Invisalign: “More than clear plastic aligners”

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Align Technology’s Zelko Relic discusses Invisalign and the digital dental universe

Zelko Relic is Align Technology’s Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Global Research & Development. He is passionate about the subject of digital development for dentistry, especially the way new innovation is driving change and improving both user and patient experience.

Dental Review felt the forcefulness of Zelko’s energy and commitment to change. “Change,” he explained, “is hard, but essential for success. Businesses that do not embrace change will not survive. Dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor strike in Mexico 66 million years ago, but birds adapted and survived change, they thrived.

“Digital developments are just as disruptive as that meteor strike; and are happening almost as quickly. The reward for adapting to the new landscape means not just surviving but thriving. By 2024 the European dental market is forecast to be worth €8.2billion, and dental patients will expect to see value for money, analogue dentistry will not meet that expectation.”

Relic outlined the future of the dental team: capturing digital data, using digital imagery, and working within a continuously improving and learning digital platform. Align, he said, is not just about clear aligners vs metal braces, it is about dynamic digital progress vs passive analogue stagnation.

“Pause and you’re left behind. The latest technology is changing the world and our perception of information, it is changing us. Developments that used to take years or months can now happen in weeks, and in the digital world puts that information at our fingertips. Digital is an instant access culture, by comparison analogue uses file cards in boxes down in the cellar, it can’t compete.”

Smart technology puts power in the hands of the user. In dentistry this means that things happen faster, and patients become more engaged in their treatment through visual education tools. It is easier to gain consent when patients can see the outcome before treatment begins, and it enables the dental professional to manage expectations while also easing the patient experience.

Invisalign Go, increased flexibility for GDPs

An example of this new technology in action is the new Invisalign Go system for general practitioners. Replacing the original Invisalign Go, the new system offers increased flexibility, and means tooth straightening can now be included as an element of comprehensive dentistry. The package includes training and ongoing support and will come into the UK on 2nd July this year.

Relic continued: “Invisalign is the most recognised tooth straightening process in the world, patients ask for it by name. It is popular for many reasons, not only because it incorporates a user-friendly digital platform that simplifies treatment planning, but also because its smart algorithms provide predictable outcomes, time and time again.”

Invisalign Go is a flexible system. Special software filters can be used in the planning process, for example the patient might prefer not have attachments during treatment. Key in the no attachment filter, and ask, will the treatment plan work without them? If not, what is the absolute minimum that can be used successfully?

“Invisalign,” says Relic, “does not dictate to the dental professional, it adds a greater level of flexibility to the treatment. As does the latest additions to the Align Technology portfolio, iTero Element 2 for high performance scanning portability, and iTero Element Flex (below) the extremely portable scanning technology that works with a range of approved laptops.”

He continued: “Invisalign growth is driving an increase in intraoral scanning, and we are seeing iTero being adopted in UK practices at a tremendous rate. Other systems are also approved to work with Invisalign thanks to its open system, and they are effective, but we believe iTero to be the best overall integrated scanning solution.”

Smart algorithms

Everything Align does is based on its smart algorithms. Every successful treatment across the globe, over 5.5 million of them and climbing, informs the software and helps guide the next treatment plan.

Relic agrees: “Align technology is continuously learning and updating its treatment parameters. For dental GPs the benefits are greater clinical confidence and access to experienced advice and guidance. It also means that if the treatment is beyond their current skills GDPs can refer to a trusted specialist.

“That means greater quality of care and greater access to the correct level of care. And we don’t sit on our laurels, we will continue to develop the system and advance indications for its use, especially for younger children. We are currently developing a palate widener which will widen a narrow juvenile arch by up to 5-6mm.

“The Invisalign journey takes the patient along a predictable path that leads to a stable outcome and a bite that works beautifully. Through careful marketing and better education for patients we hope to lead ever more people towards the Invisalign treatment journey as part of day-to-day dental practice.”

He concluded, “It’s easy to be passionate about something you love, and digital tooth straightening improves people’s lives – simply and predictably. Three out of four people would benefit from Invisalign and treatment is accessible, painless, and cost-effective. Surely everyone deserves the best, most aesthetic, and healthiest smile we can provide?

“In the future we will be able to place the new, improved smile into the patient’s own portrait – rather than using tooth only graphics as we do now; but the benefit is already so much more than a straighter, happier smile. Better alignment means improved oral health, which means we are improving people’s lives every day, and that’s what Align Technology is all about.”

For more information about Align Technology visit www.aligntech.com. To find out more about the Invisalign system or to find an Invisalign provider in your area, visit www.invisalign.co.uk. To discover more about the iTero digital scanning system, visit www.itero.com.