How Does Invisalign Work?


Invisalign® is a standard dental, orthodontic procedure to reposition your teeth so that they are straight and have the correct spacing. It is an alternative and distinctively different method as compared to the use of metal braces. It involves an iterative process of applying a series of clear plastic retainers (up to 40 over time) that incrementally repositions and spaces your teeth to where they should be. Both orthodontic methods eventually achieve the same results.

The Invisalign® procedure goes something like this:

  • After an initial consultation and assessment of your smile and teeth alignment, your Invisalign® dentist will take an impression (mould) of your teeth using a special “dental putty” and take several photographs of your teeth and smile from different angles.
  • A 3D digital model of your teeth is then created at the Invisalign® laboratory using a CT scanner.
  • The model is used as a basis to generate a simulation of your teeth movement from their current position to the final desired position.
  • This simulation is then used as the basis to design your aligners, which are custom-made for your teeth and will be changed every two weeks as your teeth move little by little.
  • Your newly fabricated aligners will then be sent back to your dentist, along with the 3D simulation, so that you can see for yourself the expected movement of your teeth over time.
  • Your dentist will give you strict instructions on how to use the aligners. They must be worn for a minimum of 20 hours a day; the success of the treatment is highly dependent on your compliance as a patient and requires dedication.
  • You will have regular checkups with your dentist to ensure that your treatment is going as initially planned.


I don’t know about you, but I like to do some research on procedures like this before I jump off the cliff. Feedback from people just like me that used the Invisalign® process can provide some critical insight that will either give you the green light to move forward or revisit some issues with your dentist. In this case, my research turned up a recent article by Anna Monette Roberts, 11 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Invisalign (1). Don’t panic, it’s all good. Anna cites two primary observations:

  • Compared to metal braces, you don’t mind smiling since the Invisalign® retainers are virtually transparent plastic and not overtly noticeable.
  • The Invisalign® retainers stain easily from drinking anything except cold or clear sparkling water.

The entire article is a fascinating read. I highly recommend you take the time and read it. It will set your expectations in a realistic light. Knowledge is power and Invisalign® has some rather inconvenient truths.

Invisalign® vs. Braces

This is the inevitable question before you make the choice of procedure. Comparison shopping in our day and age of access to comprehensive and unbiased online information is the first smart choice we all need to make. The website, The Happy Tooth (2), does an excellent job of doing the various comparisons for you in a clear and unbiased way. The essential comparisons are contained in a table that I will repeat in part here for your convenience, but the entire discussion has value far beyond the table. This information is from the dentists point of view and is presented in a fair, objective and factual manner. The key points:

  • Braces (irremovable); Invisalign® (removable)
  • Braces Treatment time 24/7 for an average of 2 years; Invisalign® Treatment time 22-24 hrs/day for 6 to 18 months
  • Braces Cost $1,800-$5,500; Invisalign® Average Cost $5,000

How Much Does Invisalign® Actually Cost?

I showed you a number in the Braces vs. Invisalign® section above of an average cost of $5000 for a full treatment. However, there is more to that story. Let’s investigate those numbers looking at the details rather than averages. Statistics such as “average” can distort reality sometimes. We will also compare prices across countries and look at Canada and the UK as well as the USA.

From the website (3), we can see the pricing in the USA isn’t as simple as $5000. Animated-Teeth reports that information found on the Invisalign® website (April 2012) states that the cost of treatment is typically $3500 to $8000. Invisalign Express sits at the lower end of the cost scale and Invisalign Full and Teen sits at the higher end.

Now, dental insurance can reduce that cost significantly depending on your policy coverage. From Animated-Teeth, this is a typical dental insurance scenario:

Dental insurance policies vary widely, so it’s impossible for us to provide any type of definitive answer regarding coverage for braces. However, the following information frequently applies.

  • Many policies state that they’ll pay 50% of the cost of orthodontic treatment per covered individual.
  • There’s frequently a maximum limit (which is often on the order of $1500 to $3000).
  • There may be an age-limit restriction that applies (as in coverage is provided for children but not adults).
  • The “maximum limit” is typically a lifetime one, meaning that once benefits have been exhausted there are no further benefits available for re-treatment later in life.

Regarding non-traditional braces such as Invisalign®, if an insurance policy does provide coverage for “orthodontic treatment,” there is typically no limitation about which particular technique is utilized. So yes, benefits usually apply.

Now, how about Canada? What does it cost to get your teeth straightened there? A dental provider in Canada, Dawson Dental, advertises their prices on their website, (4). This is what they have to say in Canadian dollars.

  • Invisalign Express Treatment – $1995 – $3900 Canadian; $2593 – $5070 USD
  • Invisalign Full and Teen – $4900-$6450 Canadian; $6370 – $8385 USD

Those numbers are comparable.

In the United Kingdom, the Cosmetic Dentistry Guide website (5), gives us a cost range of 1500 – 5000 British pounds which at an approximate exchange rate of .65 dollars to the pound is $975 – $3250 which is considerably less.

The costs are comparable and the time to complete the treatment is also very close for either braces or Invisalign® as we’ve seen in the discussion up to this point. It comes down to a consideration of aesthetics and convenience for most. Either one is a highly personal experience. Invisalign® offers a more agile and removable option as well as an aesthetically more pleasing appearance. However, both affect the quality of life for as much as 2 years or more.

Antonia is a science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition. She has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. Read more by Antonia here, and SUBSCRIBE!

Sources for this article include:

A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. (