Invisalign was introduced as a much more discreet and convenient alternative to braces, one that could move teeth much faster too. While braces can take 2-3 years, Invisalign’s average treatment time is just 12-15 months. Still, everyone is different, so treatment times vary depending on your condition’s severity. And although you can find average times online, it’s difficult to estimate how long your specific case will take.
Invisalign is a very flexible treatment option, and it can correct almost any condition that braces can. But, several things can affect how long this correction will take. In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the major factors that can affect your Invisalign treatment time and give you an idea of how long you’ll need to wait before flashing your new smile.
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How Long Does It Take To Get Started With Invisalign?
Getting started with Invisalign is fairly simple, especially if you already have a trusted dentist. The first step is to choose the dentist or orthodontist who will administer your treatment. Many general dentists offer Invisalign. However, you can choose to have an orthodontist handle your treatment if you’d prefer.
Once you choose a dentist, you’ll need to schedule an appointment so they can evaluate your teeth and approve you for Invisalign treatment. How long it takes to get an appointment depends on the specific dentist. So, you may need to wait longer if your dentist has a busy schedule.
During the appointment, your dentist will take x-rays and photos of your teeth. If they think you’re a good fit, they’ll take impressions or scans of your teeth to send to Invisalign’s dental lab. The lab will create your treatment plan and send it back to your dentist for review. Once you and your dentist approve the plan, Invisalign will create your custom aligners and mail them to the office. This process usually takes about 3-4 weeks. So, you’ll need to make another appointment to pick up and try on your aligners.
From start to finish, it could take months before you’re wearing your first Invisalign aligner. So, it’s important to choose a dentist who has excellent customer service. If time is an issue, plan ahead to make sure your treatment can deliver the results you want in your preferred time frame.
How Long Will It Take To See Results?
Invisalign’s average treatment time is 12-15 months, and most people start seeing changes to their smile at the 6-month mark. For minor cases, Invisalign offers Invisalign Express, which only requires 5-10 aligners and lasts around 6 months total. Regardless of the treatment plan, you shouldn’t stop wearing your aligners until your dentist confirms that your treatment is complete.
The most important factor that will affect your treatment time is your condition’s severity. Especially complex cases require more aligners and more time to correct. And, patients with bite issues (like overbite or underbite) will almost definitely need a longer treatment time than someone with a minor case of crowding.
Invisalign is recommended for most cases of crowding and spacing and some bite issues. However, Invisalign Express is only suitable for very minor alignments. So your treatment time will vary depending on which Invisalign treatment is best for you.
One last note: the dentist you choose can affect your treatment time as well. If they’re less experienced, they may not provide the quickest and most effective treatment. It could help to choose an orthodontist rather than a general dentist since they’re more qualified to straighten your teeth. However, many general dentists are long-time Invisalign providers. So, if you trust your regular dentist to monitor your treatment, they could be the best option.
How Can I Ensure My Treatment Time Is As Short As Possible?
Your cooperation during treatment is critical to ensure safety and effectiveness. You need to wear your Invisalign aligners 22 hours per day and only remove them to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. Even with a mild or minor case of misalignment, if you don’t wear your aligners for the required 22 hours per day, your treatment will last longer. So, it’s essential to follow your dentist’s instructions carefully.
Oral hygiene can also affect Invisalign treatment time. Teeth move most effectively in a healthy environment. So, if you have poor hygiene or develop cavities or gum infection during treatment, it will delay the process. In extreme cases, you may need to stop treatment to address your hygiene issues before proceeding.
You should clean your aligners regularly to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. Although they may not seem dirty, you’ll be wearing your aligners all day long. So, they will require consistent care. Eating while wearing your aligners could also cause damage or staining. Too much damage could make your aligners less effective and possibly unsafe. So, you should notify your dentist immediately if something seems off.
If you do break your aligners before it’s time for a new set, your dentist can always contact Invisalign to order a new set. But, your treatment will be on pause while you wait for the new aligners to arrive.
Is There a Faster Option?
Although Invisalign is the leading clear aligner system, there are other options available that offer a much faster treatment time. Depending on your preferences, there are several treatments that could be a better fit. Today, we have both in-office and at-home treatments, so you should be able to find one that suits your needs. Here are our top picks for treatments that are faster than Invisalign:
Invisalign Express (~$2,500)
Invisalign Express was introduced as an option for people with very minor misalignments. They use the same aligners as regular Invisalign, and they still require regular office visits, but the average treatment time is significantly shorter.
Invisalign Express treatment uses 5,7, or 10 aligners, and most people complete treatment in about 6 months. Express treatment is usually used to reverse relapse (shifting of teeth after previous orthodontic treatment).
Unfortunately, you can’t choose Invisalign Express over the full Invisalign treatment if you aren’t considered a good fit. The best candidates are people with minor or mild misalignments and no bite issues. So, your dentist will need to determine your candidacy before giving you the option of an expedited Invisalign treatment.
Six Month Smiles (~$4,000)
You may know Six Month Smiles for their clear braces, but they recently began selling clear aligners as well. Their braces are made with clear brackets and translucent wires, so they’re not as noticeable as traditional metal braces. Their clear aligners, on the other hand, are just as discreet as Invisalign and offer a much more convenient treatment option.
Six Month Smiles is best for mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment, so it won’t be able to treat complex cases like Invisalign can. As the name suggests, the average treatment time for Six Months Smiles is 6 months. However, your treatment may last longer if your condition is more complex.
You’ll also still need to visit your dentist regularly for treatment, so if you’d prefer to see a dentist in-person, Six Month Smiles will provide the one-on-one attention you’re looking for without sacrificing treatment time.
At-Home Invisible Aligners (~$1,900)
Home aligners are very similar to Invisalign, but no office visits are required, so you’ll complete treatment entirely from home. They’re best for mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment, and you’ll need to be approved for treatment before receiving your custom aligners.
For most providers, you’ll need to order an impression kit to take a mold of your teeth and determine your candidacy for treatment. However, some companies, like SmileDirectClub and Candid, have retail locations where you can get a free 3D scan of your teeth instead.
Home aligners are popular because they offer a cheaper and faster alternative to Invisalign. Most people complete home aligner treatment in about 6 months and the cost is around $1,900, regardless of the brand you choose. However, unlike Invisalign, home aligners are not meant for more complex or severe misalignments, so not everyone will be a good fit.
Currently, the top providers in the industry are Byte, Candid, AlignerCo, and SmileDirectClub. Byte stands out from the group by offering the shortest treatment time currently available, at just 3 months. So if you’re looking for the fastest possible treatment option, Byte is definitely worth checking out.
For more information about the top at-home aligner providers, visit our detailed comparison.
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We’ve researched and reviewed the best at-home teeth straightening services on the market. For a deep dive into how these services actually compare, visit our comprehensive review.
Treatment time is important to consider when you’re deciding which treatment will be best for you. It can be helpful to explore all the factors that affect treatment time to get an idea of how long it will take to straighten your teeth. Overall, the severity of your condition will have the most significant influence on your treatment time, so everyone will have a different experience.
If you’ve been considering getting Invisalign, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options. They’ll likely be able to give you an estimated treatment time for several different treatment options and help you decide whether Invisalign is the right choice for your teeth.