Updated: Oct 14
Invisalign attachments are meant as an invisible alternative to metal braces by doing everything that they can do plus look better while doing it. This is a comprehensive guide for everything that you would want or need to know about Invisalign buttons.
Table of Contents:
What are Invisalign attachments?
The Invisalign attachments, also referred to as buttons are small little bumps that are bonded onto your teeth. They're suppose to mimic the effects of what metal brackets from braces do for your teeth.
What do they do?
The attachments serve a couple of functions which are similar to the brackets from braces but the main one is to help move the teeth.
Help move the teeth. The buttons give the Invisalign trays additional grip and leverage to move the teeth in the direction that it needs to go. You can think of it as increasing the surface area for the trays to grab the teeth in order for it to move.
Provides stability for the trays. Sometimes the trays won't stay on the teeth nor grab it very well especially if you have a short tooth. By placing an attachment on the tooth, it gives the tray additional stability because it has an odd shaped button for it to grab onto. This effect is the most noticeable for the last molars in your mouth, which also tends to be the shortest in height. The attachments really help the trays stay on your teeth by not slipping off as much. They basically provide anchorage for them to stay on.
What do they look like?
The Invisalign buttons are all translucent in color but they can be made in a variety of sizes and shapes depending on the type of tooth movement that it needs to perform.
The attachments are actually made of the same material as a tooth filling with the only exception being their color. The color is translucent so that they can match the shade of your teeth perfectly. Since it is see-through, light will pass through it so the color that you see would just be your natural tooth color underneath of it.
Since the attachments are translucent in color, the Invisalign attachments shouldn't be noticeable to the naked eye. They will appear as if they are the same color as your teeth, which helps them blend in and make them less noticeable.
However, your cheeks and tongue will definitely notice the Invisalign attachments because they can feel them. The bumps protrude from the surface of your teeth so it makes it impossible for you to not notice them. Although most patients seem to get use to them and tend to forget that they are there after a few weeks of treatment. In fact, they'll often comment about how weird it feels once they get them removed!
Depending on the direction of the movement and the type of force required to move the teeth, different shapes will work more effectively. Here are the attachment shapes that we've seen Invisalign put on teeth.
Some of the teeth can have more than one attachment as well. They are many teeth with two buttons on them and we usually refer to them as double attachments. We've yet to see a tooth with three buttons though!
The size of buttons will vary as well. Some can be bigger while others can be smaller. It all depends on the function each one is suppose to serve. Typically the ones that are purely meant for anchorage tend to be larger in size.
How do they work?
The size and shape of the Invisalign attachments allow the trays to grab the teeth and move them in a particular way. The location that they're placed will also influence the direction and force that the trays can apply to the teeth.
They're not all placed in the center of the tooth like how metal brackets are placed. The attachments can sometimes be near the gumline or they could be at the tip of the tooth. They can sometimes be at the left or right edge as well.
How do they stay on your teeth?
The buttons are bonded onto your teeth just like how your white tooth filling is. The steps to bonding them in are exactly the same but with the exception of no drilling.
For a regular cavity filling, you need to drill out the cavity first and then bond in the cavity filling material. In the case for Invisalign buttons, there is no drilling step. You just jump right into the bonding step and bond on the attachments.
The bonding and glue is what helps them stay on your teeth. Without the bond, the buttons will pop off as soon as you start eating or when you take the trays off and put them on.
Are Invisalign buttons absolutely necessary?
They're not absolutely necessary but they are highly recommended because they facilitate the movement of teeth and also make the movements more predictable.
Facilitate movement of teeth. The attachments give the trays more leverage and grip to grab onto the teeth in order to move them. You can think of it as increasing the surface area for the plastic trays to grab the teeth. Basically, they make moving the teeth easier.
More predictable tooth movements. All of the sequential trays in your Invisalign plan are based off of a computer algorithm that moves the teeth. The size and shape of each button is suppose to help the teeth move in a certain direction. If you had them removed, the anticipated tooth movements may not go as planned.
You can request your dentist to remove all of the Invisalign attachments but the amount of time it requires for you to completely straighten your teeth may increase. The reason is because the teeth may not move as planned so you may need corrections or refinements at the end of treatment.
Corrections - if your teeth don't move as planned, the subsequent set of trays will not fit. If they don't fit, your dentist will need to do a correction, which is when all the buttons get removed and then new molds of your teeth will be taken. Basically, you're restarting the entire treatment all over again. The computer algorithm will try to make a new prediction on how to move your teeth.
Refinements - if your teeth don't move into the exact position at the end of the treatment, you will need a refinement. This is basically asking Invisalign for more trays in order to get you to where you need to go. Overall, refinements are needed when the you finish all of the trays but the teeth aren't completely straight.
Do I need an attachment on every tooth?
The attachments are usually placed on teeth that need it so they're not placed on every tooth. Most of the Invisalign cases that we've done, only have the attachments on a couple of teeth. Although we have seen very complex cases where there are buttons on every single tooth.
Therefore it really depends on what your particular case requires. If you have a very difficult and complex case, you should expect to have more of them. Alternatively if you have a very simple case, you can expect to have less attachments. So, how complicated is your case?
How long do they stay on?
The Invisalign buttons typically stay on for the entire length of treatment. That means you can take them off once all of the teeth are done straightening. The reason is because each set of trays will move all of the teeth little by little. In fact, each tray can only move your teeth 0.25 mm so depending on the distance the teeth needs to move, it'll determine how many trays you need.
Although we have seen cases where there is a discrepancy in how many trays the upper teeth need vs how many the lower teeth need. If your case happens to have one arch such as the upper finish faster than the lower. You may remove the upper attachments as soon as they're done straightening. That is the only time that you can remove them earlier than planned.
Do Invisalign attachments damage your teeth?
Fortunately they do not damage your teeth because unlike a tooth fillings, there was no drilling prior to bonding them in. They're bonded in without any drilling so that makes their effects completely reversible. If you needed to drill the enamel in order to bond them in, the drilling would've been irreversible.
Therefore, the buttons don't damage the teeth because they don't require irreversible damage from drilling into the teeth. You can rest assured that having them on is completely safe. There is no danger to your teeth or your enamel from having them on.
How do you take care of them?
The biggest perk for doing Invisalign over braces is that the buttons are significantly easier to take care of. You don't need to do anything special to take care of them. All you have to do is brush them with toothpaste and floss like you normally do.
The same cannot be said for the braces because due to the wires going through the metal brackets, you can't clean them as well. The wire prevents you from flossing in between your teeth and also obstruct your toothbrush from brushing the teeth.
Since Invisalign does not have any metal wires, you can simply brush your teeth directly. In our opinion, the entire Invisalign process is just a much cleaner process and experience when compared to braces. The gums are typically much healthier because you can clean them more easily.
If you don't keep them clean, they can stain just like your regular teeth. Stained invisalign attachments don't look good cosmetically because they'll have a brown stain around then, thus making them more noticeable and less invisible. The reason why people choose this over braces is because they're meant to be an invisible alternative to braces.
Here are some common habits that may stain your Invisalign attachments:
Insufficient oral hygiene
Can they come off while you're eating?
The Invisalign buttons typically don't come off while you're eating or drinking but it can happen from time to time. The reason is because they're bonded onto your teeth but aren't locked in with an undercut like a regular tooth filling is. If they were locked into an undercut, the attachments would never come off but once again that would require drilling into the teeth. Drilling is irreversible damage, which is not what we want.
Since the attachments aren't locked in via undercuts, they can pop off if you apply enough pressure to them while eating. The good news is that if they do pop off, you cans imply have your dentist re-bond them on, it only takes about 2-3 minutes to do the procedure.
Invisalign attachments are translucent bondings that are placed on your teeth without any drilling. Their purpose is to help facilitate tooth movement and provide anchorage for the trays to stay on your teeth. They're basically the solution that modern technology has come up with to replace metal brackets from braces.
Hopefully that answers all of the questions that you may have on this topic. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact your dentist or even our office!
Author: This article was written by Dr David Chen, a cosmetic dentist in long island city.