By Mike Shen
It seems like everyone today is obsessing over their teeth. The average consumer is literally bombarded with teeth whitening strips to bleach to “magic” whitening gum and toothpastes to that stupid commercial where the girl is smiling so blatantly in front of her friends with practically radioactive-whitish blue teeth. Even past issues of this beauty website focused on teeth whitening services from BriteSmile. But listen up guys, it’s not an unknown that good teeth with a nice smile is one of the most important features that all women look for. However, it doesn’t matter how bleached your teeth are if your pearly whites are more crooked than Enron’s Kenneth Lay. If you’re worried about walking around with metal in your mouth, then braces may not be an option. And don’t fool yourself with those tooth-colored braces that are just as obvious as the metal ones with the added bonus of silently saying to others, “yes, I’m self-conscious about my braces.” If you’re a sales-side banker, marketing exec, consultant, press agent, entertainment manager, etc. that works with clients and/or the media on a regular basis, then braces truly are not an option in careers where appearance matters.
Now there’s a solution.
In 1998, the FDA approved the marketing of Invisalign, a proprietary method for straightening teeth using a series of clear, nearly invisible, removable appliances that do not rely on metal or ceramic brackets and wires. Though more than 100,000 patients nationwide have undergone Invisalign treatment, on April 1, Invisalign Wall Street (111 Broadway) will be the first and only office in New York dedicated to treating patients with Invisalign technology.
The office, designed by award-winning architect James Papoutisis, sports cutting-edge technology, emphasizing how Invisalign is boldly going where no orthodontists have gone before. The entire office is practically paper-free, from online medical forms to finger scan check-ins to digital x-rays, and has been designed to expedite client services so that busy clients can check-in and out within 15-20 minutes. This is probably the most efficient medical office I have ever seen or heard of in existence today.
I had the opportunity to speak with both Dr. Jennifer Salzer and Dr.Jessica Lynn Greenberg, both who are highly acclaimed among their peers in orthodontics and have numerous honors and awards to their names. The good doctors were introduced to Invisalign right at its inception.
“Adults come in all the time with different lists: crowding, spacing, overbites. As soon as you tell them that braces are the solution, they rule out that option and leave,” comments Dr. Salzer. The aligners are made from a polymer plastic that looks like a bleaching tray, but thinner and transparent. You literally can’t see it. In fact, I had no idea that Dr. Greenberg had the aligners on until she popped the aligner binding her top teeth out of her mouth. She adds, “With this new technology, people can straighten their teeth and no will ever know.” The aligners snap on to teeth just as a glove fits on a hand – only more securely. On the very outset of treatment, it can be tricky to get the aligners in and out since they completely cover the outside and inside of your teeth.
Dr.Salzer continues, “They’re comfortable – no wires or brackets cutting the interior of your mouth. Unlike traditional braces, the movement on your teeth is very gentle. You experience a low-level constant sensation rather than sharp pains. Eventually, many even forget that they have the aligners on.” Also unlike braces, when you talk it doesn’t sound like you have a mouthful of grapes; clients experience very little to no speech impediment. How about hygiene? When I had braces, not only did I get bristles on my toothbrush stuck on the metal brackets, but my teeth slowly yellowed due to the sheer fact that I couldn’t brush as thoroughly. With Invisalign, you take out the aligners whenever you eat, drink anything other than water, or brush your teeth – flossing clearly won’t be a problem.
The cost of Invisalign treatment is roughly the same as a stint with traditional braces – roughly $7K-10K for a typical year’s treatment. Some insurance companies allot a certain amount to orthodontic work, which usually includes Invisalign services. I recommend looking into your dental plan regarding your insurance coverage.
Now, I was a little skeptical regarding the abilities of Invisalign technology. Is it a small-time appliance that can only correct minor problems like orthodontic relapse? Dr. Salzer counters, “Almost all traditional orthodontic cases are candidates for Invisalign. We can make crowded teeth straight, close spaces, correct rotations, and even widen smiles. With certain cases like skeletal discrepancies where the jaw is not in position or other severe cases, we may do a combination of braces and Invisalign. ” Dr. Greenberg adds, “Surgical cases and impacted teeth are beyond Invisalign capabilities. With impacted teeth, the patient actually needs traditional braces to help pull teeth out of the upper and lower jaws. Invisalign may not completely help bite correction in severe cases, which can only be corrected through surgery or extraction anyway.” All in all? Most people are candidates for Invisalign, and I saw actual patient charts that proved that is the case.
Convinced yet? With that said, Invisalign is a great product for adults who already had braces and suffered orthodontic relapse because they stopped wearing their retainers. Invisalign also works just fine on patients with porcelain veneers or caps. As is recommended with traditional braces, patients need to have all of their permanent teeth before treatment.
An average treatment takes about a year to complete. A client gets a series of aligners where each subsequent aligner gradually moves teeth to the desired position. Using 3-D computer technology, each aligner is precisely calibrated and manufactured for each stage (every two weeks). Clients are given three sets of aligners on each visit; therefore, with the exception of the first couple of visits, you spend about 20 minutes at the Invisalign Wall Street office every six weeks. So the appliance is great for us guys who always complain that we have too much to do in too little time. Even the office hours are flexible to accommodate your busy work schedule.
Aligners are durable. Out of over 500 patients treated, Dr. Salzer recalls only one patient that has actually chewed through one of his aligners (must’ve been an I-banker or a telecom auditor). Since aligner stages are digitally recorded, broken or lost aligners are easily replaced to your exact specification with just a call (or email) to the Invisalign office. With traditional braces, a detached metal bracket could require half-a-day’s worth of time spent traveling to and waiting in an orthodontist’s office.
The first office visit includes the cool finger print scanner, which then records you into the Invisalign server system. Side-view and panoramic frontal digital x-rays are then taken with low-radiation equipment. Unlike traditional x-rays, there is no processing of film required. Images are received immediately so that Drs. Salzer and Greenberg can proceed with a comprehensive diagnostic on the spot. Digital high-quality color photos of your smile and the interiors of your mouth are also taken. Then you sit with the doctors to take super-accurate upper and lower impressions of your teeth. The best part about this is that while you’re in the chair, you have a large, flat-panel screen in front of you with high-speed Internet access to help keep you connected with the latest stock quotes, the latest nipplegate, or the latest Bennifer drama stories. Then the doctors discuss with you precisely what you want to achieve through the Invisalign treatment. All of this happens in the first visit and takes about an hour – talk about six sigma efficiency. The second visit takes about 30 minutes, since the doctors have to explain how to care for and insert/remove your aligners. A nifty 3-D rendering of your teeth, which can be rotated for the best viewing angles, show exactly what your teeth look like now and the series of movements you will go through until you achieve the final result. Then it’s the standard 15-20 minute visit every six weeks.
Now you might be saying that you have had braces before and that your teeth were perfect for a while before they started to shift. Drs. Salzer and Greenberg do all they can to prevent orthodontic relapse. At the end of treatment (again, about a year), they bond thin, wire retainers behind the front, upper and lower teeth that keep teeth straight and static. A night retainer is then worn while you sleep to keep the back teeth in place. Dr. Greenberg advises, “We do not recommend removing the retainer wire. The removable Invisalign retainers are recommended to be worn at night for at least one year and then we advise that it’s best to wear them longer. Teeth are likely to shift throughout life and retainers are our best tool to prevent teeth from shifting and getting crowded again.”
Downsides? There really aren’t any. You just need to be diligent about wearing your aligners and taking them out when you’re eating and the like. Additionally, your teeth will shift slightly if you don’t wear your night retainer, as is the case with all forms of orthodontic treatment, though the wire retainers help keep the front of your teeth straight. Lastly, aligners could become discolored if you smoke with them in, but that’s just plain common sense. Frankly, I found all the positives of traditional orthodontic treatment and then some added bonuses without any of the negatives of metal-mouth. Win-win situations are hard to come by in life. In a year, you’ll pretty much spend only about 3 ½ hours in Invisalign Wall Street’s super-efficient, high-tech office. I’ve spent more time waiting on line at the DMV. Don’t pass up this fantastic, affordable opportunity to improve your smile, your business image, and your self-esteem.
Invisalign Wall Street
111 Broadway, near the corner of Thames St.
The Trinity Building. 17th Floor
New York, NY 10006