It can cost thousands of dollars to straighten your teeth. So, before you make such a huge financial commitment, it’s helpful to know how long your results will last. Some orthodontic treatments provide results that last longer than others, and timeline differences can be an important influence in your decision-making process.
Invisalign is the first and leading clear aligner treatment. It was introduced as a quicker and more discreet alternative to braces. And so far, it’s lived up to the hype. Still, Invisalign treatment isn’t cheap, so you want to be sure that it will be a good investment. Several factors will ultimately affect how long the results of your Invisalign treatment will last. And, everyone will have a different experience.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the major factors that can affect how long your Invisalign results will last. And, help you decide whether it’s the right choice for your teeth.
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How Long Do Invisalign Results Typically Last?
No orthodontic treatment is absolutely permanent. Once your teeth move, they will always have a tendency to shift back. So, it’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions carefully and maintain good oral hygiene after your treatment is complete.
Immediately following orthodontic treatment, each tooth’s new position is unstable. And, they’ll need some time to adjust. Ultimately, the way you take care of your teeth after treatment will determine how long your results will last. Still, your new smile will become more stable and easier to maintain over time. With proper maintenance and aftercare, your Invisalign results can last a lifetime.
How Can I Ensure My Results Will Last As Long As Possible?
As we previously mentioned, several factors can affect how long your Invisalign results will last. Although the treatment won’t last forever without some sort of maintenance, there are steps you can take to make sure your teeth won’t relapse in the future. Aftercare retainers and oral hygiene are especially important:
1. Wear Your Retainers
Any orthodontic treatment will require lifetime maintenance with a retainer. Without aftercare retainers to hold your teeth in place, they will shift back to their original positions. You’ll typically need to wear your retainers 22 hours per day for the first few months following treatment. Your teeth will be the most unstable the first year or so after Invisalign, so you should take extra precautions to make sure they stay in place.
After a few months, you can wear your aligners only at night. So, they’ll be less of an inconvenience and easier to manage. We know this timeline may sound excessive. It’s only natural that after over a year of treatment, you’ll want to flash your new smile without any aligners. However, retainers are extremely important to maintain your results, so they shouldn’t be considered optional.
2. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Maintaining good oral hygiene is key to making sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease or infection, which could cause your teeth to shift after orthodontic treatment. Infrequent brushing and flossing after Invisalign can lead to a build-up of plaque under your retainers. That build-up, in turn, hugs your teeth and may cause cavities. So, following a regular oral hygiene routine should be a priority.
Worst case scenario, you may require a root canal and crown or an extraction, which would alter your smile tremendously. If your teeth shift dramatically as a result, they might necessitate another round of orthodontic treatment. At the very least, commit to brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once per day. And don’t forget to clean your aligners regularly to prevent the build-up of bacteria.
Fixed vs. Removable Retainers: Which Is Better?
So far, we’ve only mentioned one type of retainer. However, there are two types of aftercare retainers — removable and fixed/permanent. We’ve already covered the removable kind. And although they are highly effective and popular, they aren’t the only option to maintain your new smile.
Removable retainers look and feel very similar to Invisalign treatment aligners. They’re clear and customized to fit your smile. However, unlike your aligners, they aren’t meant to further shift your teeth.
Like we mentioned earlier, most dentists recommend that you wear aftercare retainers 22 hours per day for the first few months following Invisalign treatment. Wearing them longer in the beginning will help your new smile stay in place and help your results last longer. After that, you’re free to wear them only at night.
The average cost for a set of removable retainers is $200-500, depending on the dentist you choose. Unfortunately, retainers aren’t typically included in your Invisalign treatment cost.
So, you’ll have to order them separately. Removable retainers should also be cleaned regularly and need to be replaced at least once every few years. Once retainers are worn out, they’re no longer effective. So, you’ll need to purchase new ones if they become loose or damaged.
Fixed or permanent retainers are small wires attached behind your front top and bottom teeth used to prevent shifting. A dentist needs to place them, and they’re generally recommended for people who don’t think they can remember to wear removable retainers consistently.
Removable retainers may be slightly more effective since they cover and protect all the teeth from shifting, not just the front ones. However, because they’re always fixed to the back of your teeth, permanent retainers may be more convenient and easier to maintain.
Still, fixed retainers can be challenging to keep clean since they’re harder to see. Your dentist will give you tips and instructions to floss and brush around your retainers, but it will take some practice. Fixed retainers can also become loose and ineffective over time, so they should be replaced at least once every few years. The average cost of a permanent retainer is similar to a removable one: $200-400 per arch. However, prices vary depending on the dentist.
Does Invisalign Have a Higher Risk of Relapse Than Braces?
Relapse is the process of your teeth shifting back to their original position after orthodontic treatment. Without a post-treatment retainer, your teeth will relapse fairly quickly.
There is some debate as to whether results from Invisalign treatment have a higher risk of relapse than braces. The truth is, there isn’t much of a difference. As long as you consistently wear your retainer, results from either treatment can last a lifetime. Still, patients with a more severe case of misalignment may have a higher risk of relapse, regardless of the treatment they choose. Your teeth will continue to stabilize over time, but there will always be a chance they might shift back.
Does Shorter Treatment Time Increase My Risk of Relapse?
Moving teeth more quickly requires more force. Once your teeth have moved, they will always have a tendency to continue shifting. Expedited treatments, like home aligners, can be completed in about 6 months because they generally treat milder cases and their aligners apply more force. However, once your treatment is complete, your teeth will be very unstable. So, wearing your retainer is especially important for the first few months after treatment.
Invisalign is faster than braces. However, there won’t be a significant difference in the risk of relapse. Wearing your retainer is the most important way to prevent your teeth from shifting.
Can My Teeth Shift Even If I Wear My Retainers Every Night?
Immediately after your treatment, you should wear your retainers 22 hours per day. Nighttime-only wear won’t be sufficient in the beginning to prevent relapse. So, it’s important to only remove your retainers when you eat, brush or floss. After a few months, or whenever your dentist gives you the go-ahead, you can switch to nighttime wear.
Wearing your retainer every night is the best way to prevent future relapses. However, your teeth may still move slightly over time. Unfortunately, once your teeth have shifted, there will always be a risk of relapse. Regularly replacing your retainers is key to ensuring they don’t become loose or less effective. So, plan to purchase a new set once every few years.
What If I Have a Permanent Retainer?
Permanent retainers only provide direct protection for the front top and bottom teeth. However, they can’t be removed, so they’re always working. As a result, they pose about the same risk of relapse, regardless of the type of retainer you choose. However, permanent retainers may be easier to maintain since you won’t have to remember to wear them. Cooperation is key to reducing your risk of relapse, so fixed retainers can be more convenient.
On the other hand, removable retainers protect all of the teeth. So, they may be slightly more effective, especially for the first few months after treatment. If you’re worried, get a removable retainer first, then switch to a permanent one once your teeth are more stable.
How long the results of your Invisalign treatment will last is ultimately up to you. No orthodontic treatment will last without aftercare retainers and proper oral hygiene. Your teeth will be the most unstable immediately after treatment. So, it’s essential to follow your dentist’s instructions carefully and continue wearing your retainers.
Regardless of which orthodontic treatment you choose, it’s up to you to maintain your new smile once it’s over. By regularly wearing a retainer and keeping your teeth clean and healthy, you can achieve results that will last a lifetime.