Product Reviews
Updated on September 30, 2022

How Does Invisalign Work?

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What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a brand of clear, plastic aligners that fit over the teeth like retainers to straighten them out over a specified treatment time.

The clear aligners are made of a flexible plastic — specifically, a patented thermoplastic material called SmartTrack® that was created exclusively for Invisalign treatment.

Clear Aligners

An alternative treatment plan to traditional braces, Invisalign aligners are custom-made to wear for a few weeks or months at a time.

As the teeth move, your dental care professional will make you new aligners to keep them gradually moving into the desired position. It’s a process without all the restrictions that come with metal braces.

Because Invisalign shifts all of your teeth together instead of each tooth, it tends to give you a straighter smile faster than traditional metal braces.

Fix your teeth from home for cheaper than Invisalign. Learn about the best Invisalign alternatives.

What Dental Problems Can Invisalign Fix?

Invisalign can treat the following conditions:

What Dental Problems Can Invisalign Not Fix?

There are some cases in which Invisalign is not a good treatment option, including:

  • Patients with complex malocclusions, especially those that require extractions. In these cases, the results are less accurate than those achieved with traditional metal braces.
  • Patients with tooth decay or gum disease. Braces and aligners like Invisalign can make oral hygiene difficult, and if patients have to have a cavity filled mid-treatment, it could impact the fit of the clear aligners and affect their results.
  • Patients with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Invisalign is linked to TMJ problems. In some instances, wearing Invisalign can exacerbate jaw pain or cause a patient to develop a problem with their TMJ.

How Does Invisalign Work?

Perhaps the best-known orthodontics brand for clear aligners, Invisalign is a quicker way to give you a straight smile.

You'll wear the aligners daily and at night except while eating or drinking. They are removable, so you can easily clean your teeth with a toothbrush and floss.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Treatment begins with a consultation with an Invisalign-trained dental professional. During this time, the dentist will evaluate your smile and map out a customized digital treatment plan that delineates your smile’s step-by-step transformation.
  2. Your dentist will take a digital scan of your teeth and x-rays of your jaw.
  3. Your dentist will make a mold of your teeth to custom-create the clear plastic Invisalign trays.
  4. Your dentist may use special tooth-colored attachments or buttons to help move your teeth as an adjunct to your aligners.
  5. You’ll wear the aligners every day and night during your treatment plan (typically for approximately six to 18 months). It may take a few days to get used to having your Invisalign aligners in your mouth. You may experience a slight lisp until your tongue adjusts to the trays. You will also likely experience some pressure, which means that the aligners are working.
  6. Your dentist may call you for checkups to ensure the aligners fit comfortably.
  7. You will visit the dentist every week or two (or as directed by your dentist) to have a new set made as your teeth shift.
  8. At the end of your treatment, you may require additional aligners, or a refinement, to help create an ideal occlusion and smile. 
  9. Your dentist may recommend that you wear a retainer to prevent your teeth from shifting back after your treatment is over. 

Following your orthodontist or dental professional’s instructions on how long to wear clear aligners each day is important. Typically clear aligners are worn for 20 to 22 hours a day, but this will vary depending on each case.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing extreme discomfort.

You have to get new aligner trays every one to two weeks as your teeth shift, which means that Invisalign starts working the second you put the aligners in your mouth.

Interested in straightening your teeth at home? Here are the best clear aligner companies.

How Long Does it Take for Invisalign to Work? 

Invisalign’s benefits typically show in just a few weeks to months, but the timeline varies on a case-by-case basis.

The result could take over a year for some serious cases of misalignment, while some people may see completely straight teeth in half a year, for example.

How Effective is Invisalign Treatment? 

Invisalign is a highly effective treatment and an ideal solution for adults and teenagers who want an almost invisible method of improving their smiles. Over nine million people — including more than 1.4 million teens — have used Invisalign before.

Thanks to Invisalign’s innovations and technology, the brand of aligners can fit almost all teeth and fix almost all alignment and bite issues without majorly interrupting your life. For best results, you should wear your Invisalign trays for 20 to 22 hours daily for your designated treatment time.

However, these aligners are not necessarily as effective of a treatment option as braces for you if you have a really bad overbite, crossbite, or underbite; extremely gapped teeth; very crowded teeth; severely crooked teeth; or other significant misalignments.

While Invisalign treatment may do the trick, braces or other options that more forcefully shift the teeth might work best. Some patients may benefit from a temporary treatment with traditional braces and transition into Invisalign aligners. 

Which is better for you, Byte or Invisalign? Find out now

Pros and Cons of Invisalign

Review the pros and cons below to determine if Invisalign is right for you.

Pros of Invisalign

  • Much less noticeable than braces
  • No brackets and wires (more comfortable than braces)
  • Easily removable for eating, drinking, and brushing
  • Treatment requires little maintenance; easy to clean
  • Low risk of developing gum disease and cavities during the treatment process (as long as the aligners are cleaned regularly)

Cons of Invisalign

  • The results may be less accurate than those achieved with traditional metal braces
  • You're required to wear Invisalign aligners for 20 to 22 hours a day
  • Losing aligners can delay the treatment process
  • Hard and sticky foods should be avoided
  • Can be expensive (up to $8,000)
  • Not everyone is a good candidate for Invisalign

How Much Do Invisalign Aligners Cost?

The cost of Invisalign treatment averages about $5,000, which is about the cost of braces, but this number depends on the complexity of your case and the length of your orthodontic treatment.

Invisalign’s cost may be covered or partially covered by your dental insurance. Most dental insurance plans cover Invisalign the same way they cover braces.

Other options are available to make Invisalign treatment more affordable, from using FSA or HSA tax-free dollars to a monthly payment plan to lighten the financial burden. For example, your dentist may offer financing through CareCredit, a third-party patient financing program.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 30, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Frequently asked questions, Invisalign, 
  3. How much does Invisalign Treatment cost?, Invisalign, 
  4. Ke, Yunyan et al., A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies., BMC oral health vol. 19,1 24. 23 Jan. 2019, 
  5. The Invisalign Difference, Invisalign, 
  6. Treatable cases, Invisalign, 
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