Invisalign™ aligners can be an alternative to braces for straightening teeth. Learn more about clear aligners, who can get them, and how they work.
Do you want to straighten your teeth, but don't want traditional braces? Invisalign™ aligners* and other types of clear aligners may offer a more discreet look and greater flexibility than metal braces.
Made from clear plastic that's moulded to fit over your teeth, these removable aligners can correct mild to moderate orthodontic issues. Search for a dentist near you to find out if they offer Invisalign™ treatment.
Who can get Invisalign™ treatment?
Not everyone is a candidate for Invisalign aligners™ or other types of clear aligners. These treatments tend to be most effective for people with mild to moderate orthodontic problems, such as:
- teeth that are slightly crooked or stick out
- mild overbite or underbite
- minor gaps between teeth
If you need more thorough teeth straightening, a dentist or orthodontist might recommend braces.
Because they’re removable, clear aligners aren’t always the right option for younger teens or anyone else who may struggle to wear the aligners as instructed. And, generally, children should wait to undergo orthodontic treatment until all or most of their permanent teeth are finished growing in.
How do clear aligners work?
Dental professionals custom-make aligners to fit snugly over the teeth, similar to a mouthguard. Like braces, they apply gentle pressure to slowly move teeth into straighter positions over time. While braces achieve this through regular adjustments, you’ll need to replace aligners every few weeks with a new set.
Your dentist or orthodontist will take a mould of your teeth and use this to design a complete series of aligners. You might also have the chance to see a digital approximation of your post-treatment smile.
Depending on your orthodontic needs, Invisalign™ treatment might take about 6–18 months to complete. Your dentist or orthodontist will schedule regular appointments every few weeks or months to check your progress and provide your next few sets of aligners.
Do Invisalign™ aligners or other clear aligners hurt?
Even though dentists create aligners to fit your mouth, it can take some time to get used to how they feel. Because they’re putting pressure on your teeth in order to move them, your teeth might feel a little tender. The aligner trays might also irritate soft tissues like your gums or tongue.
Your mouth should adjust to these differences over time, but you can use over-the-counter pain medication to try and manage any discomfort. A dentist will be able to give you more specific advice based on your treatment, too.
Especially if your aligner tray is causing irritation that’s not getting better after a few weeks, speak with your dentist or orthodontist about the fit.
How to clean clear aligners
You’ll need to clean the clear aligners themselves, usually once or twice a day.
- Remove your aligner trays.
- Gently clean each tray with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a cleaning solution.
- Rinse with lukewarm water.
- Make sure you’ve flossed and cleaned your teeth before putting the aligners back in your mouth.
Avoid using toothpaste on the aligners, especially abrasive pastes which can risk scratching or damaging the surface. (Broadly speaking, more abrasive toothpastes tend to include ones that are designed to whiten teeth, especially charcoal versions.)
Your dentist or orthodontist may give you a special cleaning solution to use. If you don’t have a specialised cleaning solution, try a denture-cleaning product (usually sold at most chemists or supermarkets). Just be sure to speak with your dentist or orthodontist about using these sorts of products, since their instructions might not be completely appropriate for your aligner trays. For example, some denture cleaning products will recommend soaking the dental appliance for longer than you should soak an Invisalign™ tray.
You should still brush and floss your teeth to keep them healthy and lower your risk of oral health problems that could interfere with your treatment. Unlike braces, you can take out your aligners for activities like eating or brushing your teeth. For some people, this may make them an easier-to-clean option than traditional braces.
How long do I need to wear the aligners?
You’ll need to wear the aligner trays as much as possible for the treatment to be effective, around 20–22 hours a day. Your dentist or orthodontist will give you specific instructions on how and when to wear the aligners. If you don’t follow these instructions, you might risk lengthening your treatment time (which might mean expanding costs, too!).
Are there alternatives to Invisalign™ treatment?
Invisalign™ aligners are just one brand of clear aligners. There may be other types of clear aligner treatments that fit your circumstances better.
Depending on the orthodontic issue and your own preferences, a dentist might recommend a treatment that doesn’t involve clear aligners at all. Braces are one alternative, and there may be more discreet-looking options like clear braces, tooth-coloured ceramic braces or lingual braces.
Dental veneers are a cosmetic option that can cover up slightly crooked or gaps in your teeth.
Curious about Invisalign™ treatment or other clear orthodontic treatments?
Consider speaking with a registered dental professional to better understand your options. Some general dentists are official providers of Invisalign™ treatment or other clear alignment products, but you may also be able to speak with an orthodontist — some specialist clinics accept patients without a referral.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.
Invisalign and the Invisalign logo, among others, are trademarks of Align Technology, Inc., and are registered in the U.S. and other countries.