Invisalign is an appliance that’s used for orthodontic treatment. Invisalign is a brand name, and this general type of appliance is called a “clear aligner.”
Like traditional braces, Invisalign can help straighten your teeth and correct a misaligned bite. A dentist develops a sequence of aligners from impressions or digital scans of your teeth.
These aligners place pressure on your teeth to move them into their new positions. You typically wear an aligner for 1 to 2 weeks before switching to the next aligner in the sequence.
Sometimes, dentists recommend attachments with aligners like Invisalign. These attachments are small, button-like structures connected directly to your teeth.
Below, we’ll dig deeper into what Invisalign attachments do, who may need them, and more.
With Invisalign, the shape of the aligner differs from the shape of your teeth — and this forces your teeth to move into their new position.
In some cases, the aligner may need a little help to produce the desired movement. This is where attachments come in. They may be necessary if your treatment requires more complex tooth movement.
Attachments are small, tooth-colored structures that attach to your teeth. They’re made from a type of material called composite resin, the same material used for dental fillings.
Each attachment has a very specific shape that promotes a certain type of movement. Your aligner then pushes on the attachment to help achieve this movement.
Attachments can also anchor your aligner, helping it stay in place over your teeth.
Not everyone with Invisalign needs attachments. Whether you’ll need them depends on your treatment plan.
Before your dentist begins the treatment, they’ll perform an examination. They may take photographs, X-rays, and impressions of your teeth to help design your aligners.
Depending on the types of tooth movement involved in the treatment, your dentist will determine whether you need attachments.
As the Consumer Guide to Dentistry points out, Invisalign can cost about the same as traditional braces. On average, this cost can range from $3,000 to $7,000.
The total cost depends on how extensive and complex your treatment is. This can include whether you need attachments along with your aligners.
Not all dental insurance plans cover Invisalign, but some may cover it like they cover braces. It’s important to check whether your dental insurance covers Invisalign before starting the treatment.
Also, be sure to ask your dentist whether they offer a payment plan to help you cover the costs of Invisalign.
Your dentist can apply Invisalign attachments to your teeth using these steps:
- They treat your teeth with a special type of gel that helps the attachment stick.
- After a short wait, they remove the gel and rinse your teeth.
- They use a small brush to apply a bonding agent, which helps secure the attachments to your teeth.
- The dentist then uses a template aligner, an appliance with little spaces where the attachments will go. They load the attachment material (composite resin) into the spaces.
- They place the template aligner, which now contains the attachment material, over your teeth. Then, the dentist applies gentle pressure to help the attachments properly adhere.
- Next, they use a special light to cure and harden the attachment material.
- Finally, they remove the template aligner and any extra bonding agent or composite resin.
Your dentist can use this process to apply more than one attachment to your top or bottom teeth at the same time.
After they place all the attachments, they’ll show you how to put in your aligner and take it out.
You may experience some pain when you first get attachments or when you switch to a new aligner. This is because of the pressure that your aligner places on your attachments, which helps reposition your teeth.
Also, when you remove your aligner, it’s possible that new attachments may feel uncomfortable against the inside of your mouth.
Any discomfort typically goes away over time. In the meantime, taking over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help.
In addition to temporary discomfort, having Invisalign attachments might lead to a few other issues. We explore some of these in a little more detail below.
Staining and plaque buildup
Like the brackets of traditional braces, attachments sit on the surface of your teeth. They can provide a convenient area for plaque to build up.
If you don’t practice good dental hygiene while you have attachments, plaque buildup around the attachments can eventually lead to staining or discoloration in these areas.
It’s also possible that the attachments themselves can become stained. This may be more likely if they’re frequently exposed to darker liquids like coffee, red wine, and some sodas.
Particles from what you eat and drink can become trapped around your attachments. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, this can eventually lead to demineralization (mineral loss) of the tooth and the formation of cavities.
Trouble removing your aligner
Attachments can help hold your aligner in place. You may notice that your aligner fits more snugly after you get attachments, making it a little harder to remove.
Generally speaking, you’ll need to wear your aligner for 22 hours per day. You can also remove it in some situations, such as when you’re:
- brushing or flossing
- drinking anything besides water
When you’re using Invisalign with attachments, be sure to do the following to help care for your teeth:
- Follow your dentist’s instructions. To effectively move your teeth, an aligner needs to stay in your mouth. Carefully follow your dentist’s directions about how long to wear your aligner and when to take it out (and how to clean it).
- Brush. Food particles can become trapped around your attachments, so be sure to take time to brush your teeth after each meal. Try to be gentle in areas with attachments.
- Floss. Flossing helps remove extra food bits that become trapped between your teeth, so take time to floss before putting your aligner back in.
- Stick to water when your aligner is in. It’s important to only drink water when your aligner is in. Other liquids can become trapped between your aligner and your teeth, contributing to staining or tooth decay.
- Take extra care with some drinks. Dark liquids like red wine and coffee may cause staining, and drinks that are sugary or acidic can contribute to tooth decay. If you’ve had any of these, always brush your teeth before replacing your aligner.
An attachment might come off your tooth. If this happens, call your dentist without delay so that they can replace it.
This is important because attachments are a key part of your treatment. They help your aligner move your teeth into the desired position.
When the treatment period is over, your dentist removes Invisalign attachments with a small tool that chips away at the attachment material.
This is painless, but you may feel some vibrations from the tool as it gradually removes the material.
Attachments can be used with Invisalign to help achieve more complex tooth movement. They also hold your aligner in place more securely.
Your dentist applies attachments to your teeth in a simple procedure. Attachments typically stay for the duration of your treatment, then the dentist removes them painlessly with a small tool.
It’s important to have good dental hygiene when you have attachments. This can help prevent issues like staining, demineralization, and cavities.
Not everyone with Invisalign needs attachments. Your dentist will let you know if they should be a part of your treatment plan.