Do you long for straighter teeth but dread the thought of metal braces?If so, Invisalign might be the right way for you to correct a crooked smile, realign your jaw, and address other orthodontic problems without experiencing a mouthful of metal.
Invisalign is a clear alternative to fixed braces that uses a series of transparent incremental removable aligners made from clear soft plastic that custom-fit to a person’s mouth.
They work by applying sustained and gentle pressure to the teeth, coercing them into the correct alignment and position.
Invisalign is the world’s most popular and widely-known clear aligner treatment and so far has transformed over ten million smiles since its introduction in the late 1990s.
So, where did it all start?
A brief history of Invisalign
Invisalign was the brainchild of Stanford University student Zia Chishti who came up with the idea while having his braces removed. Anyone who has had braces knows it can take a long time to get each bracket off, which got Chishti thinking. He wondered if there was a simpler, more convenient way to straighten teeth.
Once the braces were removed, his orthodontist gave him a plastic retainer to hold his teeth in alignment. As he looked at the object, he realized that something similar would offer a quicker solution to achieving straighter teeth.
To turn his idea into reality, Chishti recruited three other Stanford students. Together they worked in a campus lab to perfect the technology to make their retainers. It involved Computer Assisted Design (CAD) 3D modeling and 3D printing.
The four students formed Align Technology in 1997 and, after working on the original version of Invisalign for a year, received FDA approval in 1998. The following year, Invisalign aligners were on sale for the very first time.
What you can expect from the Invisalign treatment process – 6 stages to success
Invisalign treatment is a multi-stage process that encompasses the following key steps:
Step One: Consultation
During the initial consultation, your dentist will examine your mouth and teeth and ask questions about your lifestyle and goals for orthodontic treatment. They will then tell you if Invisalign is a suitable treatment. If it isn’t, they’ll discuss other options.
Some people are not good candidates for Invisalign, such as elderly patients who may not have the manual dexterity to remove the aligner trays.
Step Two: ClinCheck
Your dentist will take X-rays, dental impressions, and photographs of your face and teeth and feed this information into Invisalign’s proprietary ClinCheck software to create a 3D model of your teeth.
The dentist can then adjust numerous parameters until every tooth on the virtual representation of your mouth has reached its final position. In this way, patients get to see what their new smile will look like.
Once you and your dentist are happy with the projected final results, the digital plan is sent to Invisalign so they can make your aligners with their state-of-the-art printing process.
Step Three: Treatment plan
Your dentist will then develop your customized treatment plan and, using the 3D representation, will show you how your teeth will move during each stage of the treatment, how many aligners you will need to complete the process, and how long it will take.
Step Four: Delivery of your Invisalign aligners
Aligners are created using SmartTrack plastic, which is made from a premium, medical-grade multilayer polyurethane resin. It usually takes a few weeks to complete the trays and send them to your dentist.
The number of aligners depends on your treatment plan. Your dentist will check for fit, and once everything is in order, you can take them home. Each tray is worn for one or two weeks.
Step Five: Refining the smile
During your treatment, you’ll return to the dentist for follow-up appointments to check everything is proceeding to plan. Toward the end of your treatment, refinements may be made to ensure the best results.
Note that you do not have to visit the dentist every time you change an aligner.
Step Six: Retaining your smile
Once treatment is completed, patients will need to wear a retainer until the jaw has stabilized to prevent teeth from shifting back into their original positions. Typically, retainers are worn for 22 hours a day for the first 3-6 months after completing the treatment.
How much is Invisalign treatment?
According to the National Wellness and Public Health Network and Digital Health Buzz, the average cost of Invisalign treatment is around $3,000 to $5,000. Invisalign states on its official website that the cost of treatment is similar to braces.
There is no one price fits all because the cost of treatment is based on numerous factors and ultimately varies from patient to patient.
Factors that affect Invisalign cost may include:
The severity of the issue
Every patient is unique. If you only have mild spacing or crowding issues, the treatment should be on the lower end of the price scale. However, with more complex conditions such as a severe overbite or underbite that takes more time and resources to fix, you’ll end up paying more.
Complex cases are likely to require more follow-up appointments which can increase the cost of treatment. Likewise, the prices will be higher for patients with poor oral health, such as gum disease.
Location and prices in your town/city
Some places are more expensive than others because of their location. Typically, prices are higher in cities in line with the cost of living. So a patient in a rural area will most likely pay less than someone in the middle of a big metropolis.
Experience of the dentist
Just like other professions, more experienced practitioners will charge more.
Invisalign operates a scale for its providers, consisting of ten tiers ranging from Bronze to Diamond II.
Dentists and orthodontists earn points for each Invisalign treatment they complete allowing them to progress to higher tiers – for example, 100 points for completing a comprehensive package and ten points for Vivera retainers.
Once a dentist has earned 670 points, they can move from bronze to silver tier. To reach the highest tier (Diamond II), providers need 20,010 points.
In some cases, more experienced providers will charge more while those starting may charge less to attract more clients.
As dentists progress through the tier levels, Invisalign gives lab fee discounts. Some will pass these savings onto customers.
Use of insurance coverage
Some insurance companies will help cushion the cost. If your policy includes orthodontic benefits, you may have some of the expenses covered.
How to save money on Invisalign treatment
- Payment plans
- Dental Schools
Patients concerned about Invisalign costs can lower their bills thanks to several cost-saving measures. You may also be able to spread payments to make the treatment more affordable.
Payment plans: Although payment plans won’t change the overall price, many dentists/orthodontists offer monthly payment schedules. They let you chip away at the total cost each month. These are often flexible and can be adjusted to meet your financial circumstances.
Health savings account (HSA): A health savings account allows you to save money for future medical expenses. You can deposit up to $3,400 for an individual or $6,750 for a family annually. The funds will not be taxed.
Flexible spending account (FSA): A flexible spending account is similar to a health savings account and lets employees save a tax-free sum of up to $2,750 annually for medical expenses.
Dental schools: Many dental teaching facilities let students gain experience treating patients while providing care at a fraction of the cost. Experienced, licensed dentists closely monitor students.
As a top tip – The American Student Dental Association has a list of dental schools on their website so you can check the nearest one in your area and ask if they provide Invisalign treatment.
Medicaid: If you receive dental and medical coverage using Medicaid insurance, you may be eligible to receive Invisalign treatment.
<h2class=”blog-heading”>Invisalign review: What your dentist may not tell you
Invisalign is tried, tested, proven, and widely available with over 10 million satisfied patients. It’s the go-to treatment for many people looking for straighter teeth and is dentist-led from start to finish. The aligners are comfortable, removable, and virtually invisible to anyone you may be talking to. And with cutting-edge mapping software, you can see what your teeth and smile will look like before the treatment program is complete.
However, a few downsides are worth bearing in mind to help you make an informed decision about whether Invisalign is right for you.
- First off, it’s one of the most expensive clear aligner treatments available.
- There are also additional expenses, such as aftercare retainers which aren’t typically included in the price. These can cost several hundred dollars.
- It’s also worth noting that regular follow-up dental visits are still required, unlike the case with many direct-to-consumer aligner companies.
7 essential tips for getting the best Invisalign results
- Take care of aligners
- Commit to wearing them
- Follow the schedule
- Keep old aligners
- Remove when eating or drinking
- Brush and floss like a boss
- Keep aligners in a safe place
Invisalign offers an esthetically pleasing, comfortable orthodontic treatment. However, patients have a part to play too in ensuring they have the best possible outcome. Here are seven top tips to ensure you achieve excellent results:
- Take care of your aligners by cleaning them with gentle antibacterial soap and warm water at least once a day. Regular maintenance prevents staining and removes any build-up and bacteria from the trays. You can also use a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep your trays clean.
- Commit to wearing aligners full time. For most people, this usually means 22 hours a day, only taking them out to eat and drink anything other than water. If you only wear them for a few hours a day, you’ll end up extending your treatment.
- Follow the schedule. Don’t forget to change your trays according to your plan. If you don’t, you’ll delay your treatment’s progress.
- Don’t discard old aligners. If one gets damaged, you can use an older tray as a temporary retainer until a new one is made.
- Never eat or drink with aligners in. Remove them and place them into the case provided for safekeeping. Don’t put them in your pocket or on a napkin where they might easily get damaged.
- Brush and floss your teeth. After every meal, brush and floss your teeth before putting your aligners back in to remove food particles and prevent tartar and bacteria build-up.
- Store aligners in a safe place so you don’t misplace them. It’s easy to forget where you’ve put them, and since they’re clear, they can be hard to spot.
FAQS – Everything you need to know but were afraid to ask
Do you still have questions about Invisalign? Here are some of the most common questions about the thin clear aligners and their answers.
How long do Invisalign aligners last?
Each aligner is worn for approximately one to two weeks before they are replaced by the next.
Are Invisalign aligners invisible?
The aligners are made of transparent plastic and, although hard to spot, are not entirely invisible. People may notice that you’re wearing them if they look close enough. However, they are not as apparent as metal or ceramic braces.
How long does Invisalign treatment last?
Each patient is different, and the treatment duration depends on several factors, such as your response to treatment and the structure of your teeth. Your dentist/orthodontist will be able to advise you how long your specific treatment will take.
In general, treatment takes 12-18 months but can be as little as six months or last as long as two years.
Can I switch from braces to Invisalign?
More and more patients are considering making the switch because braces make them feel self-conscious, and they want to resume a regular diet.
Wearing fixed braces means you need to rule some foods out of your diet temporarily. For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests not eating corn, popcorn, whole apples, and sticky foods.
Switching from braces to Invisalign is a viable option for some. Your dentists will be able to advise you.