Invisalign® was initially introduced in the United States in 1998. This product is now approved for adults and teens whose molars have fully emerged. These “braces” are actually clear plastic aligner trays that offer a more aesthetic solution for orthodontic treatment than traditional braces. They are typically more comfortable than metal orthodontic devices since they do not have any protruding parts that can irritate the soft tissues in the mouth.

Unlike basic orthodontic aligners that don’t provide precise control over tooth movement, Invisalign can deliver very accurate correction over time. The transparent plastic trays may be seen in the mouth upon close inspection, but they are not noticeable at all from a distance. Consistent use delivers best results; but these trays are removed for activities such as eating and oral care. This makes them an ideal option for patients who don’t want to deal with food getting stuck in their braces.

What Can Invisalign Fix?

Crooked, improperly spaced, and overlapping or crowded teeth can all be treated with Invisalign. Cross bite, overbite, and underbite problems may also be treated with these braces. As the manufacturer continues to make design improvements, orthodontists are using them to treat more and more severe orthodontic misalignment problems. However, patients who have fixed dental prosthetics such as bridges are typically not good candidates for this treatment.

Treatment Overview for Invisalign

Your orthodontist will begin by making impressions of your teeth and taking both photographs and x-rays. All these items are sent to the Invisalign lab for processing into an accurate 3D image. Your orthodontist will use these images to create a complete treatment plan. This is the stage when you will get an idea of exactly how your teeth will move and what the final results should look like. Invisalign creates your series of custom made trays based on the treatment plan outlined by your orthodontist. The trays will probably take about six weeks to arrive.

Some patients need to have a small amount of enamel removed from the edges of one or more teeth to provide sufficient room for movement. Otherwise, no special fitting, installation, or adjustment is required to begin using the trays. You can simply place them in your mouth as you would a tooth whitening tray or mouth guard. You will need to wear the trays at least 22 hours per day. Every 2-3 weeks, you will replace your current trays with the next set in the treatment series. This will allow your teeth to move gradually into correct position. Your orthodontist will want to see you every 6 weeks or so to ensure that the treatment is working as planned.

Since most Invisalign patients have mild to moderate tooth crookedness or bite problems, 6-18 months is a typical treatment time. However, length of treatment is similar to traditional braces to achieve the same amount of movement. So, more complex problems may take 2 years or more to fix. After the Invisalign trays have done their work, you will need to wear a retainer to keep your teeth in their new position. Some patients only need to wear a retainer for a few months or a couple of years. Others have to wear a retainer (at least at night) for much longer.

Oral Care While Wearing Invisalign

Although the irritation from metal components isn’t present, Invisalign does still put pressure on your teeth. This can cause initial discomfort or soreness in your teeth whenever you insert a new set of trays. You may find over the counter pain killers like Advil or Tylenol helpful for easing this pain.

You will remove these aligner trays whenever you eat. This means you can eat a wide variety of foods (including those that people with metal braces must avoid). You can also brush and floss your teeth as you normally would. Be sure to brush all the inner and outer surfaces of your Invisalign trays and rinse them with warm water before placing them back in your mouth.

Cost of Invisalign

Invisalign treatment usually costs about $5,000. However, the costs may be less for a short course of treatment or if only the upper or lower teeth require correction. Complex, lengthy treatment may cost much more. The pricing includes Invisalign’s standard lab charges and the service fees from your orthodontist. Dental fees tend to vary by location (and based on the experience level of the dental specialist). This can affect the price as well. Dental insurance plans that cover orthodontics may or may not include Invisalign since these are not traditional braces. Many patients choose to finance their treatment with a medical/dental line of credit if they feel the benefits of more comfortable and attractive braces outweigh the additional out of pocket cost.

This article was created by the Top Dentists editorial team.