Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that helps straighten teeth with a series of clear, removable plastic trays instead of typical metal braces. Founded in 1997, it's since been changing the face - or smile more specifically - of teeth straightening around the world.
Is it right for you, though? Or should you consider one of its cheaper alternatives? We've taken a look at what the Invisalign treatment looks like, how much it costs and whether it's covered by health insurance to help you save on your smile.
Invisalign aligners are designed to be near-invisible and are custom-made to each individual. Your treatment timeline can be broken up into four main stages.
1. Meet with your dentist or orthodontist for a consultation.
This is when you'll get a clear idea of cost and level of health insurance coverage. They will likely capture a 3D image of your teeth using a scanner and show you what your teeth will look like once the treatment is complete.
2. Get fitted for your first set of aligners.
Once your aligners are ready, they'll be trimmed to suit your gum line and your orthodontist will make sure they fit well. At each appointment, you'll be given enough sets of aligners to last until your next appointment, usually every 6-8 weeks.
3. Maintain your new routine.
Your dentist will discuss what you need to know but there are three important parts to any Invisalign routine:
- Wear your aligners for 20-22 hours per day
- Remove your aligners for eating and drinking (other than cold water)
- Floss and brush after each meal
4. Switch to a retainer once treatment is over.
Once you've completed your Invisalign treatment, it's recommended that you swap your clear aligners for a retainer. A retainer will prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original position. Initially, you'll have to wear your retainer between 12 and 22 hours per day depending on your doctor's advice. After 3-6 months, you can switch to just nighttime-wear.
While sporting near-invisible aligners sounds like a dream, for many people, the choice of whether to opt for Invisalign or one of the alternatives comes down to cost.
The cost of Invisalign treatment depends on a few factors such as your choice of dentist, how long the treatment takes and the complexity of your treatment plan. As a rough guide, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $8,000.
Individual doctors may offer payment plans so you won't have to pay the full amount upfront and you might also be entitled to cover your treatment through your health insurance provider.
How long does Invisalign treatment take?
The length of your treatment does depend on your individual needs but the average treatment time for Invisalign is from 12 to 18 months. Comparatively, the average period for traditional metal braces is 18 to 24 months.
Who can use Invisalign?
While braces can tackle the most difficult cases, Invisalign falls a little bit short. Patients with complex orthodontic cases or teens whose teeth are still growing might not be able to opt for the treatment. Your dentist or orthodontist will be able to advise you if Invisalign is an option in your case.
Is Invisalign covered by health insurance?
Yes, in some cases it is. If your extras insurance policy has orthodontics coverage, you may be able to get a rebate for treatment. Invisalign treatment is usually categorised under "major dental".
Medical benefits do differ significantly from provider to provider, however, so it's best to check your insurance policy. Not all health funds cover Invisalign treatment and if you're taking out insurance for the first time, you might have a 12-month waiting period before you can claim.
These days, you have a lot to consider when weighing up the choices of orthodontic treatment. With so many options on the market now, there's likely to be an ideal choice for you, you'll just need to decide which pros or cons matter the most. Here are some of the top Invisalign pros and cons to help make your decision easier.
- Clear aligners are virtually invisible
- Much easier to brush and floss during treatment
- You can eat whatever you want as aligners are removable
- Fewer consultations needed
- Patients will need the discipline to wear aligners for 22 hours per day
- Brushing and flossing is necessary every time you eat
- Aligners can get stained if not cleaned properly
- Removing aligners before meals can be messy
How does Invisalign compare to braces?
Invisalign clear aligners are certainly more aesthetically pleasing than traditional braces and can be considered more comfortable as well.
You can also eat and drink anything that you want, while braces prevent you from eating food that can damage the wires such as hard or brittle food, or chewy and sticky food that can get stuck.
Braces do have some advantages over Invisalign, however. They've been used in a variety of forms for centuries and have proven their effectiveness, especially with tricky cases. You also get 100% compliance with braces, as they can't be removed like Invisalign. This could be a huge positive for parents with teens who have difficulty remembering to wear their removable aligners.
How do you clean Invisalign retainers?
To keep your aligners clean, remove them before meals and drinks. Rinse your aligners every night and give them a gentle brush with your toothbrush.
Does Invisalign hurt?
Yes, Invisalign can feel uncomfortable, especially after inserting your first aligners and in the days after changing to a new set of aligners. Your teeth might feel soreness because of the pressure being exerted but this discomfort is normal.
How does Invisalign make you look and sound when wearing it?
Invisalign's clear aligners are designed to be near-invisible and it can be difficult for anyone to tell that you are wearing anything on your teeth. Most people quickly adjust to wearing Invisalign and don't have a problem speaking with them but you might experience a slight lisp in your first few days.
Can you eat and drink while wearing an Invisalign?
No, you should remove your aligners to consume anything other than cool water. This helps prevent staining them, warping your aligners with hot beverages and avoids cavities from sugary food.