How Does Invisalign Work?

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Everyone wants a beautiful smile, but this is not the only reason you should consider correcting your teeth’ alignment. Issues like crooked or crowded teeth can lead to jaw position issues and periodontal health concerns. Having your teeth alignment corrected can be lifechanging for many people.

The good news is that getting old-fashioned metal braces is no longer the only option, thanks to Invisalign. But how does Invisalign work – and is it the right choice for everyone?

Let’s dive in.

What Is Invisalign?

Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment option that uses hard plastic aligners to correct teeth alignment over a set period. Each aligner is personalized and made to fit the person’s mouth while gradually correcting the teeth’ positioning. This plastic is clear and nearly invisible – hence the name Invisalign.

History of Invisalign

Interestingly enough, Invisalign was not created by a dentist or orthodontist. Zia Chishti first designed Invisalign’s concept in 1992, a computer science and economics student at Columbia University.

Chishti created the idea as an alternative treatment for metal braces when he was receiving orthodontic work himself. He worked with several other students to create a patent, and the FDA approved it in 1998. Just two years later, Chishti’s company for Invisalign was worth $1 billion.

Popularity of Invisalign

Invisalign was almost an immediate hit once it was available to the general public as an option for orthodontic treatment. It gained 80,000 patients by 2002 – and that number more than doubled just two years later. As of 2017, Invisalign has helped over 4 million people achieve a straighter, better smile.

While the company does have other competitors with similar offerings, Invisalign owns approximately 80% of the “clear aligner” market. It is the brand with the most widely available option for clear aligner treatments at dentist and orthodontic offices.

Invisalign is incredibly popular among adults who do not want to wear metal braces to correct their teeth. Although Invisalign is approved for children as young as 12 years old, it is much more common for adults to use. Studies have shown that the average age for people wearing braces or orthodontic treatments is 16 years old, whereas the average age for Invisalign users is 32.

How Does Invisalign Treatment Work?

Traditionally, braces help align the teeth using wire brackets attached to individual teeth and tightened over time. They are also used in conjunction with applications like expanders, spacers, or even headgear to resolve issues like crowded teeth or over/underbites.

Invisalign works a bit differently.

Several sets of aligners are custom-made with 3D technology out of a hard plastic designed to cover all sides of the teeth. This helps to move the teeth to the desired position gradually. Invisalign can also be used with various attachments, such as elastics, for proper alignment.

First Steps

If your orthodontist or dentist agrees that Invisalign is a viable treatment, the first step is to take an X-ray and teeth molds to create the customized aligners. Some dental practices also use a digital scanner to create a 3D model of the mouth that can be used to create the aligners.

It typically takes a few days or weeks before the first set of Invisalign trays will be ready. Once they are prepared, you can begin the treatment, and your dentist will let you know how long to wear each set before you can move on to the next.

Wearing Aligners

Happy young woman presenting clear aligners

The longer periods that the aligners are worn, the better (and faster) the results will be. Aligners should only be removed when a person is eating or drinking anything but water, and it should be worn throughout the day and night. Invisalign’s site recommends wearing aligners 20 to 22 hours a day, and floss and brush teeth before putting the trays back in.

Your dentist will let you know when you are done with a set of trays and able to move on to the next. If you have not worn a set for the recommended 20 to 22 hours each day, then you may need to stay on the set longer until your teeth have shifted to the correct position.

You must keep your aligners clean to prevent them from getting scratched or damaged. Dirty retainers can be incredibly germ-ridden, and this could lead to infection or gum disease.

To thoroughly clean aligner trays, simply brush them gently with a toothbrush and rinse with warm water between uses. You can also use a bit of non-scented anti-bacterial hand soap on the trays – just be sure to rinse them!

It is best to store aligners in a protective case when they are not in use. Leaving them out in the open can make the trays more susceptible to bacterial growth. And although the hard plastic is quite sturdy and strong, the aligners can crack if they are mishandled. Putting them in a hard-shelled case is the best option.

Final Results

After orthodontic treatment is completed, your orthodontist or dentist will recommend that you wear a retainer to prevent your teeth from shifting back into place. This type of retainer only needs to be worn at night. It is made from a plastic that is a bit thicker and firmer than Invisalign trays to hold the teeth in place.

Your dentist may also recommend inserting a permanent or fixed retainer. This is a great option if you tend to forget to wear your retainer or simply do not want to deal with the hassle. A permanent retainer uses a small wire which is placed on the inside of the teeth to ensure that the teeth do not shift.

Common Invisalign Questions

Most people have a lot of questions and wonder if seeking out an Invisalign dentist is the best option. Here are some of the most common questions that our dentists get from patients.

How Long Does Invisalign Take?

Each Invisalign treatment plan is unique to each individual. The estimated time of treatment is dependent on numerous factors, such as:

  1. Condition of the Teeth
  2. Jaw Alignment
  3. Gaps
  4. How often the aligners are worn

However, most treatment plans last for 12 to 18 months, with noticeable results appearing in as little as eight weeks.

Does Invisalign Work for Crowded Teeth?

Yes, Invisalign can be the perfect solution for crowded teeth, as well as crooked alignment, gaps, and even teeth, which are turned at an angle. However, the treatment plan may take longer depending on the severity of the crowding, and there may be additional orthodontic treatments involved.

For instance, if the mouth is extremely crowded, some teeth may need to be extracted, or an expander will need to be worn first. This may require additional procedures before Invisalign can be used.

Invisalign Price

Most dental offices and insurance policies offer various payment plan options for Invisalign.

According to Invisalign’s website, insurance typically covers up to $3,500. The average cost is between $4,000 to $7,000. This amount of coverage changes depending on your insurance plan and orthodontic coverage, so be sure to contact your provider directly for a quote.

Invisalign can often be paid in a series of monthly installments rather than an upfront payment. This can be as low as under $100 per month. You may also use pre-tax dollars from FSA (flexible savings account) or HSA (health savings account) towards Invisalign.

Invisalign vs. Braces: Which Is Better?

Both braces and Invisalign can be equally effective for correcting crooked or crowded teeth. But why should you choose one over the other?

How Do Braces Work?

Close up of cheerful woman in braces during examination of teeth near dentist

Metal braces have been in use since the 18th century – when the first orthodontist created a piece of iron that could expand the palate and shift the teeth’ positioning. Over time, the practice of using braces became far more advanced – and braces became commonly used all over the world.

Braces are designed to adjust the teeth by placing constant pressure to move the tooth into the correct position eventually. Typically, these wires are tightened every few weeks or months by the dentist.


One of the greatest benefits of using braces is that it often works faster than Invisalign. Since the teeth are under constant pressure from the brackets and wires, this can help to move the teeth more quickly than an aligner – which is only worn for part of the day.

Another benefit to braces is they are semi-permanently attached. You do not have to worry about forgetting to put your aligner back in or losing a tray. This takes away a bit of the responsibility and pressure on the patient to continue the treatment plan.

Finally, traditional braces can sometimes be less expensive than Invisalign. However, each treatment plan changes depending on the individual’s condition and insurance coverage.


If you have worn braces or had friends or siblings who did, you probably know they can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, particularly after each tightening. Braces are often recommended for young children, and the experience of having braces put on and tightened can be frightening.

Braces can make it uncomfortable (or impossible) to eat certain foods. This includes biting into an apple, chewing gum, or eating sticky food, which gets stuck in the braces.

Alternative Options To Make Your Smile Better

There are other options to treat certain orthodontic issues and improve the teeth’ appearance – apart from braces or Invisalign.


Some people prefer to have veneer implants to correct issues like tooth shape, size, and shading. Veneers are a ceramic covering that attaches to the teeth, which must be shaved down in size. While this can give you a picture-perfect smile, it is quite invasive and extremely expensive – often costing several thousand dollars per tooth.


If your teeth only require slight corrections, you may wear a retainer for a short period of time instead of wearing Invisalign or braces. However, this is only an option for slightly crooked teeth and does not require much realignment.

How Do You Know If Invisalign Is the Right Choice?

Dentist examining a patient's teeth in the dentist

Invisalign can be a great alternative for orthodontic treatment for many people. It is ultimately up to your dentist to decide whether or not Invisalign is the best option for you.

Invisalign Is Great For

Invisalign is generally recommended for older teenagers or adults whose teeth and facial bones are no longer growing. It is also best for people who do not want to wear metal braces, such as business professionals or older adults.

As previously mentioned, metal braces can make it difficult (or impossible) to eat certain foods. But since Invisalign can be removed as needed, there are no restrictions, and people can eat any type of food or beverage they want.

Invisalign Is Not For

Invisalign is not a perfect alternative for braces, as it cannot be used for every dental situation.

If a person’s teeth are short or pegged, they may not be able to fit as tightly in the aligners. This could slow down the process of alignment. Invisalign is unable to correct teeth that are rotated past 20 degrees or tipped to more than a 45-degree angle. It is also not recommended for patients with clinical crowns or who have multiple missing teeth.

Is It The Time for Invisalign?

The first step to take if you want to learn more about getting Invisalign is to set an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options and goals.

You may want to reach out to a dental practice that specializes in cosmetic dentistry – like our team at Jones & Copeland Smiles. Once your dentist determines if you are a good candidate for Invisalign, they will help you set up a payment plan and check coverage with your insurance provider.

Ready to take the first step and see if Invisalign is the best choice for you?

Connect with our dentists’ team at Jones & Copeland Smiles in Buford, GA, today by booking an appointment over the phone or online. You can even receive a virtual consultation with one of our dentists to get started!

First published on: Sep 9, 2020

Updated on: Apr 19, 2022

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Eric Jones

Dr. Eric Jones, a graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina and Clemson University, is a highly accomplished dentist with a passion for ongoing education and innovation. Holding fellowships with the Academy of General Dentistry and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, he maintains memberships in numerous professional organizations. He is a sought-after lecturer on cosmetic dentistry, a published researcher, and a clinical instructor for the Clinical Mastery Series. Dr. Jones' dedication to staying at the forefront of dental advancements ensures his patients receive the highest quality of care, prioritizing comfort and minimally invasive techniques.