
Attachments are small, tooth-coloured structures made from composite resin - the same material found in dental fillings. Each attachment is specifically shaped to promote a certain type of movement. The aligner then applies pressure to the attachment to help achieve the required movement. An attachment may also act as an anchor to help your aligner stay in place over your teeth.
What are Invisalign elastics?
Some patients may also need Invisalign elastics. These small, clear rubber bands connect the upper and lower arches connect to hooks on the aligners themselves or to your Invisalign attachments.
The elastics help correct issues with bite alignment by providing the connective force needed to shift the jaw into place and helping to achieve certain tooth movements. They do this while the aligners straighten the teeth in the upper and lower arch.
Will I need Invisalign attachments or elastics?
Whether you'll need attachments for your Invisalign aligners depends on your specific orthodontic issue and your treatment plan. Your orthodontist will examine your mouth, take digital scans or impressions of your teeth, and capture X-rays to find out whether you need attachments.
Invisalign attachments and/or elastics may be necessary to correct overjet, overbite, underbite, open bite, crowding or spacing problems with the teeth.
How do attachments work?
Typically, an orthodontist will take these steps to apply Invisalign attachments:
- Your teeth will be treated with a special type of gel to help the attachment stick.
- The gel will be removed shortly after it's applied and the orthodontist will rinse your teeth.
- A small brush is used to apply a bonding agent designed to help secure the attachments to your teeth.
- Composite resin is loaded into a template aligner (an appliance with little spaces reserved for attachments).
- When filled with composite resin, the template aligner is placed over your teeth. The orthodontist then applies gentle pressure to help attachments adhere properly.
- A special light is then used to cure and harden the attachment material.
- The template aligner and any extra bonding agent or composite resin is removed.
This process may be used to apply more than one attachment to your top or bottom teeth at the same time. After your orthodontist places all of the attachments, they'll show you how to put in and remove your aligner.
Do Invisalign attachments hurt?
You may experience some pain or discomfort when you first get attachments or after you first switch to a new aligner, as the aligner is placing pressure on your attachments to help realign your teeth.
You may also feel some discomfort due to new attachments when you remove your aligner. However, the discomfort will typically wear off as your teeth adjust to your aligners. In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen to help alleviate pain or discomfort.
Invisalign Tips: Caring for Attachments & Rubber Bands
Invisalign attachments and rubber bands are easy to care for. Here are some tips for doing so:
Put Rubber Bands on Invisalign Aligners
While you may need to get used to putting rubber bands on your aligners, with practice it should soon become second nature. First, put your aligners in your mouth before hooking the rubber band to the hook or attachment on either the top or bottom teeth. While stretching the rubber band with two fingers, grip it, then hook the attachment or hook above or below it as instructed.
Wearing Invisalign Elastics
Your orthodontist at myORTHODONTIST will llet you know how long to wear your Invisalign rubber bands and how often you should change them. While you'll generally need to wear your aligners for 20 to 22 hours each day, you'll replace your rubber bands once or twice a day, depending on your needs. If the bands pop off or break, simply replace them with new ones from your pack.
Keeping Invisalign Attachments White
While the composite material used on attachments tends to be effective at repelling stains, remember to drink food or beverages that could stain or wear away your attachments in moderation. Coffee, for example, will stain them.
Also, remember to brush around your attachments after eating. If necessary, use a proxy brush to remove food or plaque from tight spaces. You may want to avoid sticky foods, since they can more easily accumulate around attachments.
Removing Invisalign Attachments
Some people wonder how they can remove Invisalign attachments. The truth is, we don't recommend it, since you may inadvertently damage your enamel if you attempt to pry them off your teeth. An orthodontist uses special tools to gently remove them without harming your teeth, then polishes the teeth after to eliminate any remaining residue.