What is Invisalign | Complete Guide to Teeth Straightening

A Guide to Invisalign Teeth Straightening

Have you been feeling self-conscious about your teeth? Would you love straighter teeth but don’t want braces? If you have been wondering if Invisalign clear aligners can straighten your teeth, we have put together this guide to help you decide if Invisalign is right for you.

Maybe you think you could not possibly correct your teeth with clear aligners. A few years ago, more severe orthodontic issues would most likely need fixed braces to fix. And even now, most clear aligners will not be able to treat acute bite misalignments. So what is Invisalign, and why is it different? 

Besides being the first to receive FDA approval, and the longest-running aligner system, Invisalign works for almost all orthodontic corrections.  

What is Invisalign?

To date, Invisalign aligners have been used by over eight million patients. Made from clear plastic, they fit snugly over your teeth and apply pressure to move them over time into alignment. 

The world’s first clear aligner teeth straightening system, Invisalign, was invented by two graduates of Stanford University in 1997. After approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a successful launch in the US, Invisalign® was launched in Europe in 2001. 

Since then, Invisalign has continued to invest in technology and research to provide new options and treat a broader range of orthodontic problems.  

What Invisalign Can and Can’t Do

Invisalign is an orthodontic teeth straightening system that can correct the bite and alignment of teeth. According to a systematic review of Invisalign®, success with Invisalign is high, and “ongoing research and development have allowed treatment of more complex malocclusions.” 

Clinical trials have shown that Invisalign can fix

  • Gappy teeth
  • Underbite
  • Overbite
  • Open bite
  • Crowded teeth  
  • Overlapping teeth.

Unlike other brands of aligners, Invisalign can successfully realign the jaw and is suitable for all but the most extreme orthodontic cases.

Invisalign vs Metal Braces

Invisalign and metal braces work similarly, by applying pressure to teeth to move them and realign the jaw to correct an overbite or underbite. However, there are some noticeable key differences between Invisalign and metal braces, not least that you can remove Invisalign. 

A common misconception is that metal braces will work faster than Invisalign. Research has shown this is not usually the case, and depending on the orthodontic correction required, Invisalign can often produce faster results than metal braces. 

Here a four key benefits of Invisalign vs metal braces:

  1. Fewer dental appointments — Conventional braces require the brackets and wires to be tightened and screwed in every couple of weeks. Invisalign only requires dental appointments every six to eight weeks. 
  2. More comfortable — Invisalign applies an even amount of pressure over time, which means you don’t have the discomfort or pain associated with the tightening or adjusting required for metal braces.
  3. Eat what you want — As you remove Invisalign aligners when eating, you can eat whatever you want without feeling self-conscious about bits of food getting stuck in your braces.  
  4. Whiter teeth — Metal braces can make it harder to brush and floss teeth and cause areas of the teeth to discolour. Invisalign is removed, allowing you to brush the entire teeth surface and floss easily, helping to keep teeth whiter and gums healthier. 

Is Invisalign Suitable for Everyone?

Invisalign may not be suitable for certain complex cases that typically require oral surgery. Additionally, discipline is necessary for Invisalign as you need to wear them 22 hours a day. If you know you will find it difficult to resist the temptation to take your aligners out for periods, then you might want to consider a fixed brace.

You must also be realistic about how you will feel when wearing your aligners. Although most people find them easy to wear, if you are concerned about people noticing them, they are probably not suitable for you. 

Can You Get Invisalign with Missing Teeth?

In most cases, you can have Invisalign treatment with missing teeth. Orthodontic treatments to straighten teeth such as Invisalign are recommended before other types of restorative dental work. Gaps caused by missing teeth can cause the teeth on either side to move into the space. This can make it difficult to have enough room for permanent dental implants. 

Typically Invisalign can help to expand or shrink the space to accommodate a dental implant better. Occasionally, depending on where missing teeth are located and how many are missing, your dentist may advise you to have dental implants before Invisalign treatment. The great news is that using Invisalign with implants is not a problem.

Other dental treatments that Invisalign can be used with include crowns, composite bonding for chipped teeth, and veneers. 

Can You Get Invisalign with Gum Disease?

Orthodontic treatment applies pressure to the teeth, requiring them to be stable. Gum disease can cause bone loss and unstable teeth, which could be negatively affected by Invisalign or any orthodontic teeth straightening treatment. But with treatment and good oral hygiene, you can reverse gum disease.

There are two stages to gum disease. The first stage is called gingivitis which causes inflammation and can result in gums bleeding when brushing and flossing. Following a professional dental clean and twice-daily brushing and flossing, you can reverse gingivitis within two to three weeks.

Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease and causes gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap bacteria. The bacteria will ultimately attack the bone and connective tissue, eventually leading to teeth falling out. To reverse periodontitis, you will need more than one deep clean to remove the plaque and tartar below the gumline. Your gums will need to heal between each clean, and it may take several months before you can start Invisalign treatment. 

Once your gums are secure, and the bone is stable, you can have Invisalign treatment. In the long term, straight teeth have many surprising health benefits, including healthier gums!

How Long Does Invisalign Take?

On average standard Invisalign treatment takes between 6 and 12 months. However, more severe orthodontic correction treatment can take up to three years (similar to metal braces). When only moderate correction is needed, it is possible to fix with Invisalign Lite, which will usually take around six to seven months. 

Minor correction can be treated even faster with Invisalign Express, which can be completed within three months. Due to limited suitability, Invisalign Express is recommended less often than Invisalign Lite, also referred to as six-month smiles.

The most common question is how long Invisalign takes to fix an overbite. This is not surprising as overbites comprise approximately 70% of all orthodontic conditions. Overbites can differ significantly, making it challenging to give an average time to fix one. Typically, you can expect treatment for an overbite with Invisalign to take between 6 and 20 months.

What is Invisalign with Attachments?

Treating complex orthodontic issues with Invisalign clear aligners may require the addition of Invisalign attachments. They are commonly confused with Invisalign buttons, which are placed inside the aligners to enable the use of rubber bands to provide additional force. 

The critical difference is that Invisalign attachments are bonded to individual teeth that are not moving in alignment with the other teeth. Attachments match your tooth colour and can be round, square, or triangle shaped. When your treatment is complete, the attachments can only be removed by your dentist. 

Invisalign Fitting with a Dentist

The first step is often a virtual, free-of-charge consultation to discuss your goals. However, Invisalign can only be provided by an Invisalign expert and will always require a face-to-face appointment. If you have been advised that a dentist can do everything virtually, this is not real Invisalign treatment.

At your face-to-face appointment, your dentist uses scans of your teeth to create 3D images and a 3D model of your teeth. You will be shown how your teeth will look when your treatment is complete before the aligners are ordered.

You will collect your Invisalign aligners approximately two weeks later from your dentist. You must always wear your aligners, apart from when eating. Although it may seem logical that if you need to wear them for 22 hours, you can leave them out for a couple of hours a day, this is not advisable. The two hours account for the time it takes you to eat, brush and floss when you are not wearing your aligners. 

You will be provided with a series of aligners that will typically need to be worn for one week. Your dentist will give you a clear plan outlining when you need to switch to the next aligner in your series. Although we know it may be tempting to switch your aligners sooner, moving on to the next aligner at the correct time is critical for the most effective results.

How Often Do You Have Invisalign Appointments?

Invisalign appointments will typically be every six to eight weeks. These face-to-face appointments are what stand Invisalign apart from other makes of clear aligners. In-person checks allow your dentist to accurately assess how your teeth are moving and if buttons or attachments are required.

At Smile Stories, we use advanced remote dental monitoring for weekly check-ins. This means we can see if your teeth have moved into their correct positions before changing the aligners, creating more efficient treatment.

Additionally, you can have other routine treatments such as teeth cleaning, and regular appointments allow your dentist to check your gum and mouth health. This is especially important if you were treated for gum disease before starting Invisalign treatment. 

Invisalign Q&A

  1. Can you buy Invisalign online?

No, Invisalign can only be provided by registered Invisalign providers, and you will always need a face-to-face appointment. Any clear aligner system sold online is not Invisalign, and probably not safe either!

  1. Is Invisalign obvious?

Invisalign is easy to miss unless you are close up. There is no doubt that if you look closely, you can see them. After all, they are made from clear plastic, not magic! But compared to most types of metal braces, they are barely noticeable. 

  1. Can I Have Invisalign Plus whitening?

Absolutely, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your teeth whitened before starting or even during your Invisalign treatments. As your aligners are see-through, teeth whitening can give you an extra boost of confidence before starting treatment. 

  1. Do Invisalign aligners hurt?

Generally, patients do not find Invisalign treatment painful. However, some discomfort is expected for a couple of days when starting treatment and each time you switch to the next set of aligners.

  1. How do you clean Invisalign clear aligners? 

You can clean your Invisalign aligners with:

  • Soapy water and your toothbrush
  • Soaking in cleaning crystals 
  • Using EverSmile foam, 
  • A mini ultrasonic cleaner
  1. How much does Invisalign cost?

The cost will depend on the severity of your orthodontic issue, how many aligners you need, and the duration of your treatment. As a guide, Invisalign normally costs between £1,500 to £4,250. 

You will likely pay more for Invisalign than conventional metal braces. However, you could easily spend thousands of pounds more for lingual braces, which are fixed behind your teeth. Below is a price comparison for the most popular alternatives to Invisalign treatment.

  • Lingual braces = £2,000 to £10,000
  • Ceramic braces = £2,000 to £6,000
  • Clear braces = £3,500 to £4,500. 

Although the exact cost of both Invisalign and other orthodontic treatments will vary, we hope this provides an idea from a cost aspect to help you decide if Invisalign is worth it. 

Want some complementary information about your suitability for Invisalign?

At Smile Stories Bournemouth dental clinic, all you need to do is book a free Smile Makeover Video Consultation with us. Why shouldn’t you enjoy a lifetime of smile confidence?


Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) is a Poole and Bournemouth-based dentist who qualified with honours. He has a keen interest in aesthetic dentistry and orthodontics. For more information, click here.

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