Many of us would like nothing more than for our natural teeth to be perfectly straight. However, the reality is, for many of us they do not end up positioned quite as we would like.
When we talk about the position of teeth in the mouth, we refer to it is the alignment of teeth. Teeth that are well aligned form a nice arch in the upper and lower arches (jaws). Malalignment is the word used for if one or more of your teeth are not in this arch shape.
The most severe malalignment is often treated as we develop through our teenage years, thanks to the free NHS dental treatment available in the UK for those under 18.
Despite this, many adults, even those who have previously undergone orthodontic treatment, look for options to perfect the appearance of their smile.
Cosmetic treatments such as veneers can be a solution to hide malalignments. Often, the best long term option is to simply correct the alignment of the natural teeth.
Adult braces are the solution in this realignment process.
The stereotypical image might be metal braces, but modern technology now allows the option of clear and practically invisible braces.
Invisalign is a leading brand that has changed the smiles of millions globally.
In this article, we explain all of the key things you need to know about Invisalign and their invisible brace treatment options.
What are braces?
A brace is a device used to align and straighten teeth. Overall, this is known as orthodontic treatment.
Orthodontic treatment involves moving rotated (twisted) crowded and protruding teeth, closing gaps, and correcting the bite so that the teeth come together nicely when the mouth is closed.
Treatment can increase comfort eating, as well as prevent this risk of damaging your jaw joint if you are able to chew properly because of the position of your teeth. Having straighter teeth can also give you the best chance of keeping your teeth clean and healthy.
Braces come in a variety of styles, all of which use pressure to manipulate the position and rotation of the tooth.
What are invisible braces?
‘Invisible braces’ is a term used to describe a type of brace that typically uses clear plastic aligners (or trays) to realign teeth. It is a very thin, hard plastic, unlike the trays for whitening or a gumshield.
Invisible braces are available for both upper and lower arches of the jaw. The trays are shaped specifically to fit to the teeth of each patient.
The braces are considered invisible because when they are fitted to the teeth it is virtually impossible to tell that someone is wearing them. The transparency of the aligner shows the natural teeth beneath.
More traditional fixed appliances are much more obvious because of the amount of metal stuck to the teeth.
This tray based system is not a permanent fixture and can be removed at any time. The effectiveness relies on you continually wearing the aligner.
Lingual ‘invisible’ braces
It is worth knowing that there is a type of metal brace that is fitted to the back of the teeth.
Lingual braces, as they are known, work much like a fixed brace but with the benefit that they are not immediately obvious.
Lingual braces are not the focus of this article, but you should acknowledge their existence and how they differ to clear aligner trays, because the term invisible is often used to describe this type of brace.
Lingual braces are made by many different companies and are sold under different brands. Some of the larger and more popular options include Incognito by 3M, Harmony by American Orthodontics and Stb by Omco.
Invisalign is a brand name that has become synonymous with invisible braces or clear aligners.
Invisalign was created by Align Technology. It was Align which pioneered the invisible brace. As the pioneers, Invisalign has become the most recognised brand and a popular choice within the UK for clear aligners.
Other companies do exist, offering a like for like product. I look at some of the other options later in this article.
How do invisible braces work?
The clear aligners that Invisalign and competing brands make rely on pressure being applied to the teeth in certain ways to guide and manipulate their alignment within the mouth.
Custom made trays are made for patients and worn for anything between 1-2 weeks.
At these intervals, a new tray is fitted by the patient to progress the alignment process.
Each tray will have a new minor adjustment that will move teeth anywhere up to 0.25mm at a time.
This procedure is repeated over many weeks (with periodic checkups in between) until the realignment of the teeth has been completed.
Extensive detail of the Invisalign journey is available in the section called ‘the Invisalign treatment process explained’.
Invisalign braces product range
Invisalign offers several different brace products. Every aligner is custom made for each patient, but the different products are designed to work for different people and different cases.
Invisalign Full is the classic Invisalign product that is most commonly used and is described at length in this guide.
It is suitable for the more complicated tooth alignment and positioning treatments and relies on a plastic tray for both the upper and lower arch of teeth.
Treatment usually takes 12-18 months.
Suitable for those where the most minor of adjustments are being made, it relies on just 7 sets of aligners and can correct malalignment in as little as 3 months.
Bridging the gap between Invisalign Full and i7, the concept here is that treatment can be completed in approximately 7 months for those simple to moderate malalignment cases.
Invisalign Go is the newest treatment system from Align Technology and has superseded i7 and Lite. It uses Invisalign’s latest technology to correct mild to moderate misalignment of the front 10 teeth, those most important aesthetically.
Invisalign Go allows general dentists (rather than specialist orthodontists) to provide comprehensive alignment of up to 20 aligners, with the support of specialists every step of the way.
There is a simplified 3 step process to determine if a patient is suitable:
- Photographs are uploaded directly using a smartphone to allow the dentist to know if the patient is suitable, and the degree of difficulty of the alignment.
- If suitable then moulds are taken, or a scan is performed. These formulate a Clinicheck where the patient can see exactly how their teeth will look after alignment. It also provides the dentist with the instructions to follow during the treatment.
- If the patient is happy then treatment can begin.
This product is equivalent to the Invisalign full clear brace, but is specially designed for younger patients requiring orthodontic treatment.
The braces make allowances for the fact that the wearer is still growing. The course of treatment takes into consideration the fact that their jaws are still developing and that some tooth (mal)alignment is still occurring naturally.
Special features include allowance within the brace for teeth to erupt naturally without being impeded. They also come with wear indicators that turn from blue to clear, giving the wearer and their guardian clear signs of just how often the appliance is being worn.
In addition, because Invisalign know how easy it is for aligners to be lost, 6 free replacement aligners are included in the cost.
The treatment time is usually 12-18 months.
Are you a suitable patient?
If you have been longing for a straighter smile, you don’t have to visit an orthodontist to find out whether Invisalign is suitable for you.
You can use the online Invisalign smile assessment tool to get a guide as to whether or not you are eligible for these invisible braces, based on the answers you give to a few short questions.
Should the tool suggest you are, you could then book a consultation with an Invisalign professional to get a professional and confirmed answer about your suitability.
What are invisible braces suitable for?
Invisalign can be used to treat:
- Open bite – Where the upper and lower teeth don’t meet.
- Cross bite – Where the lower teeth abnormally sit in front of the upper teeth (or vice versa).
- Gaps between the teeth – Natural gaps, or caused by loss of teeth.
- Overly crowded teeth – Which can occur naturally with age, especially in the lower front teeth.
- Crooked teeth – Teeth that are twisted or rotated.
- Overbite – Where the upper front teeth sit a long way in front of the lower front teeth.
- Reverse overbite (underbite) – Where the lower front teeth sit in front of the upper front teeth.
- Deep bite – Where the lower front teeth are almost completely covered by the upper front teeth.
What this really means is that more people are eligible for Invisalign braces than many imagine.
You might think your teeth are in a really bad way, but it is very possible that you can still benefit from clear aligners.
Your malalignment needs to be within the boundaries of what is possible under the Invisalign treatment plan and you must have generally good oral health.
What are invisible braces not suitable for?
Clear aligners are not suitable for all.
Whilst a large number can be served well by invisible braces there are patients who are better served by other types of braces.
It is only on an actual examination of your teeth and oral health can a professional give you the ultimate confirmation of whether or not you are suitable. Be aware that if you have pre-existing oral health conditions, such as gum disease and decay you might not be suitable.
Those who require more complex orthodontic treatment, such as needing to rotate canines and premolars will not be suitable, nor will those where the tooth needs to be moved vertically (up/down in the jaw).
Those who have already had some form of cosmetic or restorative treatment from veneers to crowns and implants may not be suitable and may instead benefit from other types of braces.
Pros and cons
Like most things in life there are positives and negatives associated with invisible braces.
The following are a summary of the main benefits and drawback to having Invisaligns’ clear aligners.
- The aligner can be quite difficult to see or notice and is therefore almost invisible.
- As it is not visible the wearing of the brace does not generally have a knock on the wearers confidence like traditional fixed appliances do.
- Whilst is must be worn for around 22 hours a day, the aligner can be removed for eating, drinking and tooth cleaning.
- The soft plastic material is less likely to cut the gums, cheeks and tongues.
- It is a smooth finish and not rough like a metal brace.
- Treatment time
- It can be both fast and slow which depending on your viewpoint, but can feel more gentle than a metal brace as the adjustments tend to be smaller, but more frequent.
- Cleaning, oral hygiene and maintenance
- It is much easier to clean the brace and your teeth as it can be removed and requires little in the way of alteration to a normal oral hygiene routine to maintain the teeth and the aligner.
- It is suitable for a large number of patients.
- Dentist led
- Invisalign is only available through an approved dental partner, so you know you are getting professional assistance to get the right adjustments made.
- Treatment can be provided by a dentist who has attended a special course, rather than needing to find an orthodontist.
- Product variety
- Invisalign make a number of different products to suit different patient types and needs.
- It is not suitable for all types of malalignment.
- It can be necessary to have attachments placed on the teeth to help align the teeth, so even with the brace removed, the attachments are still present.
- It is not the cheapest of the orthodontic treatment options.
- Treatment time
- It can be a slower approach to moving the teeth than a fixed metal brace.
- You may wish to brush more frequently, particularly after eating, as the brace reduces the ability for saliva to naturally act and protect the teeth.
- You ideally need to remove it each time you want to eat and drink anything other than water. You will then likely need to carry a container to store the aligners in.
- Wear and tear
- The plastic is vulnerable to being broken if too much stress is placed on certain parts of the aligner.
- The teeth only move when the aligner is in place and requires a commitment on the part of the patient to wear the aligner for 22 hours or more per day. Fixed braces don’t allow for complacency on the part of the wearer.
- Dental appointments
- The system requires regular dental visits to check the progress and arrange the ordering of new trays.
Why are they so popular?
Invisalign is one of the most discreet, painless ways of moving teeth. Its very easy to use and you can carry on with your life without people knowing you are even wearing braces! It is also easy to remove if needs be.
Dr Chhaya Chauhan – In-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940
Our personal vanity and convenience are the biggest driving factors behind why clear aligners, Invisalign in particular, have become so popular.
Dental health technology has advanced over the years and Invisalign braces are one of the best examples of how these advances are being embraced.
Malalignment are a real issue for some people. Many become conscious of their smile because their teeth do not look the way many would expect, affecting their long term confidence.
Rotated and crowded teeth can also make cleaning difficult. Ultimately, this can have a negative effect on our dental health and be a contributory factor in the onset of gum disease.
Where once you used to have to have metal brackets and wires attached to the teeth, this is no longer a necessity for many, because the technology allows us to deliver excellent results in a more practical and friendly way.
This means that millions can have their teeth aligned without it being made obvious to everyone they come into contact with, aiding with self confidence in social settings.
Clear aligners are removable too, meaning eating and brushing, in particular, is much easier.
Metal braces are known to restrict us eating certain foods, whilst also retaining more of that food on our teeth.
Those wearing metal braces often have to check their brace is free of any obvious food debris and typically brush and floss more regularly.
Increased surface area and the intricate system of brackets and wires means that cleaning the teeth can take 5 minutes or more each time.
Where clear aligners like Invisalign are removable, the brushing and flossing routine you have developed need not change and takes no longer than it would if you were not wearing a brace. You can also eat anything you like, as you remove the brace each time you eat.
The aligners can achieve the same results, without the metal mouth smile or the need for a more complicated or regular brushing routine. It is perhaps then no wonder why they have become so popular.
The Invisalign treatment process explained
Every patient and case is different, meaning some require more or less intervention and dental visits.
Taking a slightly simplified view of the Invisalign journey, there are 3 key stages in the treatment process for invisible braces.
- Consultation & ClinCheck
- Your needs and wants are discussed.
- Eligibility for aligner trays checked.
- X-rays, scans and impressions taken.
- Alignment and timescale planned.
- Costs given.
- Custom made trays made.
- New aligners worn for 1-2 weeks.
- Checkups every 4-8 weeks.
- Time period of 3-18 months.
- Results and retention
- Retainers issued to keep teeth in place after treatment is completed.
Each stage is now explained in more detail.
Consultation & ClinCheck
This is the first stage in your journey to perfectly aligned teeth.
Whilst Invisalign have a smile assessment tool that can give you an idea of your suitability, a professional opinion is needed to confirm whether you are in fact an ideal candidate for invisible braces.
If you particularly want Invisalign over any other brand, you need to go to an Invisalign approved dentist or orthodontist, as not all dental practices offer Invisalign.
There is more information on picking a dentist and Invisalign partner later in this guide.
This stage of the journey is usually made up of 2 or 3 separate appointments.
The first appointment is usually free and involves no commitment from you.
It is in this appointment that a dentist takes a look at your teeth and confirms whether or not you can have Invisalign braces.
Most people are eligible for treatment. If you are not ideally suited and that a fixed appliance may be more appropriate.
A discussion will take place about your expectations and what is achievable along with an explanation of what you can and should expect if you were to go ahead.
This is an opportunity for you to raise any questions you have too.
At this stage, the dentist should then be able to give a cost and fairly accurate time frame for the treatment.
The amount of tooth movement required will influence how long the alignment process takes. This is anywhere between 3-18 months, but typically around 12 months on average.
A crucial thing to understand is although Invisalign may last 12 months, orthodontic treatment is a life long commitment. Your dentist will mention something call ‘retention’. This is a means of stopping your teeth drifting back to their starting position over time. It is now recommended that a form of retention should be used indefinitely, and your options are discussed later on in this article.
Clear braces like Invisalign are not available for free on the NHS or subsidised in any way. It is a private treatment process and can cost several thousand pounds. It depends on the complexity of the original malalignment, but costs typically range from £1500 through to £5000.
The appointment normally takes 15-20 minutes, and you are not committed to continue at this stage.
However, come the end of this appointment, you should have all of the information and answers you need to make an informed decision.
We encourage you to take some time to consider whether Invisalign and the process is right for you.
If you decide you wish to proceed, you will be booked in for this second appointment that will take between 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete. The second appointment is important because it builds the foundations of your orthodontic journey.
This is where all your records are made and the initial stage of your treatment is planned.
A thorough assessment of your teeth will be taken along with X-rays and some digital photographs of the way your teeth look currently.
Most practices will make a record of how your teeth look using traditional impressions with putty in trays.
The most advanced practices will use a digital scanner instead. There are several brands of scanner, Invisalign promote their own called iTero, but they all do the same thing.
When it is placed into the mouth the unit takes hundreds of pictures and measurements as it is moved around the teeth and builds a 3D image of your tooth alignment as it stands before treatment.
Making use of digital technology can also speed up the process. With the iTero scanner the images are fed directly into the system, where with impressions they have to be mailed off to Align Technology for them to scan and build their models from.
This consultation is now complete and you will be sent home.
It may be necessary to make a payment at this stage. This depends on the dentist and their policies, but often some sort of payment is required as you have now committed to the treatment.
During this time your dentist will communicate with Align Technology, the makers of Invisalign to develop your treatment plan.
Your dentist submits details along with the digital scan or impression that has been taken.
With this detail, specialist technicians within Align plan a journey and create a 3D visual of what your journey and transformation will look like.
Managed via an online system your dentist can make amendments to the plan to get the final results and steps in your orthodontic journey just right.
Before the braces go into production, you need to sign off on it.
The last consultation stage is going into the dentist’s office to see the 3D images of the journey on screen.
You can be taken through step by step to really understand how the aligners will move your teeth. You can either approve or reject the plan.
Assuming you are happy, final consent will be given and the dentist will press the acceptance button with Align, to get the production underway.
Some dentists may skip this final step. Most patients accept the plan given, putting their trust in Align and their dentist. However, I believe it is very important you get final sign off as the last thing you want is to be unhappy with the results.
This is the last stage before proceeding with treatment that amendments can be made without significant impact on time or cost.
A few weeks after submitting the approved plan, the first aligners will be delivered.
You will be expected to go in to pick up your aligners and check the fit of the first one.
The dentist will make some initial checks and make sure you are told about how to look after them and what to do if you have issues.
On from here each dental practice will have slightly different approaches to the following months of treatment.
Some will wish for you to come in fairly regularly, say every 4-6 weeks for checkups, whilst others will suggest 8-12 weeks.
Under a normal Invisalign journey, it is necessary to have new aligners fitted every 1-2 weeks.
Several weeks supply come at a time, so the dentist may send you away with them all or only a proportion of them.
At regular intervals, you will go in for a checkup with your dentist and the next batch of aligners will be ordered (if appropriate).
In some cases, it is necessary for your dentist to add ‘attachments’ or ‘IPR’.
Attachments, are simply ‘buttons’ of white filling material bonding to your teeth. These act as levers and give the trays something to push against, allowing teeth alignment. The attachment colour will be chosen to match your existing teeth shade and are removed completely at the end of treatment, leaving no trace they were present.
IPR stands for ‘Interproximal Reduction’. This is crucial if your dentist is trying to correct crowding issues and creates extra space to move your teeth into the correct position. Here, the dentist will remove a slither of tooth from the side surfaces. The maximum from any tooth surface will be 0.5mm, a fraction. This process of IPR is likely to start at the stage, however, may be an ongoing part of your Invisalign treatment.
The attachments are made of a gel which is set using a light. They work by giving something for the Invisalign aligner to clip onto. They are barely noticeable and they help pull teeth into the right places, more effectively.
Each aligner is custom made and each one will be altering the position of your teeth a small amount. A number is printed on each aligner so you know you are using the right one.
For example, you take an aligner out and you may see the number 3 printed on it. This means that the next one you need is number 4.
They are made from a very thin but durable clear BPA-free plastic.
Trays can stain if exposed to certain foods and do need to be cleaned.
Most users will choose to change to their new aligner just before bed.
The pressure of a new aligner can cause a little discomfort as it presses on the teeth, so changing this just before bed can help as you can often sleep through the initial hours of discomfort. Come morning the worst of the discomfort should be over.
Over the months of your treatment, the cycle will continue with checkups and new aligners being delivered. Attachments may be added and removed as and when necessary.
Slowly the teeth will move and you will notice the change in the alignment, until you reach your last aligner.
Results and retention
It is not uncommon that at the end of your final aligner your teeth are not in the position matching the Clinicheck.
If this is the case then the dentist may need to do a ‘refinement’ stage. Here, a new impression or scan may be required, and further aligners provided. This will be at no extra cost and will finish off the treatment, moving your teeth to their ideal position.
There comes a point when no more trays are needed because your teeth aligned representing the 3D image that gave the impression of what your teeth would look like.
Although the realignment process has been completed, it is important to keep the teeth in place.
If you go from several months of wearing a brace 20+ hours a day to not at all, your teeth can move out of alignment, in what is called a relapse.
A retainer is what is required.
Your dentist will speak to you about this usually a short while before the treatment ends.
How important is retention?
Retention is an integral stage of Invisalign treatment and prevents teeth relapse. You need to accept that wearing retainers is lifetime commitment before you even start the process, or your teeth could simply move back.
Dr Gareth Edwards – http://drgarethedwards.co.uk – GDC Number: 229143
There are several retention options available to you.
This is a thin wire fixed to the back of your front teeth, from canine (fang) tooth to canine tooth. This thin wire is invisible and after a few days your tongue will normally forget that it’s there.
The huge advantage is it doesn’t rely on you remembering to wear it. There can be no forgetting to wear it as it’s fixed in place. Therefore, there is no risk the teeth it’s bonded to will move.
The main disadvantage is that it only bonds the front 6 teeth. If teeth further back have been aligned they could still relapse.
Secondly, it’s harder to clean around and hygiene habits may need changing. Interdental brushes will have to replace floss for cleaning in between.
Also called ‘Essix’ retainers, these are similar to the Invisalign trays
An impression is taken of your teeth in their final position and the lab will produce the retainers within a few days. There is a small risk that your teeth can move in this time. This is not a problem, as when the retainer is inserted it will move your teeth back to their final position according to the impression.
Clear retainers are normally worn day and night for at least 3 months after your treatment. After this, your dentist may decide to move onto wear at night time only.
Invisalign produce their own brand of clear retainers called ‘Vivera’. These are more robust and longer lasting. Invisalign already have your final teeth position from the Clinicheck. This means another mould isn’t required and these can be ready on the day you finish treatment, reducing the risk of immediate relapse.
The advantage of clear retainers are they work much like Invisalign. You will clean and maintain them in the same way, therefore they’re easy to get used to. They also provide coverage of all teeth, not just the front 6 like the fixed option.
The issue is with compliance. If you do not wear them as your dentist instructs your teeth will move back.
These are removable retainers. They are clipped to your back teeth and have a wire across the front teeth to stop them moving. There is a plastic part on the roof of your mouth to help hold them in place.
They are both durable and adjustable.
However, due to the wires they are not aesthetic and the plastic on the roof of your mouth can be difficult to get used to.
It is preferable to combine both fixed and clear retainers.
The fixed retainer is bonded permanently, and the clear retainer is worn only at night. This gives the best protection against relapse and should strongly be considered following treatment.
Your teeth are most likely to relapse immediately after your treatment finishes but are prone to drift throughout life.
You should look at retention as a lifelong commitment.
If opting for a removable retainer, initially, you will have to wear this day and night, like you would have a brace, to ensure the teeth remain in that position and set in place.
This could be for a few weeks of up to 6 months.
The reality is, the longer you leave it in place, the better the chances are of the teeth remaining in place.
As and when you and your dentist agree is appropriate, you will be able to move to wearing it just at night, to prevent any movement.
You will then continue to wear it for many years past the initial treatment, in most cases the rest of your life.
Although you can get away with going without the retainer for a few nights in the following years, repeatedly doing so will allow the tooth to move little by little out of place until the retainer no longer fits and you need a brace again.
Align Technologies, the company behind Invisalign produce a retainer branded Vivera. Just like the braces these are designed to be barely noticeable.
There are other types of retainer available, for example bonded retainers which are permanently fixed to the back of your teeth. These may not be available from Align Technologies, but are worth asking your dentist or orthodontist about.
History of Invisalign
It was in 1997 that Align Technology, the company responsible for Invisalign, first formed.
The US firm was founded by Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, after Zia himself went through orthodontic treatment.
It was upon wearing a clear retainer that he put forward the idea that a series of such devices could move the teeth and be used in the whole orthodontic procedure.
After seeking out developers to help make the concept a reality, by 1998, the Food and Drug Administration in the USA had approved Invisalign and sales began.
It was at the turn of the millennium as the people were becoming even more conscious about their appearance.
Associated services like cosmetic dentistry were becoming more common and more cost effective for the general public.
It was at this time that computer technology was really taking off too and Invisalign was based around using state of the art technology to plan and design the alignment journey.
For decades prior, there was little innovation or massive change in the way in which orthodontics were completed.
Braces had begun to use more white or colour matched products, but fixed appliances with metal brackets and wires were predominantly used.
Between 1997 and 2001 over $270 million in funding was achieved and in 2000 they planned a $31 million dollar advertising campaign to promote this innovative product.
Sales were initially slow and dental professionals resistant to adopting the new technology, for a number of reasons. The primary reason being the lack of orthodontic credentials that Chishti and Wirth had.
However, the campaign worked and the product became popular with consumers.
8,500 orthodontists, 75% of all those registered in North America had received training on the Invisalign system by 2001 and the company had manufactured 1 million aligners.
Losses in the early years meant that the founders resigned, but under new leadership it has grown to the size it is today.
In 2016, Invisalign had an 8% share of the US orthodontic market, with 3 million new patients in North America.
The improved look and convenience it offered and the way the firm embraced computer technology and digital journey planning that allowed them to succeed.
Changing orthodontics for good, patients were now asking for Invisalign, rather than being recommended it, somewhat of a rarity in dentistry.
Patents issued when the company first began trading have begun expiring and this now paves the way for more similar products from other companies, as they copy what Align have done.
But the company, headquartered in California continue to dominate due to the brand awareness and massive investment the company has made in technology and facilities both in Mexico and Costa Rica.
As of 2018, Align technology make over 300,000 new aligners each day for people around the world and have helped treat over 5 million people.
Choosing a dentist/orthodontist
The most important part in the whole process is finding a dentist you are happy with and who you are personally confident can deliver the results you want.
The beauty of the Align Technology system and support staff is that general dentists can offer Invisalign, even if they are not specialised in orthodontics.
An orthodontist is a general dentist that has undergone extra training in the alignment of teeth and in order to better understand tooth malalignments and their treatments.
Whether you go for an orthodontist or general dentist is down to you.
Do your research into the dentist and the practice, you are going to be spending a lot of money over the treatment period and you want results you can be pleased with.
Ask the dentist and the staff questions if you are not sure or want reassurances. Any dentist worth going to will be more than happy to help and show why, you should select them.
Look for reviews online and find others who have been through the same or similar treatment.
Not all dental practices have the same size portfolios or the same number of customer reviews, but it it a case of really getting a feel of whether or not they are the dentist you want to complete your treatment.
Many will provide examples of their work, with before and after photos.
Look for a dentist who makes you feel at ease, asks you appropriate questions and tells you what you need to know. If you are being rushed into a sale it is probably not a good sign.
We do think it is worth ensuring your dentist pays close attention to the cosmetic look of your smile.
You may not want perfectly straight Hollywood-smile style white teeth, but it is important that your dentist can demonstrate that they really care about getting the look you want as well as the one that works for your mouth.
All dental practices that offer Invisalign have to be approved. This approval process shows an extra level of commitment. Not all dental practices that offer invisible braces are approved or work with the company.
You can find an Invisalign provider near you using the finder tool available on the Invisalign website.
For each approved professional within your area, a number of different icons are displayed that gives data on that practice.
More icons typically show that they have more experience, but this should not be the only thing you use to help make that decision.
Each partner can achieve a different status. This is ultimately driven by the number of Invisalign patients they have over the past 12 months.
Numbers do not tell the whole story, but those practices that have achieved Diamond status are more experienced.
Shop around and get several quotes and opinions, and weigh up other options.
You have the final say, but make sure you are happy.
If you are not, then get answers to concerns you may have or don’t go ahead.
It is very important you go to a cosmetic dentist with experience to improve your smile. Quite often there is more than just one aspect of a smile a patient doesn’t like. We may end up doing braces as well as whitening followed but cosmetic restorations. Its good if you have a dentist who can understand the whole treatment plan, what to do and when to do it so they can put together the best plan for you!
Dr Chhaya Chauhan – In-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940
Invisalign before & after
The following are real life images of what an Invisalign brace can do for you. See the before and after shots to see how the tooth alignment and your smile can be adjusted.
What better way to understand how good or bad Invisalign braces are than by hearing first hand from those who have been through orthodontic treatment with Invisalign.
The following videos are just a few from many available online.
Many of the positives and negatives that these people discuss are explained earlier in this article.
Invisalign or similar invisible braces (also known as clear aligners) are not offered on the NHS.
If you are aged 18 or over, and want any orthodontic treatment, you will have to seek and pay for private dental treatment.
Every patient and their needs are different and this will affect the price of any braces.
Invisalign braces cost on average between £2,500 and £5,500 in the UK.
The price you will pay will also depend on how complex your treatment needs are and the dentist offering you the treatment.
To get an accurate cost you do need to have an assessment of your teeth completed by a professional.
If you have a need for only minor realignment, you can expect a cheaper and shorter treatment period than those with more severe misalignment.
Invisalign payment plan
The price for Invisalign treatment is not normally considered cheap.
You are paying for the time of the dentist and the product, but you are too paying a bit for the brand.
You can potentially save money by switching to an almost identical product from another brand.
But, if Invisalign is what you would prefer then by all means, go ahead.
Not that many of us have the money to pay for the treatment in full and as such a payment plan can be helpful.
Whilst Invisalign themselves do not offer a payment plan, some dental practices might.
If you speak to your dentist/dental team they can advise whether they offer any financing packages or might be able to point you in the direction of companies that can help.
Some practices will offer particular deals or payment plans that can be tailored to suit your needs and budget.
I do encourage you to consider all payment options very carefully. Orthodontic treatment is rarely needed. Do not commit to services you cannot afford. Carefully consider what is right for you and whether waiting might be worthwhile.
What are the costs of alternative clear aligners?
Clear aligners and invisible braces command a premium price over traditional braces.
This is because of the benefits that they bring and the amount that has been invested to allow them to even exist.
However, the prices of invisible braces is coming down.
As a pioneer within this space Invisalign commands a premium price, but there are other equivalent brands that can be sourced much more cost effectively.
Whilst every individual case is different, a guide to the prices are as follows:
- Invisalign – £2500-5500.
- Inman – £1000-2500
- ClearSmile – £1500-4500
- Clear Correct – £1500-4500
- Smilelign – £1000-4500
- Smile Direct Club – £1500
- FrankSmile – £1550
- Straight Teeth Direct – £1500
For the sake of comparison:
- Traditional metal braces – £1500-3000
- Lingual – £2000-10,000
For adults, new companies like Straight Teeth Direct and Your Smile Direct have set fees for their aligners of £1500/€1500 which is quite new and unusual for this industry. Treatment with these companies do not involve face-to-face treatment with a dentist or orthodontist.
Suitability criteria does exist for these services, but if you are an ideal candidate the costs will be as much as 70% lower than those braces offered via dental professionals.
Such significant savings are made as the time and effort of the dental professional is reduced, not the mention the overhead costs of a dental practice.
You will need to consider whether the lack of real hands-on by a dental professional is something you are happy with.
For the best treatment, those controlled by a dentist you see will likely deliver the best results, albeit at a cost.
Whilst the aligners and attachments have a cost, these are relatively low in the scheme of things. What makes up the majority of the cost is the expertise of the dental professionals and clinical teams that direct the treatment and ensure you get the results you want correctly and safely.
With any private treatment you will have to pay the full price for the treatment.
Many dental practices offer payment plans and financing options so that you can pay for the treatment in smaller and more manageable amounts, if you do not have the full amount available or prefer to spread the payments. Some practices may even offer interest free payment plans as an extra incentive.
Whilst aligning your teeth can have a very significant beneficial impact on you, do not stretch yourself or agree to treatment you cannot realistically afford.
If you have just spent thousands of pounds on a lovely new and aligned smile, you want to keep it that way and a retainer is what allows you to do just this.
If you opt for the packages offered by these new online companies, the retainer is included in the price.
With most other aligners, the retainer is an extra cost.
Align Technologies, the company behind Invisalign, offer a retainer, but it is marketed under a different brand called Vivera.
You do not have to use a Vivera retainer, just because you had Invisalign braces, there are a number of other options available too.
Most brands sell a retainer par jaw. So you will pay a price for a retainer for the lower arch of teeth and then a price for a retainer for the upper arch of teeth. The price you pay will be for 1 retainer.
Retainers will last a few years when treated correctly, but often need to be replaced in time.
Vivera do things a bit differently, coming in a pack of of 3 for each jaw.
This is great because it means you have spares/replacements should you need it, but the initial cost is higher as a result.
When you split the cost over the 3 retainers, it generally works out very similar to the competition, even though initially the cost seems high.
If you need a retainer for both top and bottom arches of teeth, you will receive 6 retainers, 3 from each arch.
You can expect to pay anywhere from £200 through to £400 for a pack of 3 Vivera retainers for 1 arch.
If you want the pack of 6 (3 for each arch) you will find prices of £450-700 for these.
Other brands of retainers can cost anywhere between £100 and £250 on average.
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Is Invisalign worth it?
Wearing any brace, from any brand requires a mental shift and also some adjustments in your daily life, to allow the results to be achieved.
It is not the easiest thing to adjust to, but its by far from the most difficult.
Clear aligners such as Invisalign are really for many the most convenient option today.
So, the answer to whether it is worth it, is yes, it is.
As the reviews shared earlier show, those who have completed treatment with Invisalign are very happy.
Even though this comes at a cost, for most, this will be worth it financially and for the time and effort they have put in, because the result will be nicely aligned teeth they can be proud of.
With care these results can last a lifetime.
To make it worth it, you need to be invested in it and ensure you have the best dental team around you.
Invisalign may well be the market leaders, but other slightly more affordable options do exist if financing such is tricky.
Invisible vs metal braces
There are many types of braces, but it is the fixed metal brace that most consider as an alternative to the invisible braces.
So what are the positives and negatives when comparing the 2 different types?
Benefits of invisible braces compared to metal:
- The aligners are very difficult to see or detect in comparison to the obvious metal brackets and wires of a metal brace.
- Those conscious of their teeth and smile should not really feel any more conscious whereas they likely would with metal braces.
- It is possible to remove the aligner for a couple of hours a day to eat and drink, clean the teeth and get brief respite from the pressure they apply.
- There are no restrictions on the food and drink consumed, providing the aligners are removed first.
- The teeth and aligners can be cleaned with more ease and in less time than a traditional brace.
- Food can’t get stuck in the aligner like it can the metal appliance.
- Dental visits tend to be less frequent than fixed braces.
Drawbacks of invisible braces compared to metal:
- Treatment is typically more expensive than with fixed braces.
- They are not suitable for all, some more severe malalignments can only be corrected with metal braces.
- Treatment can take longer.
- It is up to you to make sure you keep the brace in.
- The aligner must be removed to eat and drink.
- You may need to carry a storage box to put the aligners in when eating and drinking.
- They are not the most pretty things to remove from the mouth.
Which is most effective – metal or invisible braces?
Debate has and will continue to roll on about which is best.
Much depends on whether you look at it from a clinical perspective or a patient journey view.
It is generally accepted that fixed braces are most capable and can be used effectively in a much greater number of cases.
In particular, those more complex orthodontic cases where tooth rotation and bite adjustment of molars is necessary.
Dental professionals may have a personal preference too, but what is most important is about getting the results for the client.
In moderate alignment cases, particularly adults, fixed metal braces or invisible braces like Invisalign can achieve the same results.
Invisible braces will generally win over the client more than the traditional brace, even if treatment with a fixed appliance is quicker and cheaper.
The invisible design is more appealing and offers many other benefits.
However, if the client wants aligned teeth on a really tight budget then fixed braces will likely be best.
It is about weighing up all the information and the clients wishes to offer what is best.
Other brands of clear aligners
Invisalign are the best known brand within the clear aligner market, primarily because of the massive investment they have made over the years in marketing, to raise that brand awareness.
At the same time they invested many millions in research and development to make the product as effective as it is today. No other brand to our knowledge offers the same range and flexibility and simplicity that Invisalign does.
However, there are an increasing number of companies that are now following the Invisalign path, producing equivalent or similar products, sometimes at a more attractive price.
Established in 2006 in Texas, the company was in 2011 named the fastest growing health company in the USA.
They work with a similar model to Invisalign and have different packages depending on the amount of realignment work that is necessary.
Due to the similarity in the way that ClearCorrect braces are designed and work, you could consider them as one of the leading competitors, with the primary benefit being that generally they are a more affordable treatment option compared to Invisalign.
A UK based equivalent to Invisalign and ClearCorrect, the company was founded in 2012 and is offered through hundreds of practices across the United Kingdom.
Like Invisalign it is a dentist led clear aligner system that can work to realign those teeth not in the ideal positions.
A dentist will take impressions or take images using adigital intra-oral scanner.
SmileAlign technicians will carefully plan how to achieve your best smile, and you’ll get to see what their clear braces can achieve before committing.
A pre-aligner – a passive brace – will be sent to your dentist. This is for you to check that their slim-line braces are the right treatment for you. You can check how they feel, how easy it is to remove them and how simple it is to keep up with your oral hygiene before you decide to go ahead with treatment.
When you’re happy, your dentist will order your custom-made aligners for your treatment.
Your dentist will monitor your treatment as you progress through the aligners.
At the end of treatment, you should use a retainer to keep your teeth in their new position.
ClearSmile clear aligners
A UK based company ClearSmile aligners are designed just for adults and are focused on the alignment of the front 8 teeth, the ones most obvious when you smile.
Suitable for moderate alignment issues, they are not an option for those where more extensive repositioning is needed.
After an initial consultation, impressions are taken, 3D models built and the projected treatment and results shown to you by the dentist.
There is scope for changes to be made before the aligner is produced via state of the art 3D printing.
A new tray is used every week, with checkups necessary every 6 weeks, so that new impressions can be taken and new trays ordered.
Just like Invisalign, a retainer is required after treatment to retain the alignment and stop relapse.
Inman Aligner braces
Like ClearSmile, Inman works on aligning the front teeth and works particularly well for those who have had a relapse in their tooth malalignment.
Where the previously mentioned brands have offered what are as near as can be to clear braces, Inman is more obvious.
While all braces rely on pressure being applied to teeth to move them, Inman uses a different approach whereby two aligner bows oppose each other, to move the teeth into their new position.
The alignment process can take as little as 6 weeks but can take up to 18.
A fast alignment process is a bonus for some, but a negative may well be that it is not invisible.
The aligner needs to be worn 16-20 hours per day as opposed to the 22 hours of Invisalign.
Your Smile Direct
Taking advantage of modern technology and e-commerce experience, Your Smile Direct is a service that offers clear aligners for mild to moderate tooth misalignment.
Where more traditional methods rely on you sourcing the aligner through a dental professional, this option can be done at home.
Essentially it cuts out the use of a dentist or orthodontist and keeps the costs down.
There is an option if you wish to visit a clinic (at select locations), but this is for the initial impression/scanning stage only.
Designed by specialists, the aligners are created and mailed to you until the alignment is corrected.
Once the treatment is complete a free retainer is offered so that you can keep your teeth aligned for years to come.
The big draw is the delivered to your door experience and the cost which is £1500 all in.
Where the major brands rely on dental offices, Your Smile Direct does not and is available to many countries including:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and France.
Straight Teeth Direct
Purely online, Straight Teeth Direct provide clear aligners for just €1500.
No visits with a dentist are needed. Though the online tools you upload images, complete a dental quiz and provide medical records. Dental impressions are taken via a kit sent to your home.
An appointed dentist assesses your smile and plans your alignment journey, which on average takes 5-9 months.
Prior to committing you get a timeline of your treatment as well as 3D visuals of what your transformation will look like. You do too get time to speak with your assigned dentist if you have any questions.
The aligners will then be made and sent to your door.
The aligners will be delivered in batches, so that your progress can be monitored and alterations made if necessary.
Custom made to your mouth, the aligners offer a perfect fit, but offer the gentle pressure needed to align the teeth.
Expect to wear them for 22 hours a day. But, for those worried, you get some relief as you alternative between soft and hard aligners every 2 weeks to gradually straighten your smile.
Once complete you will be issued with a retainer to keep the smile looking perfect.
Other types of clear braces
Perhaps spurred on by the popularity of Invisalign and other clear aligners, the manufacturers of more traditional fixed orthodontic appliances have made great strides in improving their products.
Whilst silver metal brackets and archwires are still very much an everyday item within the products dentists use, there is an increasing amount of white/clear coloured braces.
Still relying on physical attachment to the front of the teeth, these brackets and wires are less obvious when white or clear.
Damon braces and ClearSmile brace are just 2 brands that are known for producing such.
Many of the disadvantages of fixed braces still exist, the benefit is the reduction in how obvious they are.
Clear braces like these offer somewhat of a middle ground for those who would love clear aligners like Invisalign, but cannot because of their teeth and the adjustments that are necessary.
Aligning the teeth can have both cosmetic and dental health benefits.
Traditional fixed metal braces are able to quickly and effectively align teeth whilst minimising the expense, but they are not the most petty of things to have fitted to the teeth and they bring some restrictions into daily life, most notably the required cleaning regime required.
For those that can afford it, clear aligners such as Invisalign offer a really great way to get the results with little in the way of day to day life compromise.
22 hours per day of wear is expected, but you can eat and drink without restriction, brush your teeth like normal and for many live life as normal.
Invisalign invisible braces come at a cost, but you only need to hear what people have to say about them to realise they are worth every penny.
How often do you have to wear Invisalign aligners?
You should wear them for 22 hours per day.
How do I care for and clean my aligners/invisalign?
To keep your Invisalign aligners in good shape, the first thing to do is avoid playing with them.
When in the mouth it can be very tempting to run your tongue around them and unhook the brace with the tongue or your fingers.
Doing this can hurt your tongue or over time affect the strength of the aligner.
Remove your brace carefully with gentle pressure, releasing it from the back of the mouth. Try to avoid bending it as this can weaken it.
When you are not wearing them, you should put them in a case, your dentist will likely give you one when you start your treatment. This keeps them together and out of harm’s way when not in use.
It is good to give the aligner a clean, use a soft bristled toothbrush for this with some water. You don’t need any toothpaste as this can affect the transparency of the plastic. It is not essential, but some like to soak the aligner in a retainer cleaning solution once a week – Retainer Brite tablets are a popular option.
Invisalign do have their own cleaning crystals and cleaning system available, but this is available in the USA only.
What if I lose my aligner?
New aligners can be purchased, they typically cost around about £100 depending on the dental practice.
Contact your practice for advice on what to do.
Will I have a lisp?
In the first few days or weeks it is possible that you will develop a bit of a lisp as you get used to the retainers.
Your body and brain will adjust normally within a few days.
Can you get invisible braces on the NHS?
The NHS will not provide clear or invisible braces. If you want invisible braces you will have to pay for these privately.
- British Orthodontic Society
- Dentistry IQ
- Northernden House Orthodontics
- The Happy Tooth
- Cleveland Orthodontics
- The Ortho Cosmos
- iDentistry Orthodontics
- Total Orthodontics
- Levison’s Textbook for Dental Nurses