When teeth don’t have enough space in the jaw or are displaced, they begin to push together, overlap, and sometimes rotate. This is called teeth crowding, and it can occur anywhere in the upper or lower dental arches. Although the majority of cases are not cause for serious medical concern, teeth crowding can make it difficult to maintain proper dental hygiene, and lead to an increased risk of cavities.
Invisalign is a popular treatment used to correct this issue, for both preventative and aesthetic reasons. In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Invisalign as a crowding treatment, as well as several alternatives if Invisalign isn’t the right fit for you.
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Is Invisalign Effective for Treating Teeth Crowding?
Yes! Cases of crowding and spacing were Invisalign’s specialty when the technology first emerged 20 years ago, and it remains a highly effective treatment option to this day. Invisalign offers a treatment that’s less intrusive than traditional braces without sacrificing results, all for around the same cost ($5,000 on average).
That’s not to say Invisalign hasn’t evolved over the years. Invisalign has incorporated advances in dental technology into its programs to expand its capabilities and effectively treat more conditions. So, even if your case of crowding is compounded by a bite misalignment (like overbite or underbite), Invisalign may still be a viable corrective option for you.
When paired with appliances like elastics and palatal expanders, or other procedures like tooth shaving/extraction, Invisalign can achieve drastic and complex smile transformations. Dentists can also employ Invisalign’s “Smartforce” attachments — small shapes affixed to the exterior of the tooth that allow for more intricate, nuanced movements. These attachments allow your dentist to make changes to a specific tooth, as opposed to the entire top or bottom row. While many tooth crowding cases only require standard clear aligners, these supplemental treatments give your dentist a variety of tools to craft a program that delivers the specific results you desire.
All that said, these days there are many other providers offering clear teeth aligners. If you’re looking for a more affordable treatment method than Invisalign, or are simply curious about what other brands are out there, we encourage you to keep reading.
What Is it Like to Wear Invisalign?
The leading reasons adults often favor Invisalign over braces are that they’re 1) clear, and 2) removable. This means that they’re much less noticeable than metal (or ceramic) braces, and you can take them out to eat, brush your teeth, or even attend an important meeting or special occasion. If your treatment plan includes Smartforce attachments, these will remain fixed to your teeth for all or most of your treatment duration — but again, these appliances are tooth-colored and hardly noticeable.
Invisalign also tends to be more comfortable than braces. Since they’re made of plastic, Invisalign trays cause less irritation on the cheeks and tongue than the metal wires and brackets of traditional braces. This isn’t to say Invisalign doesn’t cause any discomfort whatsoever. Moving your teeth is going to result in some pain and discomfort, regardless of the dental appliance you select. You’ll find Invisalign to be the most uncomfortable the first few days after receiving a new set of aligners. Typically, you’ll receive a new set about once every two weeks (at which point your teeth will have shifted and adjusted to the old aligners). But all in all, Invisalign tends to offer more comfort and flexibility to the user than conventional braces.
On the flip side of all this, it’s worth keeping in mind that Invisalign treatment calls for a significant amount of discipline not required by traditional braces. Since Invisalign trays are removable, it’s up to you to keep them in your mouth for 22 hours each day in order to progress through the alignment process successfully and finish your treatment on schedule. If you’re not motivated enough to play through the pain for the long-term payout, Invisalign may be TOO flexible of an option for you, and you may consider a more rigid and consistent treatment, like traditional braces, instead.
Alternative Invisible Aligners
While Invisalign pioneered the clear aligner market and remains among the most popular providers out there, there are a few other clear aligner brands that can be administered by dentists around the country. Additionally, there’s a whole new industry on the rise for at-home teeth alignment that can be completed without ever having to visit a dentist.
Whether you’re simply interested in an alternative clear aligner brand or you’re looking to correct your crowding from home, there’s most likely a solution on this list for you. Below, we’ve broken down the most common alternatives to Invisalign and several reasons you might consider going with one of these options instead.
Align Tech (makers of Invisalign) is no longer the only company that partners with dentists and orthodontists to provide treatment with clear aligners. Today, many dentists instead offer aligners produced by a Texas-based company called ClearCorrect.
Though comparable to Invisalign in terms of effectiveness, ClearCorrect aligners are made using a different material and production process. Their aligners are slightly thinner and said to be less noticeable, but some patients find them to cause a bit more soreness and sensitivity in the teeth and gums.
Although ClearCorrect is less well-known than Invisalign, some dental providers prefer these aligners because they cost significantly less to offer. Occasionally these savings are passed along to the patient — however, this totally depends on the particular dentist you’re working with, and the type of treatment plan you’ll require. The average cost of treatment with ClearCorrect is still right around the same cost as Invisalign.
Express aligner systems offer a shorter treatment period and more affordable pricing than traditional clear aligners. Most express systems include 10-15 sets of aligners (as opposed to the roughly 30 required for a full course Invisalign or ClearCorrect treatment) and come out to about half-to-two-thirds the cost of standard treatment.
These systems are, by design, limited to minor crowding and spacing issues in just the front six teeth. However, some patients prefer this option, as the front six teeth are the only teeth that are visible when most people smile. If you have a minor case of crowding, express aligners may be a reasonable treatment option for you, and your dental provider could potentially offer the following brands:
- Invisalign Express: Unsurprisingly, Invisalign offers its own express treatment option. Invisalign Express is typically only used for mild misalignments, often recommended for folks who fail to wear their retainers after braces. Treatment typically costs between $1,800 to $3,500 and ranges from 5 to 10 months in duration. All in all, Invisalign Express is a viable treatment option for many mild cases of teeth crowding.
- Simpli5: A competitor to Invisalign, Simpli5 offers fast-paced treatment plans that last just five months on average. Simpli5 costs significantly less than traditional Invisalign treatment, but just like Invisalign Express, is limited in capability and not well-suited to address some patients’ smile concerns. Pricing is typically a bit lower than Invisalign Express, averaging around $2,000.
- Six Month Smiles: Although best known for their 6-months braces treatment, Six Month Smiles also started offering express clear aligner treatment as well. However, as with other Express services, Six Month Smiles aligners are not nearly as robust as traditional clear aligner treatment. They’re also somewhat more expensive than other express options, averaging $3,500 to $5,000 for a six-month course of treatment.
Home Invisible Aligners
In recent years, a number of online companies like Smile Direct Club, Candid Co, and byte have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth or correct crowding and spacing issues. Similar to the Invisalign treatment process, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners customized to your teeth by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your care will be handled entirely remotely and won’t require ongoing trips to the dentist’s office.
Home alignment products are more affordable than any other corrective treatment option, with an average cost of just $1,900. The companies that sell home aligners typically provide an opportunity to review your expected results before purchasing a full course of treatment, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before moving forward. Some services, like byte, even offer patients a set of clear retainers for free once their treatment is finished. This helps to ensure that your new smile will be maintained and no teeth will shift back to their original position.
If you have a minor case of crowding and prefer not to make monthly appointments with a dentist, home teeth alignment may be a perfectly viable option for you. To learn more about home teeth alignment, check out our review of the top services.
Other Treatment Options
Braces: If you think you’d have trouble integrating Invisalign into your day-to-day routine, it might be worth considering traditional braces instead. Braces are one of the most trusted and time-tested treatment options for teeth crowding, especially in more severe or complex cases. Adults might shy away from the metal brackets involved, but their transformative results are undeniable. Not to mention that recent dental technology has engendered the development of new, less visible styles, like clear braces that blend in with your teeth and lingual braces that are positioned behind them.
Traditional braces generally take 18-30 months and cost $3,000-7,000 to achieve the desired results. However, teeth crowding cases are usually much simpler than, for example, bite misalignments, so they often fall into the lower end of both ranges. While they are slightly more intrusive and sometimes uncomfortable, braces are trusted and reliable when it comes to correcting teeth crowding. Read more about types, effectiveness, outcomes and much more in our guide to correcting teeth crowding with braces.
Palatal Expanders: Certain cases of teeth crowding are caused by an undersized upper and/or lower jaw, and in these cases, widening the roof of the mouth (the palate) or lower dental arch may correct the issue. Expanders are metal devices that a dentist bonds to the inside of the upper or lower dental arches. By adjusting the devices, your dentist can control the widening of each arch, providing more space for your teeth to be properly aligned.
Palatal expanders are sometimes paired with other orthodontic treatments, but can also work on their own, depending on your specific issue. After examining your teeth crowding, a dentist will be able to tell you if palatal expanders could be effective for you.
With decades of proven results, Invisalign has built up a reputation as one of the most reliable and effective treatments for teeth crowding. The program can transform smiles like traditional braces, with the added benefit of being invisible and removable. But no treatment is without its downsides. Invisalign requires more discipline than braces, and costs significantly more than home teeth aligners.
We encourage you to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option discussed in this guide to find one that’s right for your specific circumstances. It’s also a good idea to visit a dentist for a professional analysis of your teeth. With all of this information in your pocket, you’ll be empowered to choose the ideal path for you. Best of luck!