Dreaming of a million-dollar smile? Exploring ways to get one? Odds are, you’ve heard of Invisalign.
And that’s not surprising: they were the first company to introduce clear aligners as the top alternative to traditional braces.
Like so many other pioneering businesses, though, Invisalign soon found itself with some competition. Is Invisalign still the best option on the clear aligner scene, or have their competitors surpassed them?
More importantly, is Invisalign right for you? There are a lot of factors to consider: treatment length, quality, financing, patient support, and more. Fortunately, that’s what we’re here to cover. This guide contains everything you need to know about Invisalign, so you can confidently decide if it’s a good fit.
One last note before we begin: this guide covers the details of Invisalign Full. If you’d like our take on Invisalign Express, look here.
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Invisalign burst on the scene in 1997 as a product of the medical device company Align Technology. Long story short: Invisalign was the first company to introduce clear aligners as an alternative to traditional braces. For nearly a decade, Invisalign held a monopoly on the industry.
Since then, plenty of competitors have thrown their hats in the ring. But Invisalign didn’t stagnate. They kept on improving their aligners, developing their attachments and elastics, and adding new product lines like Invisalign First and Invisalign Express. As a result, they’ve remained a household name and a highly-respected treatment.
One of the biggest advantages of in-office treatments like Invisalign is their versatility. Invisalign can handle tough and mild cases alike thanks to their tooth-colored SmartForce attachments. This means that the majority of people are good candidates for their treatment. That said, you’ll need a consultation with your local provider to know for sure. These consultations are usually pretty affordable with no strings attached, so it’s worth considering.
How Does Invisalign Work?
Since your orthodontist or dentist will oversee your Invisalign treatment, the entire process is relatively simple. To get the ball rolling, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist of choice. Here’s a fly-by of what you can expect from Invisalign’s full treatment process:
Step 1: You schedule and attend a consultation with your local Invisalign provider. The dentist will take a 3D scan of your teeth; if it looks like you’ll be a good candidate for treatment, then they will take impressions, too.
Step 2: Invisalign analyzes those impressions and uses them to design custom clear aligners for you. If your provider decides that you need any additional elastics or SmartForce attachments, the company will take that into account before manufacturing your aligners.
Step 3: Pay for your treatment all in one go, or arrange a payment plan with your orthodontist.
Step 4: Invisalign manufactures your custom aligners and sends them back to your provider. If you need any attachments, your orthodontist will install them now. Your orthodontist will also brief you on the ins and outs of aligner wear.
Step 5: You start wearing your aligners and any added elastics. Your orthodontist will also set up a schedule of regular check-ups.
Step 6: You wear your aligners for 22+ hours per day and go to an office visit every 4-6 weeks, and your teeth gradually shift into place.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Invisalign
Invisalign is the most versatile option on the clear aligner scene. Only traditional braces are more powerful. But compared to braces, Invisalign is nearly invisible (hence the name). The aligners’ discreet nature isn’t the only perk, though. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of using Invisalign:
✔ Since Invisalign is administered in person, the treatment is highly versatile. More importantly, though, Invisalign has a high customer satisfaction rate.
✔ While the details vary depending on your individual provider, most offer financing plans so you don’t have to pay the whole price at once.
✔ You get to choose your treatment provider yourself, allowing you to pick someone who fits your personality, budget, and more.
✔ Invisalign’s aligners are (reportedly) more comfortable than other competitors’ aligners thanks to their cutting edge SmartTrack plastic.
✔ Invisalign offers a variety of treatment options that allow you to customize your treatment to some extent.
✖ Invisalign is pretty expensive compared to other options. The average price hovers around $5,000, but we’ve seen a range of $3,000 and $8,000.
✖ Invisalign treatment usually lasts between 12 to 18 months, which is average for an in-office treatment method but slow compared to at-home aligner companies.
✖ Aftercare retainers are a necessity for any teeth straightening treatment, but with Invisalign, they typically cost extra. The exact price depends on your provider, but the typical cost is around $100.
Still curious about Invisalign? Check out our in-depth review below.
Invisalign: Treatment Efficiency
Everyone will have a slightly different Invisalign experience. That’s because everyone’s smile is different. Your treatment length depends on a couple factors:
- The severity of your teeth crowding or spacing
- The number of aligners in your treatment plan
- How long you wear your aligners each day
Invisalign’s average treatment time ranges from 12 to 18 months. If your case is mild, you might finish much faster (and you may be a candidate for Invisalign Express). But more extreme cases may take even longer. Despite your condition’s severity, though, you’ll need to wear your aligners for 22 hours per day.
Invisalign Patient Feedback
Normally, in our reviews, we like to include a summary of the reviews customers post on external websites to give you a feel for what others are saying. With some in-office treatments, it’s hard to pin down customer reviews; people normally review their orthodontist, not the Invisalign company itself.
Thankfully though, we’ve found some external reviews for Invisalign. Here’s a quick look at what people love (and don’t love) about Invisalign:
- Top loves: Teen-friendly usage; much more comfortable than braces (for customers who’ve had both); ability to eat anything throughout treatment
- Top complaints: Some aligners wore out too quickly; SmartForce attachments can come loose; basically as pricey as braces
Across the internet, Invisalign wins an overall score of 4.5/5. Given the sheer number of Invisalign customers, that’s a strong score that should instill a lot of confidence in their product.
Invisalign Prices and Features
If there’s one clear drawback to Invisalign, it’s their overall price point. Let’s be clear: it’s a fair price, but it’s one you’ll want to budget for. Here’s a quick glance at how Invisalign will impact your wallet:
1) Initial consultation, cost varies: To start your treatment, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with your local Invisalign provider. The provider will set the costs for this consultation, so it’s tough to give a standard “sticker price” for this. You can locate a provider by using Invisalign’s Doctor Locator.
2) Total cost of treatment, $3,000-8,000 ($5,000 average): It’s impossible for us to list the exact price you’ll pay for your Invisalign treatment. In general, the less severe your case, the cheaper your treatment will be.
3) Aftercare retainers, $100-$300: Like your treatment, the exact price for your aftercare retainers will depend on your provider’s fees. The average price tag falls between $100-$300, though. That’s not a huge cost, but one you should include in your budget.
If you’re thinking $5,000 or so seems like too much to pay all at once, you’re not alone. Technically, you could pay the whole thing up front, but for in-office treatments, a lot of people prefer financing options. Your Invisalign provider most likely offers some sort of payment plan; you should inquire with them for the full details.
Invisalign Patient Support
Technically speaking, you can reach out directly to Invisalign’s customer support on their website. However, that’s probably not the best support method.
If you ever have issues related to your treatment—you lose an aligner, an aligner cracks, you have payment problems, or one of your attachments falls off—you’ll be better off talking with your Invisalign provider, who is better equipped to solve those issues.
As an added plus, you’ll get very personal, customized support from your dentist or orthodontist. Some other companies direct all questions and concerns to remote customer service representatives. They’re helpful, but they don’t know your case as well as your provider. Because your dentist knows you and your teeth personally, they can provide top-notch Invisalign customer support.
Best Invisalign Alternatives
Is Invisalign right for you? Your smile is a big decision, and you get to keep it for life. So you should definitely take some time to consider all the available options. In-office treatments like Invisalign and ClearCorrect are the most traditional, but let’s not forget at-home aligner companies.
As a general rule, people with more extreme cases will need to stick with in-office treatments. The in-person orthodontist oversight ensures that your case gets the dedicated care it needs. That said, people with mild and moderate cases may be good candidates for at-home aligners.
With that in mind, here are some of our favorite alternatives to Invisalign:
ClearCorrect isn’t as well-known as Invisalign, but they’re quite similar. In fact, in many aspects, ClearCorrect and Invisalign are twins. But ClearCorrect is a touch cheaper, making them a better option for individuals who need in-office treatment but also need to stick to a budget.
We’ve ranked Byte as our top at-home aligner company, and for good reason. Their treatment times are the shortest in the industry, they’re affordable, and they offer an unbeatable Byte–for–Life guarantee that prioritizes your satisfaction for all time.
Orthodontic treatment is a lot of things, but it’s not affordable…usually. But with a sticker price of $1,145, AlignerCo is the exception. They’re truly budget-friendly, but they don’t sacrifice quality in the name of low prices, either.
Should You Use Invisalign?
Invisalign is the most well-known clear aligner company, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right for everyone. Your smile is unique, and your treatment should fit your needs. Let’s talk about when you should use Invisalign and when you should steer clear.
✔ When to use Invisalign:
Use Invisalign if you want the peace of mind that comes from working with the most well-established brand in the industry.
✖ When NOT to use Invisalign:
Avoid Invisalign if your budget is tight. Invisalign’s cost is basically the same as traditional braces. There are also better options if you’re in a rush to get your perfect smile. If your schedule makes it difficult to schedule and maintain appointments with your dentist, then you may want to pick an at-home aligner company instead, like Byte or AlignerCo.
All told, Invisalign is the most reputable company on the clear aligner scene. The name “Invisalign” invokes a lot of confidence. Plus, if you need the added care of in-office treatment, Invisalign can handle your case with ease.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between Invisalign and companies like Smile Direct?
Invisalign is administered in-person by a dentist or orthodontist. That means you’ll need to attend office visits (and pay the accompanying fee). Smile Direct is one of the biggest names in the at-home aligner scene, which is a bit different. At-home aligners don’t require in-office visits. They ship customized aligners directly to your home, and they’re generally cheaper, too. The downside is that you won’t get direct orthodontist oversight throughout your treatment.
What if I’m not happy with the outcome?
With Invisalign, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be dissatisfied with your results. That’s because your dentist or orthodontist will make any adjustments to correct minor issues long before they become major ones. That said, if you’re looking for a “satisfaction guarantee” or a “warranty” in the usual sense, you’ll need to touch base with your treatment provider. The individual dentists and orthodontists usually handle these issues.
Does Invisalign have a nighttime-only treatment option?
No. Your Invisalign treatment success hinges on the fact that you wear your aligners for at least 22 hours per day. If you’re intrigued by nighttime treatment, look into Byte or AlignerCo; in our opinion, those two companies are the best nighttime options.
Do I need an X-ray before getting treatment with Invisalign?
Usually, you do not need an X-ray before Invisalign treatment. 3D scans and impressions are more important. However, your chosen dentist will make the final call on X-rays.
Is Invisalign better than traditional braces?
It depends on what you mean by “better.” In terms of power and versatility, braces are the be-all, end-all. Traditional brackets and wires haven’t ever met a case that they couldn’t handle. Invisalign is more versatile than basic clear aligners, but there are a few cases they can’t treat. That said, Invisalign is nearly invisible. Braces? Not so much. As for which is better, you’ll have to choose according to your priorities.
Is Invisalign cheaper than traditional braces?
While each case is different, you’ll probably spend about the same amount with traditional braces and Invisalign. Their exact sticker prices depend on your orthodontist’s fees and your condition severity, but they’re usually similar.
Do Invisalign results last forever?
Your Invisalign treatment should be pretty set in stone—as long as you wear your aftercare retainers. Teeth tend to shift back to their original positions if you let them. Your retainers will keep that from happening. Provided you wear them as recommended by your dentist, your new, perfect smile will stay that way.
Can I whiten my teeth during Invisalign treatment?
It depends. If you have attachments installed, you’ll need to stay away from whitening until your treatment is finished. That will prevent any odd stains from forming on your teeth. If you’re using aligners alone, you may be able to whiten mid-treatment. The catch? Some whiteners can damage the plastic in your aligners. If you must whiten simultaneously, we suggest that you contact your dentist for recommendations on aligner-safe whitening formulas.
Is there an age requirement for Invisalign?
A lot of clear aligner companies have strict age guidelines for their treatment. Invisalign is unique because they actually have options for a variety of ages. Invisalign Full (what people normally think of when they hear “Invisalign”) is reserved for teens and up. But the company also offers Invisalign First. This system is ideal for littles who show signs of future dental issues; Invisalign First will help keep minor issues from becoming major ones.
Will Invisalign make me talk funny?
With any clear aligner system, you have a foreign object in your mouth. That’s unavoidable. So, your mouth might feel a bit funny, and you could have the slightest hint of a lisp. For most people, though, the aligners are minimally invasive and practically imperceptible to others.
How many hours a day should I wear my Invisalign aligners?
Invisalign aligners need to be worn for a minimum of 22 hours per day. As a general rule, you should only take out your aligners to eat, drink, brush, or floss.
Can I drink coffee while using Invisalign?
You should not eat or drink anything (except water) with your aligners in, no matter which company you choose. That said, you can remove them during meals and snacks, drink, replace them, and repeat as needed.
What happens if I lose my aligners (or retainers)?
If you lose an aligner or retainer, you should contact your Invisalign provider. They will help you sort through the situation. Your provider will also set the “rules” on how much it costs to replace an aligner or retainer. Some providers will give you one “free” lost or broken aligner set, and some won’t.
Is Invisalign covered by insurance?
That depends on your policy. If you receive orthodontic benefits, then your insurance will likely reimburse you for your treatment. We recommend that you check with your provider before committing to treatment, just to make sure.