California firm creates a cosmetic alternative to conventional orthodontics by applying 3D technology.
An alternative to fixed orthodontic appliances uses computer-aided technology to produce "nearly clear" appliances that result in tooth movement in both arches. The Invisalign System develops customized aligners that are worn sequentially by the patient until the desired movement is achieved.
Align Technology Inc., which introduced Invisalign in July 1999 to both U.S. and Canadian orthodontists, developed 3D computer-imaging to visualize a complete treatment plan - a series of removable medical-grade polymer appliances. The imaging capabilities include demonstrating the desired treatment result via the Internet.
Each aligner is designed to move teeth incrementally. Patients wear an aligner for approximately two weeks before moving on to the next aligner in the process.
The company targets adults who avoid orthodontic treatment for cosmetic reasons. The aligners resemble clear tooth-whitening trays. Some orthodontists refer to them as "contact lenses for teeth."
Orthodontists recommend the Invisalign System only for patients with full adult development and complete jaw growth. Generally, the youngest female candidates for treatment are ages 15 to 17 and ages 17 to 19 for boys.
Orthodontists certified to use the Invisalign system send a patient`s impression, X-rays, and a planning form to Align Technology`s laboratory. The lab creates a mold, which is then digitized. The company`s software generates a 3D "movie" of teeth movement, which is reviewed and approved by the treating orthodontist. Once the treatment plan is approved, Align Technology creates a series of "clear" aligners.
Patients typically wear a pair of aligners - one on the upper teeth and one on the lower. The total treatment time is similar to traditional orthodontics, ranging from six to 24 months depending upon the complexity of the case.
The company estimates that about half of the orthodontists in the United States have been trained to use the Invisalign System. The Invisalign System has FDA clearance as a medical device for orthodontic treatment. In a press release, Align Technology stated, "Ongoing clinical studies have shown the Invisalign System is effective in treating mild to moderate crowding and space closure cases, which represent 40 to 60 percent of all adult cases."
The aligners are removed for oral home care routines, enhancing brushing and flossing for patients. Align Technology also asserts that its aligners avoid the abrasion associated with traditional braces.
Align Technology offers a patient education kit to dental hygienists. The kit contains an easel stand, leaflets, and information about the certified orthodontists.
Align Technology is based in Sunnyvale, Calif. The company was founded in March 1997 by Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth. Align Technology has more than 900 employees working at facilities in California, Mexico, and Pakistan.
For more information about the Invisalign System or the patient education materials, call (866) 822-5446 or visit the company`s Web site at www.invisalign.com.