What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is a brand of clear aligners that has gained popularity as an alternative to traditional metal braces. These clear aligners are custom-made for each patient and are made of a clear, plastic material that is virtually invisible when worn.
The idea for Invisalign was first conceived in the late 1990s by Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, two graduate students at Stanford University. The pair were exploring the use of computer technology in the field of orthodontics and developed the concept of using clear plastic aligners to straighten teeth.
In 1997, Chishti and Wirth founded Align Technology, Inc., a company focused on developing and commercializing the Invisalign system. The first Invisalign patient was treated in 1998, and the system was officially launched in the United States in 2000.
The Invisalign system quickly gained popularity as an alternative to traditional metal braces, thanks to its clear, plastic aligners that are virtually invisible when worn. In 2006, Align Technology introduced the Invisalign Teen system, which is designed specifically for teenagers and includes features such as compliance indicators to help ensure that the aligners are being worn properly.
In 2011, Align Technology introduced the Invisalign G4 system, which included new features such as optimized attachments for better tooth movement and a new material that allows for more precise tooth movements. In 2013, Align Technology launched Invisalign Lite, which is designed for patients with less complex orthodontic issues.
Today, Invisalign is a widely recognized brand, with over 9 million patients treated worldwide. The company has also expanded its product offerings to include clear aligners for a range of orthodontic issues, including Invisalign First for younger children, Invisalign Express for minor tooth movement, and Invisalign G7 for more complex cases.
How does Invisalign work?
The Invisalign treatment process begins with a consultation with an orthodontist who will assess your teeth and determine if Invisalign is a suitable treatment option for you. If it is, they will take impressions of your teeth and use these to create a 3D model of your mouth.
Using this model, your orthodontist will create a treatment plan that will include a series of custom-made aligners that you will wear for around two weeks each. Each aligner is slightly different from the one before, gradually moving your teeth into the desired position.
Invisalign vs. traditional braces
|Comfort||No metal brackets or wires||Metal brackets and wires|
|Dietary Restrictions||None||Some (e.g. sticky, hard foods)|
|Oral Hygiene||Easier to brush and floss||More difficult to clean|
|Treatment Duration||Usually shorter||Usually longer|
|Adjustment Visits||Fewer needed||More needed|
|Complexity||Better for mild to moderate cases||Can treat more complex cases|
|Cost||Can be more expensive||May be less expensive|
Invisalign success rates
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, the success rate of Invisalign treatment is around 84%. This is comparable to the success rate of traditional metal braces, which is around 85%.
Another study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics in 2019 found that Invisalign was as effective as traditional metal braces for treating complex malocclusions in adult patients. The study followed 90 patients for a period of two years and found that both Invisalign and metal braces were able to achieve similar outcomes in terms of tooth movement and treatment duration.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Orthodontics in 2019 examined the effectiveness of clear aligners, including Invisalign, for orthodontic treatment. The review included 21 studies with a total of 855 patients and found that clear aligners were effective for treating a range of orthodontic issues, including crowding, spacing, and malocclusions.
However, it’s worth noting that success rates can vary depending on the individual patient’s needs and how closely they follow the treatment plan.
Considerations for patients
While Invisalign is a popular and effective treatment option, there are some things that patients should consider before choosing this treatment:
- Cost: Invisalign can be more expensive than traditional metal braces, although the cost will depend on the individual patient’s needs and the length of treatment required.
- Discipline: Invisalign aligners need to be worn for at least 22 hours per day, and patients need to be disciplined about following their treatment plan in order to achieve the desired results.
- Maintenance: Patients will need to remove their aligners to eat and drink, and will need to clean them regularly to avoid a build-up of bacteria.
What’s it like to wear Invisalign?
Here’s what it’s like to wear Invisalign:
The first step in getting Invisalign is to have a consultation with an orthodontist, who will determine if Invisalign is the right treatment option for your orthodontic needs. If it is, they will take impressions or digital scans of your teeth to create a customized set of clear aligners.
Once your aligners are ready, you will wear them for at least 20 to 22 hours a day, removing them only for eating, brushing, and flossing.
Invisalign aligners are made of a smooth, comfortable plastic material that is designed to fit snugly over your teeth. The aligners are custom-made for your teeth, so they should fit comfortably and securely.
You may experience some discomfort or pressure during the first few days of wearing each new set of aligners, as your teeth begin to shift into the desired position. However, this discomfort is typically mild and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Invisalign aligners are easy to care for and clean. Simply remove them when eating, brush and floss your teeth, and rinse the aligners in lukewarm water before putting them back in.
You will typically receive a new set of aligners every two weeks, each designed to gradually shift your teeth into the desired position.
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Clinically reviewed by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl
Written by: Dr Raul Costa
About the author:
Dr Raul Costa is a restorative dentist with a unique set of skills for dental aesthetics and a drive for ultra-conservative techniques. He qualified from the Lisbon Dental School in 2005 and has been practicing in London since 2008. He works with world-renowned ceramists in order to deliver natural-looking, life-like, crowns and veneers. He is also particularly talented and experienced with composite bondings and implant-supported restorations.