A beautiful smile and straight teeth can help children start a school year right. Therefore, we’re excited to have Dr. Diana Almy of Fredericksburg Orthodontics and Invisalign Center as this month’s Ask the Expert. Dr. Almy grew up in the Fredericksburg area and leads an all-woman staff in Spotsylvania County. The mother of three boys and a girl (with beautiful teeth!) Dr. Almy took the time to talk us through the latest changes in braces and orthodontic care.
When my children had braces back in the mid-2000s, Invisalign was not an option for everyone. How has Invisalign changed?
Invisalign is a clear easily removable appliance. Each week, a new appliance is used to move the teeth gradually. Invisalign has been around about 20 years now. Their software and algorithms and technology have changed dramatically over time. About five years ago, they came out with their Smart Track material which is a little more flexible and designed to distribute the forces more evenly over the course of the week.
What are the greatest advantages of having Invisalign versus traditional braces?
I think it's really revolutionizing what we're doing. It's helpful in kids with special needs, like sensory processing disorders or Autism spectrum disorders. They tend to struggle with oral hygiene because of all those sensory issues and so having Invisalign makes the oral hygiene challenges easier, since they come on and off easily. I've also used it in kids with Down syndrome.
It also allows parents to have more control. We put compliance indicators into the Invisalign. It’s a little dot of blue vegetable dye on them that fades out over the course of time if the appliances are being worn. So, if your child doesn’t wear them, it’ll stay blue and you can check on it weekly.
Photo courtesy of Carol E. Hayes at Virginia Creative Group
Does Invisalign take longer than traditional braces?
I still estimate treatment time based on just traditional methods. And the time frame is similar [between traditional braces and Invisalign].
How much does Invisalign cost versus traditional braces?
At our office, we price it the same. Another good thing about Invisalign is you don't have to come in for tons of visits. Typically, we see them every 10 to 12 weeks, whereas with braces we see the patient every six to eight weeks. So, since we're not having to have as many visits the pricing can be more in line with traditional braces, even though there is a big expense to initially to buy the Invisalign system.
Roughly how much should a parent set aside for orthodontic care?
On average about four to six thousand dollars. It's important to assess your insurance when they have open enrollment periods because sometimes the benefit you get for buying a higher-grade insurance may not be worth it. We, of course, go over all of that with you. But the other thing that I think is even easier though for people is to put money aside in a flex spending account or health savings account, because then it's tax-free money. We do an in-office payment plan in order to try to make it affordable. We do some low-down payments and stretch out the payment to help people out.
What other cool things is Fredericksburg Orthodontics doing?
We have a lot of new high-tech equipment that makes getting braces much less invasive. For example, instead of taking models or retainer impressions, we run this scanner wand over a patient’s teeth, and it makes a virtual image. It can be sent to a lab for a retainer or to Invisalign for an Invisalign.
It also has an outcome simulator which is really kind of cool to show people. It takes the image of their current teeth and then shows them what their teeth are going to look like in the end. So, it’s really neat to help people visualize the outcome. For most patients it gives you a pretty accurate assessment.
When my kids were in braces, it was cool to have colored bands. What’s fashionable in braces now?
Some braces that have been popular for us are gold bands instead of silver. Then for the person that doesn't want something very visible we do have the fully behind the teeth braces. So even if you still need the traditional braces, we have some different options there for you.
Do you have any advice for those who are nervous about getting their teeth straightened for the first time?
We have consultations, so I would recommend coming in and seeing what it's all about. Check out your options see what it might look like. See the costs. Consultations are free. Free information is power. We always take pictures, too, which I think are very powerful. So just come in to check it out. We've come a long way. It’s not as scary as you’d think.
Do you have questions for Dr. Almy? Be sure to watch our Facebook Live interview this month! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for information and updates