What is the Invisalign reality – does it live up to all of the expectation and the hype?
Invisalign revolutionized the world of orthodontics, and people love it. Every year, more and more people choose Invisalign clear aligners for teeth straightening or even for complex cases of crowded teeth, crooked teeth, etc., over conventional orthodontic treatments like traditional metal braces. As a matter of fact, the brand achieved its 8 million patient milestone in 2019, and this trend is only expected to grow in the coming years. So what really makes Invisalign treatment special? How are invisible braces different from other clear braces on the market? Is Invisalign reality and success stories actually true?
After scouring the internet for Invisalign reviews and stories of real Invisalign experiences from actual patients, we have compiled everything you need to know about the Invisalign system and treatment plan.
First, understanding the treatment
Before diving deep into the rabbit hole of Invisalign reviews, it would be best to have a good understanding of the science behind tooth movement with a few lessons in orthodontics.
While different types of malocclusions differ in nature, one’s Invisalign journey is not too different from the others.
In order to move teeth safely and effectively to their desired positions, dental professionals apply consistent pressure to the teeth to force the surrounding roots and supporting bones to allow teeth movement without breaking or losing the strong attachment of the tooth. The surrounding tissues that support and hold teeth in place can either compress or stretch. This is triggered by cell activation at the base of the teeth.
In traditional braces, the brackets are glued on the surface of the teeth to hold the archwires in place, which then applies pressure to the teeth. Dental providers can tighten the braces at regular intervals to keep the pressure and force movements. Over time, the teeth move into their desired positions as the ligaments compress or stretch, forming new bones underneath and filling the gaps left behind in the movement. In simpler terms, the dental work in braces banks on cell activation to correct malocclusions and straighten teeth. Clear aligner treatment like Invisalign uses this same idea.
In a nutshell: How Invisalign work and correct malocclusions
Like traditional braces, clear plastic aligners like Invisalign bank on cell activation to fix malocclusions. But instead of pulling or pushing the tooth to trigger cell activation at the root, it moves both the teeth and their roots all at the same time. This is where Invisalign magic happens.
Rather than attaching to the surface of the teeth through brackets, and pulling or pushing teeth by tightening the wires, Invisalign work by applying consistent pressure to the entire arch of the teeth (upper and/or lower teeth) by enclosing the full row of the teeth like a mouthguard.
Every Invisalign provider works with Invisalign to make the perfect-fitting aligners. The process starts with a consultation. This is where your teeth and general oral health will be checked thoroughly for a comprehensive treatment plan.
Invisalign providers then proceed on making digital 3D scans using a special app to snap over 6,000 photos of your teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Some dentists also use putty molds to get a good impression of your teeth and gums. From here, your digital scan and teeth impression will be sent to Invisalign. They will use your samples to craft the aligner trays.
Each Invisalign clear aligner tray is designed to fit your teeth snugly and apply pressure on your teeth and gradually move them in their desired positions. On average, the clear aligner trays move teeth by a quarter or half a millimeter for every aligner set. Each tray puts pressure on the teeth to gradually move them to the right position and direction.
Depending on the complexity and severity of the malocclusion, the full Invisalign treatment can be 6 months to a year or more. More complex and severe types of malocclusions, of course, take longer with an average of 18 months to over 2 years or so.
Pros and Cons of Invisalign Treatment over Traditional Braces
While the traditional metal braces are still widely considered the gold standard of orthodontic treatment, it comes with a lot of challenges that make people hesitate on getting them. For one, wearing braces is incredibly uncomfortable in the mouth. The brackets and wires also rub against the inside of the lips and gums which can cause chaffing and cuts on the inside of the cheeks. Secondly, they tend to look unsightly, making people who wear them self-conscious and ashamed to smile or even open their mouths to speak. Invisalign addressed all of these and more.
• Reasonably priced, if not affordable – While the cost of a full Invisalign treatment is comparable to traditional braces, the former requires fewer dental office visits. They don’t need re-adjustments or tightening, as you can easily swap your old aligner trays to a new set every two weeks or so, making them more affordable in the long run. Moreover, compared to newer types of braces like ceramic braces, self-litigating braces, and lingual braces, Invisalign is significantly more affordable.
• Virtually invisible – This is by far, the biggest advantage of clear aligners like Invisalign over traditional braces. As its name suggests, clear aligners are virtually invisible, making them more aesthetically pleasing than the brackets and wires that come with braces. Also, they are cut in the gum line, giving your teeth more natural and seamless look.
• Removable, making it convenient and practical – Invisalign clear aligners look like thinner mouthguards. And like mouthguards, they are removable. Unlike braces which are fixed to your teeth, clear aligners make it easy for you to clean both your teeth and the aligners. Since you don’t have to worry about food debris getting trapped in the brackets and wires, there are not a lot of food and drink restrictions, as you can easily remove your aligners each time you eat or drink (you can drink water without removing your aligners though).
Also, it’s a convenient option for anyone preparing for a special day (wedding, photoshoot, etc.), or if you play sports like basketball, football, or martial arts.
• Easy cleaning ¬- And since they are removable, cleaning them is super easy. You can simply use a soft-bristled toothbrush, baking soda, and warm water and brush it gently to remove debris. For cloudy trays, you can soak your aligner in a bowl of water and hydrogen peroxide (in equal amounts) for a couple of hours to make them clean, clear, and fresh again.
• In-person checkups to track your progress – As with traditional braces, you will need to visit your Invisalign provider every six weeks to track your progress. Your dentist or orthodontist will make sure your treatment is going according to plan and address any potential issues before they become serious problems.
• Comfortable – Invisalign aligners are slim and customized to fit perfectly and snugly to your teeth. Thus, they are far more comfortable than any type of braces and are the most comfortable brand of clear aligner in the market. And since the trays are trimmed on the gum line, aligners feel seamless in the mouth.
• Kids can have them too – Younger orthodontic patients don’t usually have the patience and tolerance to endure the discomfort and pain of traditional braces. Moreover, kids hate the way braces look in their mouths. Invisalign on the other hand, do not cause significant pain, soreness, or anything like that. Thus, there are no problems for kids getting this orthodontic treatment.
• Requires compliance – The challenge for many patients is compliance with the treatment. Unlike braces, Invisalign is not fixed to the teeth. You have to religiously follow the guidelines of wearing them for at least 22 hours a day, every day, throughout the duration of the treatment, and not get tempted to remove them, even when you sleep.
• Most expensive clear aligner – Invisalign is expensive compared to other brands of clear aligners in the market. However, the treatment process, clear aligner quality, and commitment to their service can easily justify its price tag. From the consultation, getting your dental scans and impressions, making comfortable and efficient aligners, and overall effectiveness of the treatment, Invisalign is worth every dollar you spend.
• Not suitable for all types of dental problems – While Invisalign can fix wide range of malocclusions, it is not designed for all types of malocclusions, especially those with rotated teeth, large gaps, and severe cases of underbite and overbite.
• Requires maximum attention to oral health – You will need to accept the fact that you have to clean your mouth (brush your teeth or even floss), each time you eat anything throughout your treatment period with Invisalign. This is because food debris trapped between the tiny spaces of your teeth can easily thrive when enclosed with the aligners. Thus, you have to carry a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss anywhere you go.
Moreover, colored drinks and sugar from sweet beverages can damage your teeth. Thus, you have to remove your aligners when drinking anything other than water.
• Some food limitations too – Though not as much as traditional braces, there are also food restrictions with Invisalign. This is because your teeth may feel sore every time you remove the aligners to eat. Thus, to minimize further irritation and save your gums from soreness, you need to avoid hard-to-chew food, chewy foods, etc.
Things you should know (and accept) before getting Invisalign treatment
Without a doubt, Invisalign changed the landscape of orthodontic treatment. The hype around it made a nice and strong niche among adult and teenage patients who prefer a discreet alternative to conventional orthodontic treatments. If you are still not a hundred percent sure whether to get this treatment or not, then here is a quick primer to hopefully clear out some confusion and ultimately prepare you for what to expect with the treatment.
You have to wear the aligners as much as possible for it to work
For the treatment to work, you need to wear your clear aligners religiously, for at least 22 hours a day, every day, throughout the duration of the treatment. So make sure you are ready for that kind of commitment.
As said earlier, one of the biggest advantages of clear aligner trays like Invisalign is it is removable. You can remove it before eating and drinking (except when drinking water), when brushing and flossing your teeth, and cleaning the aligners. However, for it to be effective, you have to wear them much as possible. It feels awkward, even uncomfortable at first, but there is no dancing around it – you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. After all, things will feel better after a couple of days or so.
Prepare for some lisping at first
While they may be difficult to see and notice, expect to experience some lisping, especially during the first few weeks of the treatment. This is because your tongue is not used to the feeling of having those aligners on your teeth, yet. Fortunately, this gets better with time.
You will have to carry your toothbrush everywhere
Your travel toothbrush (and floss) will become indispensable. This is because you have to keep your teeth and maintain proper oral hygiene in between meals. Food debris that lingers in your mouth can increase the risk of irritation, cavities, and gum disease when trapped by the clear aligners.
Moreover, you need to be thorough in brushing and flossing to make sure no food particles remain in the crevices of your teeth.
You will need to reduce your coffee intake
Or any colored beverages in general. This is because colored drinks like fruit juices, wine, and tea can easily stain your aligners. So if you depend on a cup of coffee (or two) in the morning to give you a boost, you may not get to enjoy your morning coffee habit like you used to. You definitely need to factor it during your allotted time for breakfast or remove it before your second cup. And of course, always brush your teeth before putting the aligners back in.
Set realistic expectations
Just because it is labeled as a great teeth-straightening alternative and a modern innovation in orthodontics doesn’t mean it will work like magic. While the average treatment time for Invisalign clear aligner treatment is generally faster than traditional braces, you still need to set realistic expectations for yourself. Some patients may need longer treatment than anticipated. Some may be required to wear retainers longer. While some may need “finishing aligners” even after their supposed treatment.
While dentists and orthodontists factor in all of the factors of your malocclusion in coming up with the treatment plans and determining the duration of the treatment, the latter is a mere estimate based on their experience. Every person is different, some just have tougher teeth and bones that are stubborn to move. Thus, it is still on a case-by-case basis.
It is not for everyone
While the thought of wearing a discreet, almost invisible teeth-straightening dental appliance may sound more exciting than the conventional treatment of brackets and wires, the truth is, clear aligner treatment is not suitable for everyone.
Indeed, Invisalign can correct most orthodontic issues. But when it comes to the most complex and severe cases, however, you may get the best results (even quicker results) with traditional metal braces. If the malocclusion involves severe deep bites, wide teeth gaps, or rotated teeth, you may be better off with conventional braces.
To see whether you are a good candidate for Invisalign treatment, talk to an Invisalign provider. You can also take Invisalign’s Smile Assessment.
Wearing the snug-fit aligners is not painful (for the most part at least)
Although designed to fit snugly and feel tight on your teeth, Invisalign aligners don’t cause pain as compared to traditional braces. The brackets and wires of braces can dig to the cheeks and backside of the lips. Many times they can chafe and cause cuts that lead to canker sores, which can be extremely painful. You don’t have this kind of problem with clear aligners.
For the most part, the aligners can feel uncomfortable. There may be some mild pain due to the pressure, especially when you switch to a new set of aligners. The good news is, that this sensation gets better within a couple of days.
Do not use toothpaste when cleaning your aligners
These aren’t dentures, rather, these are a special type of plastic designed to fit your teeth. Most toothpastes in the market are abrasive, thus brushing your aligners with toothpaste can scratch them, leaving room for bacterial buildup in your aligners. This can make your aligner smell bad. Use mild detergent or soap with warm water instead.
You might lose weight
While there are not a lot of food restrictions with Invisalign, the thought of removing your aligners before eating, brushing, and flossing your teeth thoroughly before putting them back on may discourage you from munching on your usual midday snacks. The same goes with senseless snacking at your workplace and midnight snacks. This is a great bonus for anyone looking to shed some weight.
Not all Invisalign providers are made equal
For all the innovation and technological advancements the Invisalign system has to offer, a large part of the success of the treatment still lies in the hands of your dental service provider. Thus, you should choose a dentist or orthodontist who is well skilled and experienced in offering Invisalign treatment and correcting various types and severity of malocclusions.
Do your homework and search for the best Invisalign provider you can find near you. If possible, choose an orthodontist instead of a dentist. The former underwent continued training in teeth straightening and correcting bites and malocclusions.
Tips to get the most out of your Invisalign treatment
Be up to date with your Invisalign schedule
Each Invisalign tray is designed to last for one to two weeks before replacing for the next one. Make sure you keep on track with your intervals and change your aligners at a specified times based on your treatment plan. Your dentist will set the schedule for you based on how and where your teeth should move, and at what pace. Stick to the treatment plan and always be aware on when to switch to the next set.
You can set a reminder on your phone or write it down on your calendar or planner. Invisalign also has a treatment plan app where you can set reminders.
While delaying putting a new set of aligners will not automatically set you back in your estimated schedule, it can slow down your progress. And if you regularly miss out on your schedule that could definitely set you back in your treatment.
Also, make sure you visit your Invisalign provider’s clinic regularly for in-person checkups. Not only they will track your progress, your dental provider can also detect possible issues before they become serious problems, and make necessary changes in your treatment if needed.
Wear the aligners at least 22 hours a day
This is non-negotiable. If you want the treatment to work, you must comply with the instructions and follow the guidelines by the dot.
While this may seem obvious, many people skimp on wearing their aligners. This is actually evident in many Invisalign reviews and testimonials online; some people remove their aligners for an extended period of time or forget to put them back immediately on after eating or playing sports.
Many also take off their aligners too often for too long because they feel insecure about how they look or speak (slight lisp). While you can always remove your aligners for special occasions or reasons, such as a job interview, photoshoot, wedding, or playing contact sports, you should try to limit these instances. Moreover, the aligners are virtually invisible, which means they are barely noticeable.
Invisalign actually recommends wearing the aligners for 20 to 22 hours a day. However, it would be best to stick to 22 hours as much as possible. This is extremely important, specifically in the first couple of days of a new aligner set. To make this easier for you, you can actually track you time you have your aligners on throughout the day using a stopwatch or just a timer on your phone. The
Replace old aligner sets with a new ones at night
Each new set of aligners will feel extra tight and a little bit uncomfortable. They are designed that way to apply enough pressure to the teeth and force movement. The discomfort means the aligner is doing its job. But while knowing your aligners are doing their job may bring you some sense of comfort, you still want to minimize the discomfort and pain. One good trick for this is to wait until bedtime on days when you are supposed to switch to a new set of aligners.
The first several hours are the most painful when you switch to a new aligner set. However, you can get through it easily if you are asleep. Obviously, you can take over-the-counter pain medications to alleviate the pain and sleep better.
Watch what you eat
As said earlier, there aren’t a lot of food restrictions in Invisalign compared to traditional braces. However, what you eat can have an influence on your treatment.
For example, when you only have a couple of hours for lunch, you still have to squeeze in cleaning your teeth thoroughly in that given time period. Many people in this scenario end up avoiding snacks, since taking off the aligners to eat and brushing and flossing before putting them back in takes a lot of time and work. They end up losing weight in the process; this is why they call it the “Invisalign diet.”
While this may be a welcome side effect for people who are actually looking to lose some weight, it is not ideal for everybody, specifically those who are already in their ideal and healthy weight, those who are trying to gain weight, or highly active individuals (play a lot of sports, exercise regularly, etc.).
Talk to your general health provider or ask a nutritionist about how to make an effective diet plan that goes with your Invisalign treatment.
When it comes to your hydration, it would be better for your oral health if you drink extra water – a little more water than usual. This is because you will salivate more when wearing the aligners. Also, try sticking to water as much as possible. If you wish to drink fruit juices, protein shakes, etc., make sure you take off your aligners and you rinse your mouth thoroughly with water before putting the aligners back in.
Always carry a retainer case with you
Each time you have to take your aligner trays out, whether to eat, attend a social gathering, play sports, etc., you should always put them in their retainer case. Wrapping your clear aligners with a napkin is the easy way to lose them or accidentally throw them away. A retainer case will keep your trays safe and secured. Obviously, you want to keep the retainer case in your purse or bag.
Keep backup aligners
You never know when you may lose or accidentally break your aligner that is why it’s called an accident. Mishaps like this aren’t far from happening. However, you can always prepare for such a scenario by having backup aligners with you wherever you go.
Replacing Invisalign trays take about two weeks or so, which is a long time to go without wearing your teeth-straightening dental appliance. To make sure your teeth remain in their position, and not move to their old positions and lose valuable progress, wear your backup aligners.
Backup aligners are simply your previous sets of aligners. And when you get your replacement set in, make sure you restart the planned period for the set and adjust the reminders for when to replace and wear a new set of aligners in the future.
Always keep your aligners clean
The clear aligners are designed to be as clear as possible so that you can show the natural look of your teeth. This makes the aligner discreet and difficult to notice. However, food and colored beverages can easily stain them. And when they start to look cloudy, that means it is becoming feel icky in your mouth, which can lead to infection. To avoid this, you should keep your aligners clean all the time.
The best way to clean Invisalign’s clear aligners is through their aligner cleaning system. Using special cleaning crystals, this method takes about 15 minutes to completely remove plaque buildup from your aligners.
You can also soak your aligner in a bowl of mild soap with a warm water mixture and then brush it gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Take note, use warm water, and no hot water. Hot temperatures can cause the plastic of the aligner to bend. Also, do not brush it too hard as this can cause scratches to the aligner. Scratches give bacteria the tiny spaces to get trapped in and thrive.
Moreover, avoid smoking when you are wearing your aligners, and never chew gum with your aligners as gum could easily stick to the plastic or get trapped in the tooth pockets.
Always keep your mouth clean
This has been said multiple times throughout this article, but it is important to reiterate it over and over again.
Since the aligners fit snugly to the arch of the teeth, anything on your teeth and between your teeth can get trapped there by your clear aligners. The saliva will not be able to do its usual job of washing out food particles, bacteria, and plaque buildup. Thus, you need to do your part in making sure your teeth and gums are always clean.
Brush every after a meal (or even snacks) and floss your teeth thoroughly. Rinse your mouth with mouthwash to keep your breath fresh, and make sure to rinse the Invisalign trays before putting them back in.
Use teeth whitening toothpaste
If you are thinking of whitening your teeth, now is the best time to do it.
Since the aligners fit snugly to your teeth, they can keep substances held right up on your teeth for a longer period of time, without letting them wash away by your saliva. Use this to your advantage and brush your teeth using teeth whitening toothpaste.
Being able to whiten teeth during the teeth straightening or bite correction process is one of the big advantages of Invisalign over traditional metal braces. Typically for braces, dental professionals usually advise their patients to wait until the treatment is completed before getting their teeth whitened. This is because braces can cause uneven coloring of the teeth.
Invisalign on the other hand actually offers professional-grade teeth whitening products that can be used simultaneously with their aligners.
Invisalign is worth every penny and sacrifice. If you think you are a good candidate for Invisalign treatment, consult your dentist or orthodontist and get that beautiful smile you deserve!