Dentistry
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Updated on January 5, 2023
5 min read

How Does Invisalign Work?

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What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a brand of clear aligners. It’s an effective and removable alternative to traditional metal braces. Each aligner set is worn for a few weeks before being switched out for new trays.

Clear Aligners

Instead of shifting one tooth at a time, Invisalign shifts all of your teeth together. This gives you a straighter smile more quickly than traditional metal braces. Your orthodontist will monitor your progress to ensure your teeth are moving correctly.

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Find a Local Dentist for an Invisalign Consultation

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How Does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign straightens misaligned teeth by gently applying constant force to them. Over time, the teeth will move and look straighter.

Following your orthodontist’s instructions on how long to wear clear aligners each day is important. Clear aligners are worn for 20 to 22 hours a day, but this varies by case.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing extreme discomfort. As your teeth shift, you’ll need new aligner trays every week or two.

Invisalign is the best-known brand of clear aligners. The treatment time is much faster than traditional braces, but your orthodontist has to determine if you qualify for treatment.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Invisalign

If your Invisalign-trained dentist confirms you qualify for Invisalign treatment, here’s what you can expect:

1. Consultation and Scans

Your orthodontist will evaluate your smile and map out a customized digital treatment plan. To do this, they will take a digital scan of your teeth and X-rays of your jaw.

2. Teeth Impressions

Your orthodontist will then take impressions of your teeth. These impressions will help create custom plastic trays, which you’ll use throughout your treatment.

Depending on your type of malocclusion, your dentist may use special tooth-colored attachments or buttons. These will help move your teeth as an adjunct to your aligners.

3. Invisalign Aligners

You will receive your aligners in the following appointment. Your dentist will tell you how often you should wear your trays.

It’s common for treatment plans to last anywhere between 6 and 18 months. You may also have a slight lisp as your tongue adjusts to your new aligners.

4. Follow-Up Appointments

You will visit your dentist regularly for checkups. This ensures the aligners work and that your teeth move in the right direction. It will also help your dentist determine when you should switch to your next set of aligners.

5. Post-Treatment Care

You may require additional aligners or refinements at the end of your treatment. These will help create an ideal occlusion and smile.

Your dentist may also recommend retainers to prevent your teeth from shifting back after treatment is complete.

How Effective is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a highly effective treatment. The custom aligner trays are compatible with most teeth shapes and sizes. 

It can also fix most teeth alignment and bite issues without majorly interrupting your life. These include:

Factors Affecting Invisalign’s Effectiveness

If you have severe jaw or teeth misalignment, Invisalign may not be as effective as traditional braces. You may need braces or other options that create more force to shift the teeth.

Factors that could make Invisalign ineffective include:

  • Complex malocclusions requiring tooth extractions
  • Severely rotated teeth (more than 20 degrees)
  • Overbite caused by problems in the jaw
  • Overly misshapen teeth

These bite issues could need other treatments that involve oral surgeries, especially if the problem involves the jaw. Some people benefit from treatment with traditional braces and transition to Invisalign aligners.

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

Timeline for Invisalign Results

Some people can see their Invisalign results in as little as 6 months. However, there is no definite timeline because it varies on a case-by-case basis.

The results could take over a year for some serious cases of misalignment. Other people may see completely straight teeth in 18 months, for example.

Pros and Cons of Invisalign

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

Pros of Invisalign

  • Discreet
  • No brackets and wires (more comfortable than braces)
  • Can be removed for eating, drinking, and brushing
  • Trays are easy to clean
  • Low risk of developing gum disease and cavities during treatment (as long as the aligners are cleaned regularly)

Cons of Invisalign

  • Expensive (up to $8,000)
  • Results may be less accurate than with traditional metal braces
  • Needs to be worn for 20 to 22 hours a day
  • Losing aligners can delay the treatment process
  • Food limitations required (no hard and sticky foods)
  • Ineffective for complex teeth misalignment
ZocDoc

Find a Local Dentist for an Invisalign Consultation

ZocDoc can help you find a dentist in your area that:

  • Takes your insurance
  • Can schedule an appointment ASAP
  • Is close to your home
  • Is top-rated by actual customers
Local Dentist Insurance

How Much Does Invisalign Cost?

The average cost of Invisalign is around $5,000, which is about the same as braces. However, the total cost 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.

Is Invisalign Right for You?

You can be an ideal candidate for Invisalign if you meet the following criteria:

  • You don’t have a complex bite problem
  • You don’t have gum disease, tooth decay, or TMJ problems
  • You can keep the aligners on for 20 to 22 hours daily
  • You have good oral hygiene
  • You can visit your orthodontist regularly for checkups
  • You can follow the food limitations required

If you think Invisalign is not right for you, you can check alternative treatments.

Summary

  • Invisalign is an alternative treatment to traditional braces and can give results faster
  • It is ineffective for overly complex bite problems, especially those concerning the jaw’s alignment
  • It can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $8,000 depending on a person’s bite problem
  • It can take 6 to 18 months before you see results from Invisalign treatment

Last updated on January 5, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on January 5, 2023
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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