What is Invisalign & How Does It Work?
Written by: Rachel Garbus
Medically Reviewed by: Oleg Drut, DDS
Invisalign is a form of clear aligner orthodontic care, which straighten teeth using removable, transparent plastic trays rather than permanently bonded metal braces. Invisalign is safe, comfortable, and just as effective as braces.
Invisalign is a brand that produces a patented form of clear aligners, not the clear aligners themselves. Licensed orthodontists partner with Invisalign to design a unique treatment course based on a patient’s individual diagnosis using Invisalign-brand clear aligners.
How Much Does Invisalign Cost?
Invisalign costs vary depending on the severity of your condition and where you seek treatment: costs range from $2,400 to $9,000. Many insurance plans cover a significant portion of this cost, and the majority of orthodontists offer monthly payments plans to make treatment affordable. In addition, seasonal discounts or promotions can greatly lower your costs.
Invisalign vs Braces
Invisalign and braces use different methods to straighten teeth, but they are both reliable, effective tools used by orthodontists to produce healthy bites and beautiful smiles. Many patients prefer Invisalign for the discreet appearance of the aligners, as well as the added comfort and convenience. Braces, however, tend to be cheaper than Invisalign, and for qualifying younger patients may be fully covered by Invisalign.
How Does Invisalign Work?
Invisalign is a revolutionary technology that straightens your teeth without the appearance of metal brackets and wires. Instead, Invisalign aligners are made of transparent, flexible plastic, designed for your unique case, to carefully and precisely move your teeth into their correct positions. When worn, they are nearly invisible.
Using patented SmartTrack™ material, the aligners are comfortable and biocompatible, fitting snugly over your teeth. Most treatments use a top and bottom aligner, each designed by your orthodontist to safely shift your teeth. You’ll receive a new set every 1-2 weeks, and then will swap out for a new set. Each one shifts your teeth closer to their correct positions.
Depending on your case, your doctor may also use SmartForce™ attachments, which are tooth-colored holds that affix to certain teeth to give the aligners added grip. You may also use rubber bands, which connect the top and bottom teeth to further assist the precision movement of your teeth into their correct positions.
When your treatment is complete, you’ll be provided with retainers, which will help protect the results of your Invisalign clear aligner treatment. You’ll wear retainers every night for the first few months, and then a few nights a week after that.
What Are Invisalign Teen & Express?
Invisalign offers a variety of treatments depending on the specific patient and their diagnosis. Invisalign Teen is a specialized program of Invisalign clear aligners custom-designed for teenager's growing mouths. Invisalign Express is a shorter-duration treatment course for patients with milder conditions. This may be used for mild spacing or crowding, or as a combination treatment of Invisalign and braces.
Do I Need Invisalign Rubber Bands?
Whether you will need to wear rubber bands depends on the Invisalign treatment plan devised by your orthodontist. If rubber bands are a part of your treatment, it's important to wear them as instructed to achieve the best results with your Invisalign. Rubber bands provide added force to the aligners. They hook to Invisalign attachments, small fixtures attached to certain teeth that provide more grip for the aligners and can connect the rubber bands to slowly move your teeth into their correct positions.
What Are Invisalign Chewies?
Invisalign chewies are a useful tool made of spongey, non-edible material that you chew to improve the fit of your aligners. They come in small rolls, and can be used several times before disposing. Chew them daily for 5-10 minutes to achieve the best results with your aligners.
What You Need to Know About Invisalign Retainers
Invisalign Vivera™ retainers protect the results of your Invisalign treatment. You will wear them after your Invisalign course is finished. The retainers look like Invisalign aligners, but they are designed to keep your teeth in the correct positions rather than drifting back out of alignment. Your doctor will usually instruct you to wear the Invisalign retainers full-time for a few months, and then only at night, for a few nights a week, for as long as you can. Invisalign Vivera™ retainers are made of patented SmartTrack™ material for long-lasting effectiveness and custom designed for your smile to protect the results of your treatment.
How Long Does Invisalign Take?
Invisalign treatment lengths vary from 6 to 36 months, depend on your specific case and condition. Your orthodontic will do a thorough examination, using x-rays and/or 3D-imaging, to determine your treatment and how long it will take. For patients with multiple conditions or more severe misalignment, a combination of braces and Invisalign may be necessary to provide the best results.
What Can I Eat with Invisalign?
One great benefit of Invisalign is you can eat anything you want! The removable aligners mean there are no food restrictions during your treatment, unlike permanent braces, which require you to avoid many hard and/or sticky foods. You do have to remove your aligners to eat or drink anything but water, however: eating or drinking with your aligners in can damage and stain the aligners, as well as trap food inside the aligners and between your teeth.
How to Clean Invisalign
To keep your Invisalign clean and working properly, remove them between meals and before drinking anything but water. Clean them before putting back in your mouth, by brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm water or dish soap, and/or soaking them in mouthwash or Invisalign cleaning crystals. Maintaining the cleanliness and care of your Invisalign aligners is a very important part of your treatment!
What Are Invisalign Cleaning Crystals?
Invisalign cleaning crystals are a patented solution designed by Invisalign for thorough cleaning of your Invisalign aligners. Dissolve them in a glass of water and soak your aligners between use to remove any bacteria. Use Invisalign cleaning crystals regularly to maintain clean, fresh aligners, for a healthy mouth and teeth and to keep your treatment on track!
Does Invisalign Hurt?
Invisalign is painless! The removers are made of soft, flexible SmartTrack™ plastic, with a scalloped edge clinically developed for comfortable, effective fit. The SmartForce™ attachments are made of a safe, non-toxic dental adhesive that is painless to affix and remove. You may feel minor discomfort for the first day or 2 when wearing a new set of aligners, but your teeth will adjust quickly. If the edge of an aligner is bothering your gum, you can trim with a pair of nail clippers or cuticle scissors to adjust the fit.