An Invisalign treatment is a wearable series of clear, removable aligners to help straighten teeth. It is an alternative to traditional metal and wire dental braces. Invisalign aligners are worn every day for six months to two years, depending on the extent of realignment required.

Fast Facts

  • Invisalign aligners are made of a strong, thin, non-toxic, medical grade plastic.
  • More than 1,650,000 patients in over 50 countries have had an Invisalign treatment since 1998.
  • Always go with an Invisalign accredited dentist or orthodontist for your treatment.

By wearing the aligners 20 to 22 hours a day—whenever you’re not eating—the teeth gradually move to a desired position. Each aligner in the series is designed to move the teeth about 0.25 to 0.3 mm every two weeks, at which time the aligners are replaced with a slightly different set, making the movement of the teeth comfortable and unforced.

Invisalign aligners are made of a strong, thin, non-toxic, medical grade plastic. Three dimensional computer imaging software is used to design each set of aligners, based on a pre-agreed treatment plan.

Invisalign orthodontic aligners are designed, manufactured and marketed by Align Technology Inc., a medical device company based in California, which started commercial sales in 1998. As of October 2011, nearly 68,000 orthodontists worldwide have received formal training in Invisalign treatments.

Since Invisalign was launched in Australia in 2002, more than 1,000 orthodontists in Australia and New Zealand have been accredited in its use. Accreditation is granted only after special training has been completed that covers suitability assessments on prospective patients, familiarity with technological aspects of the aligners and the ability to design tailored treatment plans.

More than 1,650,000 patients in over 50 countries have had an Invisalign treatment since 1998.

Reasons for choosing to have Invisalign

People choose an Invisalign treatment plan to straighten their teeth for a number of reasons:

  • Unlike traditional metal braces, Invisalign aligners are nearly invisible.
  • The aligners are removable, unlike braces, which means that eating, brushing and flossing is easy.
  • Invisalign aligners are more comfortable than braces, because of the absence of metal wires and brackets that can irritate the mouth and lips.
  • Because there are no wires that need constant adjusting, you spend less time at dental appointments.
  • The Invasalign system uses 3D virtual modelling software, which enables you to see what your teeth look like now and how they will look at the end of the treatment plan.

You are a good candidate for Invisalign if:

  • You have minimal tooth overcrowding.
  • You have a mild to moderate overbite—your upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth.
  • You have a cross bite—both your upper and lower jaws are out of alignment—at the front or sides of the mouth.
  • Your lower teeth protrude past your front teeth causing an under bite.
  • Your teeth are tipped at an angle less than 45 degrees.
  • You have rotated teeth; but with a rotation of less than 20 degrees.
  • You have small spaces between your teeth.

Invisalign may be suitable for anyone over the age of 14, as long as their second molars have fully grown. This usually happens at 12 years of age.

Some dental conditions and other factors can make Invisalign unsuitable.

Invisalign is not suitable for:

  • People under the age of 14 whose teeth have not fully grown.
  • People with severe crowding of the teeth.
  • People whose teeth are tipped inwards or outwards by more than 45 degrees.
  • People with severely rotated teeth.
  • People who have multiple missing teeth.
  • People with poor gum condition or other significant gum problems.
  • People who want to change the profile of their faces.
  • People who have skeletal abnormalities in their jaws. Skeletal abnormalities can include a large or small jaw, and jaws that are forward or backwardly placed.  These issues require surgery.

Tell your orthodontist about any attachments, such as crowns, bonded to your teeth.

Bridges are used to link two or more teeth firmly together and can create a significant level of resistance to the tooth movement necessary with an Invisalign treatment. Check with your orthodontist as to whether your bridges will be a factor in an Invisalign treatment.

Some people with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) may have problems wearing Invisalign aligners. Ask your orthodontist whether your TMJ issues are likely to cause problems with the Invisalign treatment.

If your premolars have been removed recently or will be extracted soon, you are not a suitable candidate for Invisalign, because the aligners cannot keep the teeth upright without their support.

Your orthodontist is the best judge of whether an Invisalign treatment is right for you, and what level of correction can be achieved with the treatment.

What to expect

After an initial consultation, your orthodontist will establish whether or not you will benefit from an Invisalign treatment plan. After this has been decided, you need to discuss what you can expect your teeth to look like after the treatment has been completed. If the outcome you expect can be achieved, and if your orthodontist deems you suitable for treatment, X-ray photos and moulds of your teeth will be taken to create 3D models of your mouth and teeth. This information is sent to Align Technology Inc. in the U.S.A. where a treatment plan is designed, and aligners are made to suit your specific needs. This process usually takes about six weeks.

Once your aligners arrive, the treatment can begin. Usually, a six-week appointment is made with the orthodontist to check that the treatment plan is on track.

At the start of every new set of aligners, your teeth will probably feel sensitive and your gums may be sore. You will feel some level of discomfort for a few days, but it is temporary and generally mild in comparison to the potential discomfort experienced with regular braces. The pressure and resulting discomfort is an indication that the aligners are doing their job in moving your teeth to the desired position.

As with other orthodontic devices, wearing your aligners may affect your speech. Some people even develop a slight lisp. These effects are temporary and will disappear when your tongue becomes used to the presence of aligners in your mouth.

Before, during and after your Invisalign treatment

No preparation is required before you begin Invisalign treatment. You do, however, need to be committed and fully compliant during the treatment period.

During treatment

Here’s what you need to do to ensure success in the treatment plan:

  • Follow your orthodontist’s instructions to the letter.
  • Wear each aligner in the series for around 400 hours. That means 20 to 22 hours each day for just over two weeks. It is imperative that you do this in order to see the outcome you desire.
  • Remove your Invisalign aligners while enjoying meals and snacks. If you don’t do this, food debris can get inside the aligners, potentially promoting dental decay.
  • Only drink water while wearing your aligners. Hot drinks can cause warping or staining of the aligners. Sugar getting into the aligners can lead to dental decay and gum disease.
  • Besides when eating and drinking, remove your aligners only when brushing and flossing, during your daily oral care routines.
  • After meals, clean your teeth before wearing the aligners again.
  • You can clean the aligners by brushing and rinsing with lukewarm water.
  • Avoid smoking while you are wearing the aligners, as smoking may cause nicotine discolouration.
  • Remove the aligners by holding the back of each side and gently pulling. Aligners can break if you forcefully try to remove them from one side only.

After treatment

The results of treatment vary from person to person. Some people will need a positioner or conventional retainer to keep their teeth in place permanently. Others might have to wear a clear plastic retainer at night for some time after the treatment. You should talk with your orthodontist about what you can expect after treatment.

Possible risks and complications

It is unlikely, but there may be disruptions in treatment due to various reasons, and your teeth may not respond as expected. Tooth decay, gum disease, extractions and other unanticipated events can lead to a less-than-desired outcome.

There are no significant risks involved as long as you follow your orthodontist’s instructions during the entire treatment period.

Here are some things that you need to be aware of before you decide to have Invisalign:

  • The success of the treatment depends on compliance with your orthodontist’s instructions.
  • Not wearing the aligners for days or weeks will disrupt the treatment plan and can result in prolonging the treatment period. You may have to repeat wearing older versions or get corrected versions, which can be costly and time consuming.
  • If you eat while wearing Invisalign aligners, they may be damaged. It can also result in food particles getting caught between the aligner and your teeth, promoting tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Improper cleaning of the aligners may also lead to unhealthy consequences, not just to your mouth, but also to your health in general.
  • Not wearing the device can lead to later trouble. If you do not wear an earlier device in the series for the time required, the later one may not fit properly, compromising success of the treatment plan.
  • If you find that your aligners no longer fit, contact your orthodontist immediately. The problem will be diagnosed and a remedial action plan will be instituted, to get treatment back on course.
  • Even if you do everything according to your orthodontist’s instructions, there may be instances in which your teeth do not respond to the treatment the way you and your orthodontist envisaged. Sometimes this cannot be avoided.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to use other treatments or devices besides Invisalign to achieve the outcome you want.

Always go with an Invisalign accredited dentist or orthodontist for your treatment. The difference between a dentist and orthodontist is that orthodontists receive three years of additional training after becoming a dentist. If they are Invisalign accredited, they have undergone special training in the use of Invisalign.

Once accredited, there are designations such as Platinum Elite and Platinum, based on the number of patients treated using the system.

Rough costs involved

The cost of treatment depends on the complexity of the correction needed and the fees charged by the prescribing orthodontist or dentist.

The average cost of an Invisalign treatment plan ranges between $6,000 and $8,500 (AUD). Many orthodontists offer flexible and affordable monthly payment plans. Interest free options may also be available.

Most insurance policies that have orthodontic coverage will usually cover Invisalign to the same extent that they cover conventional braces. However, the medical benefits differ from policy to policy, so it is best to check coverage with your health fund.

You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined orthodontic treatments at the same time.

This information is correct as of 2019.

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