During the treatment procedure, some people require “attachments”, which are small blobs of tooth cement (or something similar) that are glued to some of your teeth in order to allow the plastic trays to grip your teeth to twist and pull them.
Attachments are NOT the same as buttons – the Buttons Vs Attachments forum discussion page explains the difference with a photo.
Will I need attachments?
As part of your initial consultations, impressions are made and photographs taken of your teeth. Your orthodontist works with Invisalign to figure out which teeth need attachments. Make sure you ask about attachments during your consultation so you don’t get a rude shock when you pick up your first Invisalign trays!
How are Invisalign attachments made?
When you go to get your first set of trays, a “stencil” (template) is placed over your teeth with holes for where the attachments need to go. The orthodontist then “spray-paints” the attachments on using the special glue. The stencil makes sure that the attachments go in exactly the right place for your teeth, otherwise your first aligners wouldn’t fit properly. The glue might have a bad taste, but the attachments dry within a minute or so.
Are the attachments visible?
In order to create the attachments, a color “glue” is selected to match your tooth color. So, if you have very white teeth, they use very white glue color and if you have off-white teeth then they select a similar shade of off-white for the glue color.
From the front, Invisalign attachments look like a dots in the middle of the teeth. Looking from the side without your aligners in, they stick out a little bit, although usually you’re wearing your aligners when other people are looking at you.
If you have attachments on your front teeth, your aligners will be more visible than if you did not have any attachments. This is because there are little bubbles in the aligners that correspond to the position of all of your attachments, and these bubbles are slightly visible when the light reflects off the plastic. Here’s a picture of what Invisalign attachments look like while wearing the aligners. (There are 5 attachments on the top teeth in this photo.)
Do the attachments hurt?
The “spray-painting” procedure for getting the attachments glued on is usually painless. However, the attachments may cause additional discomfort when taking out the aligners, especially the top set. This is natural due to the tight fit of the aligners – it can seem like you’re trying to “pull out” your teeth when taking off aligners when there are attachments on the teeth. This can be a bit painful, especially at the very start of treatment when you aren’t quite used to the pain yet, and also every 2 weeks when starting a new set of trays when your teeth are especially sensitive. After a few days, there is not as much pain when taking out the new set of aligners, even with attachments, because your teeth have moved and the trays fit more comfortably (i.e. they don’t feel as tight).
Are Invisalign attachments abrasive?
Some patients find that attachments can be a little abrasive if they take out their aligners, depending on the size and shape of the attachments, since the inside of your mouth can get a bit tender where the attachments have been rubbing. However, you’re supposed to be wearing the aligners for almost all of the time, so this isn’t usually a big issue. It’s a bit of an incentive to put the trays back in, anyway, which is a good thing.
Can the attachments fall off?
Yes, the attachments can fall off, although it shouldn’t happen often and may not happen to everyone. Ask your orthodontist/dentist what you should do if an attachment falls off. They will probably tell you to call them the next day to figure out which attachment it was and when you should come back to the office to get it replaced. Depending on which attachment falls off at which time, they can sometimes just re-glue the attachment on at the next regular (6-weekly) check-up. But you should always check with your Invisalign provider if an attachment falls off so your treatment is not delayed unnecessarily.
What happens to the attachments at the end of my treatment?
When your treatment is finished, they “sand down” the attachments to remove them, and then polish your teeth. People shouldn’t be able to tell later that you’ve had attachments on your teeth.
Does food get stuck around the attachments?
This isn’t usually a problem for me personally, however, depending on the size and shape of the attachments (and the configuration of the rest of your teeth), it can be possible for food (e.g. spinach) to sometimes can get stuck around them. Most patients don’t seem to find this to be a bigger problem than getting food stuck between the teeth though. If you’re at an important function or dinner party, it’s probably best to ask someone to confirm that there’s no food caught in your teeth, just in case
Other issues with Invisalign attachments?
The only additional comment I have is that it seems like the aligners make a very loud noise when I take them out (especially the top ones), and that I strongly suspect this is due to the large number of attachments I have. The plastic makes a few clicking sounds as I take out my top aligners, and there is just one click sound as the bottom aligners snap off around the attachments. I worried at the beginning that I was breaking them, but now I’m more comfortable with them and I don’t worry so much. (I mean, you’ve gotta get them out somehow…)
The reason I find the noise to be a problem is that it makes it very hard to take them out discreetly. Ideally, I would like to be able to quickly slip them out while nobody is looking, for example in a meeting when I know that food is about to be served, but if the room is quiet then there’s no way I can do that without attracting a lot of attention. And attention is the last thing I want while I am clawing away at my teeth trying to get the plastic trays off just before other people are planning to eat!
Do you have any other questions? Feel free to ask in the forum!