If achieving your perfect smile were as simple as digitizing your bite with a 3D scan, the smile journey would be as predictable as the rising sun. But your mouth is not a computer simulation and things don’t always go according to plan.
What are refinements?
Some of you may be thinking...if invisible braces work so well, why would they ever need refining? It's partly due to individual differences. Overbites and underbites are treated differently, and there's no telling how your provider will determine the best way to shift all those teeth into your optimal alignment.
But ironically, it is the flexibility of the clear aligner lifestyle that leads to refinements for many patients. The freedom to live your life while straightening your teeth introduces a variable that neither you nor your provider may control. The byproduct of this freedom is that your teeth may not move exactly as planned.
Ok, so what are we talking about here?
As a practicing orthodontist specializing in Invisalign therapy, I marvel (along with my patients) at the amazing results we see early in treatment. But as we journey closer to perfection, teeth don’t always track to those 3-D simulations.
Refinements get us back on track towards the finish line, and rapid advancements in 3D printing technology let us refine your treatment without adding much time to your smile journey.
So why do they happen?
When we fit our teeth with plastic trays for 22 hours each day, you can expect it will alter your routine. Many patients report that their bite feels different, which can take some adjustment. Dry mouth is also a byproduct of clear aligner treatment, which can impact how many times we swallow each day.
When we fit our teeth with plastic trays for 22 hours each day, you can expect it will alter your routine.
Swallowing may not sound like a big deal, but its actually a key propellant for moving teeth. This is because when you swallow, your jaw clenches and you put pressure in between your top and bottom teeth. Try it right now - I bet you felt the pressure in your molars, but not so much your front teeth.
Swallowing will keep your trays tight in the back, but not so much for your social six. And when your trays aren't fitting tightly or properly, the degree of tooth movement can be altered.
Is there anything I can do?
This is why I, and many of my orthodontic colleagues, recommend regular chewing exercises that target your incisors and canines. This will help to promote a better fit for your aligners on the front "social six" and keep your smile journey on track.
Some providers recommend the clear aligner chewie, but I created Movemints to give people a fresh alternative to styrofoam. Movemints are sugar free and safe to eat with your clear aligners, and will help you stay on schedule during your smile journey.
Refinements aren't a life sentence.
When refinements happen, don’t blame yourself or your provider, and remember that excellent results are worth the extra effort! The convenience of clear aligners does come at a cost, but it is all in furtherance of your best possible results.
Typically, your orthodontist or provider will focus on making your front six teeth as straight as possible because of their prominence in our beautiful smiles (this group is called "the social six" for a reason, after all.)
Reshaping future trays is how providers put you back on track for your best smile. So, you may be requested to dispose of your current aligners if you use a mail order service and sent a new sequence of trays, or be asked by your orthodontist or dentist to come back into the office for refitting. This is normal.
Is there any way to avoid them?
That depends...do you care about your final results? If you're just looking for a minor correction, or your case is less than six months, you may not require refinements.
But if your case is more advanced or longer than six months, there's a good chance refinements are in your future. Your smile is like a work of art, and clear aligners are like the artist, so give them the time (and the patience) to work their magic.
You'll be glad you did, and you're going to love your new smile!