Braces used to be a right of passage in your teenage years. But thanks to modern technology, today’s teens have the option of removable clear aligners, avoiding the discomfort associated with metal brackets and wires — not to mention the awkward yearbook smiles.
Invisalign is the clear aligner pioneer, and they’re still the largest and most well-known brand in the game. Teens around the world have turned to them for convenient, discreet teeth-straightening treatment. And this is your guide to their services, with all the essential info you need to determine if Invisalign is the best choice for your teen.
Table of Contents
What Is Invisalign?
Align Technology, a dental supply company out of Redwood City, California, revolutionized the orthodontic world when they introduced Invisalign in 1999. A mere three years later, Align had crafted more than one million clear aligners for thousands of patients across the country. As technology progressed, computer software enabled dentists to produce more accurate computer models making the aligners more comfortable, increasing patient satisfaction and compliance. To date, Invisalign has transformed more than 11 million smiles.
Invisalign treatment includes a series of trays that you wear for 22+ hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, and brush. You wear each set for two weeks before moving to the next, and each one incrementally shifts your teeth toward their new positions.
Invisalign treatment typically takes 12-24 months, during which time, you’ll visit your dentist or orthodontist every 4-6 weeks. The treatment timeline and frequency of your visits, however, depend entirely on your unique dental misalignments.
How Is Invisalign Different?
Invisalign may have been the first modern mass-market clear aligner system, but it certainly isn’t the only brand on the market. With so many options, what makes Invisalign so different?
Invisalign manufactures its aligners using patented SmartTrack® material. Designed with patient comfort in mind, SmartTrack® is designed to be stronger and more comfortable than other brands. It’s made from medical-grade, multilayer polyurethane plastic, and Invisalign’s website claims it can move teeth 50% faster and with 75% more accuracy. It’s FDA-approved and BPA-free, gluten-free, and latex-free.
Sometimes stubborn teeth need a little encouragement to help move. SmartForce® attachments are small, tooth-colored bits that your dentist can affix to your teeth before you begin treatment, and they’re designed to help the clear aligners exert a little more force. SmartForce® attachments make more complicated tooth movements possible without any brackets, wires, or other appliances. Not every patient will need them, and your teen’s Invisalign® aligners will fit snugly around them, making them virtually invisible underneath.
Mandibular Advancement Feature
Some patients who ask about Invisalign treatment have what’s called an overbite — a protrusion of top front teeth over the bottom one. The mandibular advancement feature can help your teen’s jaw move forward while they wear their aligners, eliminating the need for complicated orthodontic procedures. This feature incorporates wings on the backs of your teen’s aligners that help move the jaw forward.
ClinCheck® software is Invisalign’s proprietary computer software, and it’s designed to give doctors more control over your teen’s treatment. It calculates the exact amount of force necessary to complete each movement, helping the doctor make more precise dental shifts, which can decrease treatment time and improve patient comfort.
Is Invisalign A Good Choice For Teens?
You’ve got the basics nailed down. You know all about Invisalign’s standout features. But the question remains: Is it the right treatment for your teen? In short, it all depends on the patient.
Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign is removable, and patients need to take out their aligners to eat, drink, and brush. Some teens find it difficult to keep track of their aligners during mealtime. There are countless stories of kids rummaging through the trash after lunch, looking for their aligners. Replacement aligners cost extra and can delay treatment times. If your teen can effectively keep track of their aligners, they could be a great fit. If not, you might look into a non-removable appliance like braces.
Another thing to consider is compliance. Your teen will need to wear their Invisalign aligners for 22 hours a day, only removing them to eat, drink anything other than water, brush, and floss. Skipping days or forgetting to put them in can cause a delay in treatment and may cost you time and money. If you worry your child won’t wear them as much as necessary, Invisalign might not be suitable for them.
Other Factors To Consider
Of course, there are a ton of factors to consider when evaluating any orthodontic treatment. Here’s what else should be on your mind.
Invisalign costs $3,000-9,000 on average, while traditional braces run about $3,000-7,000, depending on the treatment time. Your teen’s treatment might fall outside those ranges, depending on the severity of their misalignment, but generally, Invisalign and braces are fairly similar in price.
Invisalign’s clear aligners are virtually invisible. If you think your teen would be self-conscious wearing traditional metal braces, or if they are already struggling with self-esteem, Invisalign might be a great option for them.
Traditional braces treatment can take anywhere from 12 to 36 months, most often falling around 24. Depending on the severity of the misalignment, Invisalign treatment can be completed in as few as six months, with most cases averaging about 12-18 months.
If your teen is an athlete, Invisalign might be a smart choice. Since they are worn over the teeth, clear aligners can help protect the teeth if they’re hit by a baseball, basketball, or a stray elbow. In these situations, traditional braces could cut and scratch your teen’s cheeks and lips, adding more discomfort to an already painful experience. The very nature of Invisalign aligners helps hold your teen’s teeth in place, potentially protecting them from being knocked out. However, Invisalign aligners should not replace the required custom-made sports mouthguards that many athletic programs require.
Patients report that Invisalign’s aligners are often more comfortable than traditional braces. Invisalign moves your teeth more gradually than traditional braces, so they can cause less discomfort when you change to a new set of trays versus the monthly braces adjustments. Plus, Invisalign doesn’t require any brackets or wires, so you don’t have to deal with wires poking your cheeks or brackets rubbing the inside of your lips.
Scope of Treatment
If your teen has severe malocclusion, your doctor might recommend traditional braces. While Invisalign can correct a wide variety of misalignments, there are still limits to the technology.
Fewer Adjustments and Emergency Visits
Even though they’ll change Invisalign trays every couple of weeks, your teen will only need to visit their doctor every 4-6 weeks for checkups. These visits are quick and pain-free. Traditional braces often need adjusting every month, and these visits can be uncomfortable as the teeth are pushed into their new positions.
Since each Invisalign tray is a single piece with no moving parts, there’s no risk of brackets coming loose or wires breaking, which means less time out of school and work for orthodontic emergencies.
Traditional braces are difficult to clean, and you need to use floss threaders to get underneath the wire. If you don’t clean well enough around your braces, it can lead to demineralization around the brackets, potentially causing decay and permanent staining. Not flossing between your teeth, especially with braces, can lead to cavities between the teeth, gingivitis, gum disease, and possible tooth loss. Teens who already have an inconsistent oral hygiene routine could benefit from clear aligners they can remove to brush and floss.
Paying For Invisalign
Whether you choose Invisalign or traditional braces, the expense of orthodontic treatment might seem intimidating, but there are numerous payment options available to help your teen can get the care they need.
While all policies differ, most dental benefit plans cover at least some of the cost of orthodontic treatment, including Invisalign and traditional braces. Call the number on the back of your dental insurance card for specific coverage details and to ask about coverage limitations, deductibles, and policy maximums. Most companies only cover one round of treatment per person, so if your teen had braces in the past and needs additional treatment, it may not be covered.
FSA and HSA Plans
Flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts consider Invisalign a covered expense. Flexible spending accounts are generally employer-owned — both you and your employer can put money into an account for medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance. A health savings account is usually for people with a high-deductible medical plan. While you and your employer can contribute to it, you must report the account on your taxes. Contact your HR department or the person responsible for your health insurance for more information.
In-office Payment Plans
Most doctors offer monthly payment plans for orthodontic treatment. In most cases, they simply divide the treatment cost by the number of months it will take. Emergency visits are usually not included in payment plans.
Companies like CareCredit, LendingClub, and beWell FTL are companies that provide financing plans for medical and dental expenses. Many third-party financing companies offer low- or no-interest plans, spaced out over a set period of time. However, they often require credit checks, so not everyone qualifies. If you do, you’ll make payments directly to the company without involving the doctor’s office.
Risks of Treatment
Like any dental treatment or procedure, there are risks involved that you and your teen should know.
Tenderness and Discomfort
Invisalign usually causes less discomfort than traditional braces, but changing to a new set of trays can still make chewing uncomfortable for a couple of days. Soft foods, ice packs, and over-the-counter pain relievers recommended by your teen’s doctor are great ways to alleviate pain until they feel better.
Whenever you move tooth roots, there’s a very small chance that the force can damage nerves. That goes for both braces and Invisalign. Although because Invisalign moves tooth roots slightly more gradually, there’s a little less risk. If a nerve does get damaged, it may die, requiring a root canal. It’s rare, but it’s still a possibility.
Sometimes, orthodontics triggers temporary pain or discomfort in the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This is common and gets better as your teen’s treatment progresses. Clicking, popping and trouble chewing are symptoms, and while they generally aren’t a concern, your teen should get them checked out by their doctor.
What About Retainers?
All patients who get Invisalign need retainers after treatment. Your teen will need to wear them every night, typically for the rest of their life, or their teeth could potentially shift back into their original positions. Every case is different, so ask your teen’s doctor if they need retainers.
Fortunately, Invisalign has its own brand of retainer designed to go hand-in-hand with Invisalign treatment, called Vivera®.
Being a teen is tricky enough without the self-consciousness of crooked teeth. Powerful, discreet, and convenient, Invisalign treatment could be an excellent choice for any teen with mild to moderate malocclusion.
Before jumping to a final decision, sit down with your teen to research all of their options and discuss which ones would best fit their lifestyle and your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does Invisalign cost?
Invisalign averages $3,000-9,000. However, treatment can occasionally fall outside that range. It all depends on your specific condition.
How long does Invisalign treatment take?
Invisalign treatment can be completed in as little as six months. Most cases average about 12-18 months.
Does Invisalign work for everyone?
Invisalign works for people with mild and moderate malocclusions. Severe cases and certain dental conditions are too complex and require the extra force only traditional metal braces can offer.
Are there any risks with Invisalign?
Every dental procedure has risks, and Invisalign is no different. Sometimes (although rare), a nerve will die from the force of the root moving in the bone. Jaw pain and discomfort are also common and usually go away as treatment progresses.
Does my insurance cover Invisalign?
Many insurance plans will cover part of Invisalign treatment. To be sure, check your plan’s specific coverage and contact your provider, but most plans that cover traditional braces also cover Invisalign.
Will my teen need retainers?
Yes. Your teen will need to wear retainers every night to prevent their teeth from shifting back into their original positions.