Invisalign aligners are a great orthodontic appliance to straighten teeth. It has developed innovative ways to provide beautiful smiles and achieve the best results. One of the outstanding features is Invisalign attachments that are attached to your teeth and allow for more complex teeth movements to happen.

Attachments are small and act as anchors for your Invisalign aligners to grip and apply forces to move teeth into the proper position, which with aligners only is not possible. Invisalign attachments help treat more complex cases like bite problems and severely crooked teeth. They are functional tools designed on computer software for some specific locations on your teeth.

Read on to know more about Invisalign attachments, a key feature helping you get your attractive and healthier smile. We will dig deeper on how they work, what these attachments look like, how are they placed, and what you actually need to know to make your treatment with them run as smoothly and flawlessly as possible.

What are Invisalign attachments?

Attachments are small tooth-colored structures fixed to the surface of your teeth. They are made of composite resin, the material used in composite dental bonding for repairing teeth. They help the aligners grip and fit over the teeth while guiding the force and pressure of the aligners for the correct positions desired for your misaligned teeth.

You notice that traditional braces use brackets and wires that are fixed on your teeth to move them into alignment. Invisalign, rather, works by methods like attachments to hold onto aligners to grip them to offset the force and generate the teeth movements.  

Attachments, which are patented to Invisalign aligners, are part of a series of Invisalign SmartFroce® features developed by engineers and orthodontists at Align technology.

How do Invisalign attachments work and why are they used?

Invisalign aligners are an aesthetic, removable, and more convenient form of orthodontics. They work by gently and incrementally moving badly located teeth into correct positions. Each aligner is shaped differently and designed to obtain certain teeth movements. You normally wear each aligner tray for 1 or 2 weeks and then change to the newer one.

But some teeth may need extra force to move and aligners cannot work alone to produce that force wanted. Therefore, attachments come into play. They make enough surface area to let aligners push the necessary pressures to displace and rotate teeth. 

SmartForce attachments are a big player in the Invisalign aligner system and they are developed because of two main reasons:

  • To facilitate specific teeth movements and thus treat more complex orthodontic cases 
  • To work as anchor points and retention ledges, helping aligners stay firm in place and prevent them from sliding while shifting teeth into proper directions and angles 

Invisalign attachments are an effective and state-of-the-art mechanism that enable severe malocclusions, overcrowding, major crookedness, and bite issues correction. As an example, attachments can accompany buttons and elastics to help treat overbite.

Attachments are similar to buttons, however, with different functions. Buttons are used as anchors for elastics (rubber bands), which are used mainly for inter-arch alignment of teeth in upper and lower jaws. To differentiate the two and how attachments and buttons work, watch the video below.

How are the attachments placed?

Attachments placement is quite an easy process. Your dentist should first examine whether you need them for your treatment.

Your teeth are scanned with the iTero scanner device and the data from your entire mouth is transferred to Invisalign’s computer software, called ClinCheck. Here, your dentist or orthodontist plans out the whole treatment and visualizes your occlusion, bite, and other necessary information in a 3D model.

Attachments are then planned using the ClinCheck software. They are custom designed for each person’s tooth depending on the desired specific movements. Your orthodontist determines each attachment’s position, size, shape, and number of them based on ClinCheck’s requirement to create a force system that moves teeth into correct positions.

Steps for placing Invisalign attachments

The following steps explain how your Invisalign attachments are fixed to the surface of your teeth:

  1. After cleaning your teeth, the dentist or orthodontist applies a special type of gel to help stick the material to the tooth structure.
  2. The gel is washed off and your teeth are rinsed.
  3. Your dentist applies the bonding agent using a brush to create a strong bond between the attachments and your teeth.
  4. Next, your dentist places the template aligner, which contains little spaces, over your teeth. Then the attachment material, composite resin, is loaded into these spaces. The template aligner has small bulges that show where the attachments should be placed.
  5. The attachment material is light-cured and hardened with a special light (UV light).
  6. After the composite material is hardened, your dentist removes the template and trims off any excess edges.

What remains are tiny tooth-colored bumps on your teeth. Don’t worry you can still remove your aligners. However, you need some little learning on how to put the aligners in and take them out in order to be aware that the aligners are fit and there is no risk of damage to the attachments.

The following video will show you how attachments are placed:

How are Invisalign attachments removed?

Your orthodontist removes the Invisalign attachments after your treatment is completed. They use special tools (e.g., ultrasonic scaler) to scrape the remaining composite material bits off your teeth.

The procedure is simple, painless, and with no risks to your teeth. However, you shouldn’t try it yourself since you damage your enamel

You may just feel a little vibration on your teeth while the material is removed.

To leave no trace behind, your dentist might polish the surface of your teeth where the attachments were bonded. This gives a smooth and shiny surface complementing the straighter teeth achieved by your Invisalign orthodontics treatment.

Do you really need attachments with Invisalign?

Not everyone needs attachments. Your orthodontist can determine whether you need them.

If your treatment requires tooth movements that can only be achieved with attachments, they are planned for you according to the ClinCheck software coupled with the experience of your orthodontist. Your orthodontist will place a number of attachments in different locations on your teeth depending on the severity of your case.

Do Invisalign attachments hurt?

Having some pain is normal when you get attachments for the first time. You may also feel pain and discomfort each time you put on the next aligner. Pain and uncomfortable feelings happen as with any orthodontic appliance because teeth are being moved.

Since the attachments are intended to direct pressures and aligner forces to push the teeth that are difficult to move, the pain can be more than when there are no attachments involved with your Invisalign treatment.

The pain goes away once you get used to having attachments and wearing aligners in general. Meanwhile, take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve your pain. Keep in mind to consult your dentist first with dosage and don’t overuse any pain medication.

Are Invisalign attachments visible?

Many people choose Invisalign aligners over traditional braces because they are an invisible type of appliance worn and removed with no trips to the dentist. Although attachments can make your aligners more visible and bolder, it is just slight visibility from a close distance. They don’t interfere with your smile once you wear the aligners on.

Invisalign attachments are tiny bumps that are made of composite. This material matches the color of your teeth. Composite blends in well with your teeth and is a longtime restoration material. Knowing that the results are sweet you don’t need to be concerned about attachments.

What are the risks of Invisalign attachments?

Invisalign attachments have many advantages and some drawbacks as well. Besides pain and discomfort, they may pose some issues as follows:

Plaque build-ups

The addition of attachments to the surface of your teeth increases the risks of plaque accumulation. These extra areas create an environment for plaque to build up around the corners and edges. If you don’t brush your teeth and don’t floss regularly, plaque will ultimately cause decay, and cavities are formed.

Tooth decay and staining

Teeth are always prone to tooth decay and discoloration with the presence of poor oral hygiene and improper eating habits. This risk increases with attachments which occupy the partial teeth’ surface.

As you eat, food particles can get trapped around your attachments. If you don’t remove the residue by regular brushing or flossing, your attachments, just like grooves and spaces on other areas of your teeth, harbor food remaining and thus bacterial plaque. This situation will finally lead to tooth decay and staining.

Also, both your teeth as well as the attachments can stain if you drink more acidic beverages like soda or darker liquids such as coffee or red wine.

More difficulty in removing and wearing the aligners

The attachments create quite a snug and tight fitting for aligners on your teeth. This makes it difficult and painful for you to put the aligner tray in or take it out. With time, but, it cannot be a big issue as you get used to it.

Soft tissue irritations

When you are not wearing the aligner, attachments may rub against the soft tissue inside your mouth like your lips, the tongue, and inner parts of your cheeks. Attachments may irritate you at first and feel sharp. As you are wearing the aligner much of the time, it is nothing you get worried about.

If they get painful, you can use orthodontic wax when the aligner is out to give the attachments a soft, smooth surface as they touch the soft tissues.

Caring tips with Invisalign attachments

Invisalign aligners should be worn for 22 hours per day, so follow the recommended daily wear time for as long as the Invisalign treatment takes. Remember that you should take out your Invisalign aligners when you eat. Also, do that when you drink anything but water and during teeth cleaning.

Brush your teeth

You need to keep your teeth clean to prevent plaque buildup and tooth decay. Brush your teeth twice a day or after each meal and drink (besides water) before putting back the aligners in. Be sure to carefully and gently clean the areas around the attachments.

Make sure you floss to remove food particles

Floss your teeth to remove trapped food between your teeth.

Cut down on some drinks

Dark liquids like coffee and red wine as well as acidic and high sugar drinks like soda and energy drinks can cause staining. They can contribute to dental erosion and tooth decay.

Be gentle on hard foods

Invisalign doesn’t create any food restrictions as they are removable. But with attachments, you need to have more attention to your eating. To avoid damaging these little bumps, watch out for harsh and hard foods. Bite carefully on hard foods.

Stick to your dentist’s instructions

Your dentist will provide the necessary tips for the best treatment outcome. Follow his/her rules on how long to wear aligners, when to remove them, and other dos and don’ts.

Frequently asked questions around Invisalign attachments

Does the number of attachments affect the cost of Invisalign?

On average, Invisalign aligners can cost around $3,000 to $7,000. Some factors play a role in increasing the cost, including the dentist, the location, and most importantly whether your treatment is complex and extensive.
Since attachments are used for more severe problems, chances are that your cost is high. This is not because of the number of attachments but due to your dental condition which needs more work and time.
If your dental insurance covers Invisalign, it helps you reduce your total costs greatly.
Alternatively, discuss with your dentist the payment plans and other ways to manage your Invisalign costs better.

Can Invisalign attachments fall off?

Yes, it’s possible. If your attachments break or fall off, immediately visit your orthodontist to let him/her place the new attachment on. Therefore, there will not be any interruptions in your teeth straightening process and no delay in treatment.
Attachments are an essential part of your treatment with which your teeth are planned to move to a correct position and desired alignment.

Is it possible to have attachments on teeth with fillings, crowns, and veneers?

For some dental work like composite dental fillings and composite veneers, bonding attachments can be easier due to the same material used for attachments.
If you have porcelain veneers or a porcelain crown, your orthodontist may still be able to roughen and etch the surfaces so that attachments can be fixed. In the case of metal restorations, it may be challenging to bond attachments as it is a completely different type of material than composite.
Generally, your orthodontist can say which dental work can or cannot be used for attachment placement. Or, it is possible that you may not need it on that particular tooth.

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