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an article by
Valentina Tkachenko
(visitor contribution)
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Orthodontics
6 Month Smiles® are a new alternative to traditional braces and Invisalign which focus mostly on moving the teeth normally seen in a smile (as opposed to more traditional methods which shift all or most of the teeth in a patient’s mouth and change the patient’s bite). The treatment can be used for all of the common concerns which are addressed by other types of braces such as crowding, overbite, spacing, overjet (front teeth which jut out), underbite, openbite, misplaced midline, and crossbite. The difference 6 Month Smiles® offers is that the treatment usually only lasts for four to eight months as opposed to the several years required for traditional braces and it uses tooth colored wires and braces which show less than “train track” braces but more than Invisalign®.

The first visit is usually a consultation and measuring session in which the dentist presents all available options and counsels the patient about his or her orthodontic care. 6 Month Smiles® are installed on the next visit and the patient must then return roughly once a month for tightening and monitoring of progress in order to assure that the treatment is proceeding as planned. Patients are usually asked to wear a retainer after the braces are removed in order to prevent the teeth from regressing to their former misaligned states. 6 Month Smiles® are usually a cheaper procedure than traditional braces or Invisalign®, but a consultation is required to determine eligibility and final cost.

Common concerns expressed by patients include worries about excess salivation, pain, and alterations to speech - as with any kind of braces, 6 Month Smiles® will have a mild effect in all three areas but thankfully all three concerns vanish after several days of acclimation to the feel of braces. Over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Motrin can be used to relieve discomfort, especially after subsequent visits for adjustments. Because 6 Month Smiles® are a faster alternative to traditional braces, they are often a good choice for upcoming weddings and similar special events.

Invisalign® is another alternative to traditional braces which uses a series of clear plastic aligners to gradually shift teeth to the desired position. The procedure begins with a consultation visit to a dentist who takes a series of moulds and images which are then rendered into a 3D model of the patient’s teeth. The model is sent to a manufacturing company which makes a custom set of twenty to thirty “arches” or aligners which are used in succession, with a new set used every two weeks. The entire process usually takes just under a year to complete. The patient is also encouraged to visit his or her dentist every six weeks to monitor progress and assure that no issues arise.

One of the main advantages of Invisalign® is the fact that it is nearly undetectable when in place - patients usually report a higher level of self-esteem due to the lack of traditional metal brackets and wires. Another advantage is the removability of the aligners which are taken out during eating and drinking as well as during brushing and flossing. Because Invisalign® is removable better dental health is easier to achieve - traditional braces prevent truly effective brushing and making flossing nearly impossible.

Invisalign® is covered, or partially covered, by certain dental plans but is usually more expensive than both traditional braces and 6 Month Smiles®. Originally developed for adults, Invisalign® has recently launched a specialized program for teenagers - Invisalign Teen® - which offers benefits such as blue wear indicators which help gauge wear-time, six free individual replacement aligners in case any are lost or misplaced, and a new design which is more accommodating of growing molars and wisdom teeth. Many Invisalign® patients have had traditional braces in the past and their teeth have subsequently relapsed. Some dentists also use a combination of traditional braces and Invisalign® to treat patients - often using Invisalign® after traditional braces to minimize the unsightliness of metal but maximize results. Patients are advised not to smoke to prevent discoloration of the aligners, and not to chew gum as it can stick to the plastic. Both activities can be engaged in as long as the aligners are removed. The aligners can be cleaned either with a specialized kit sold by the Invisalign® website or by brushing and rinsing with lukewarm water.

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