How Does Invisalign Work? - A Step By Step Process

How Does Invisalign Work? – A Step By Step Process

Are you interested in straightening your teeth with Invisalign but aren’t sure what is involved? I have put together this step-by-step guide to Invisalign so you know exactly what to expect before, during, and after Invisalign treatment. 

I’ll also cover how Invisalign works, how long Invisalign treatment takes, and frequently asked questions about Invisalign so you can make an informed decision about this revolutionary cosmetic dental procedure.

The Invisalign Process in a bitesize piece: 

  • Invisalign clear aligners are a discrete yet effective alternative to traditional braces
  • Invisalign works by gradually shifting teeth into the desired position using a series of customised clear trays
  • The Invisalign process involves an initial consultation to decide if treatment is suitable for you, a personalised treatment plan, customised trays created with 3D imaging technology, regular check-ins to swap out to new trays and monitor progress, and a straighter smile!
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene and caring for your aligners is crucial for completing treatment according to schedule, preventing complications, and getting the best results
  • Proper maintenance and retainers are an important part of maintaining your Invisalign results
  • A consultation with your dentist is the only way to know if you are a good candidate for Invisalign treatment

a patient discussing invisalign with a dentist

What Is Invisalign?

Invisalign clear aligners are a discrete alternative to metal braces. Unlike the metal brackets and wires used in treatment with traditional braces, Invisalign uses a customised series of clear, removable trays.

The clear trays are imperceptible to everyone but you and can be taken out to eat or to brush and floss. Invisalign is a popular cosmetic dental treatment because of its discreet appearance, comfortable treatment, fast results, and ease of use.

How Does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign custom trays work by gradually shifting misaligned teeth into their desired position using gentle pressure. Every few weeks, your dentist will monitor your progress and switch you to a new set of custom trays that are slightly different from the last set.

Each set of clear trays causes subtle shifts in the teeth, gradually moving toward the end result. Because the trays are moulded to your exact mouth shape, they are comfortable to wear. Many of my patients tell me that they often forget they are even wearing their aligners!

dentist holding teeth model with invisalign

Understanding the Invisalign Process

  1. The Initial Appointment

    If you are interested in Invisalign treatment, the first step is an initial consultation with your dentist. At this appointment, your dentist will evaluate your teeth alignment, discuss your goals, and decide if you are a good candidate for Invisalign treatment.

    After an examination of your gums and teeth, digital scans and X-rays will be completed to evaluate your oral health. If any oral health issues are identified, these will be addressed before treatment can start.

    Your dentist will also make sure your treatment goals can be achieved with Invisalign treatment. Severely misaligned teeth, large gaps, or complex cases may be better suited to traditional metal braces.

    Once your dentist determines you are an ideal candidate for Invisalign treatment, a customised treatment plan will be created.

  2. The Aligner Molding Process

    The next step in Invisalign treatment is the creation of your custom aligner trays. These are created through a digital molding process that consists of X-rays, digital images, and 3D scans that generate a detailed, accurate model of your teeth and mouth.

    3D imaging technology is used to simulate the step-by-step teeth position stages that will occur through treatment to move your teeth toward the desired goal. These scans are sent to a laboratory that creates the custom trays out of clear thermoplastic.

    Your dentist will discuss how many series of aligners you’ll need and how long your treatment time is expected to take.

  3. Receiving and Fitting Your First Trays

    When your aligners are ready, your dentist will schedule an appointment to fit the aligners and begin the teeth straightening process.

    Your dentist will evaluate how the trays fit in your mouth and ensure the trays will stay securely in place. During this stage, I educate my patients on how long they’ll need to wear Invisalign each day and how to care for their aligner trays and their oral health.

  4. Follow-Up Appointments

    After your first fitting, you’ll need to return to your dentist every few weeks. The frequency of these appointments will depend on your progress and personalised treatment plan.

    At these follow-up appointments, your dentist will evaluate your progress, ensure you are on track with the treatment schedule, and make sure your teeth and gums are healthy. Your dentist may take X-rays to make sure your teeth are responding to treatment as expected and moving according to the schedule.

    These appointments will also include switching to a new set of trays. Your dentist will ensure the new trays fit properly and schedule your next appointment. Each set of trays will be slightly different than the last, gradually shifting your teeth into the desired alignment.

  5. Your New Smile!

    By closely following the treatment protocol and taking good care of your oral health, you’ll be enjoying your new, straighter smile in no time!

How Long Does Invisalign Take?

We often get asked this question, usually when people are considering the difference between Invisalign & Braces. The length of Invisalign treatment will vary based on the individual. How long Invisalign treatment takes will depend on your age (adolescents often experience faster results than adults), your oral health, how severe your alignment is, and what your goals are.

In general, I tell most patients that they can expect Invisalign treatment to take between 12 to 18 months. More severe alignment issues or not complying with the treatment plan will result in longer treatment times.

Following your dentist’s instructions and maintaining good oral hygiene will help you complete your Invisalign treatment as fast as possible.

Failing to follow the recommendations can result in further teeth misalignment, treatment delays, and reduced results.

To ensure you complete Invisalign treatment according to schedule, I recommend these tips:

  • Always wear your aligners for the recommended number of hours a day
  • Do not eat or drink while wearing your aligners (this can discolour or damage the trays)
  • Do not vape, smoke, or use tobacco products while undergoing Invisalign treatment
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily
  • Avoid sugary or acidic foods
  • Attend all scheduled dental checkups during treatment
  • Wear your Invisalign retainers after completing treatment to avoid needing to re-do the treatment
  • Contact your dentist right away if you are experiencing pain or issues with your Invisalign trays

What Happens After Invisalign Treatment? 

Once you achieve your desired results and complete Invisalign treatment, your dentist will work with you to create a maintenance plan.

To maintain your new smile, I recommend following your dentist’s recommendations, wearing your Invisalign retainers, and following a good oral hygiene routine.

A general Invisalign aftercare plan will include:

  • Wearing Invisalign retainers according to your dentist’s instructions. Often, you’ll need to wear your retainers nightly to prevent teeth from shifting back to their original position. 
  • Storing Invisalign trays properly to protect them from damage or contamination.
  • Gently brushing your retainer trays every day using a mild toothpaste
  • Soaking your Invisalign retainer once a week (ask your dentist for recommendations on what to soak it in). Usually, I recommend a gentle denture cleaning solution. 
  • Attending regular dental checkups
  • Bringing your Invisalign retainer to any dental checkups

Invisalign Process FAQs

How Long Do I Have to Wear Invisalign?

To stay on track with your treatment schedule and achieve the desired results, you’ll need to wear your aligners for at least 20 to 22 hours a day. Your dentist will advise you on exactly how long you need to wear the aligners every day. 

If you fail to wear your aligners for the recommended number of hours a day, your teeth will not shift according to the expected schedule. 

Can I Play Sports Wearing Invisalign?

If you play a contact sport and are undergoing Invisalign treatment, I always tell my patients to discuss this with me. In most cases, I’ll tell my patients to remove the Invisalign trays for the game and wear a mouthguard. As soon as the game is over, make sure you put the aligners back in right away.

How Do I Care for My Invisalign Trays?

Here are the steps I recommend for how to care for your Invisalign trays:

  • Always remove your aligners to brush and floss your teeth
  • Always remove your Invisalign trays when eating or drinking
  • Maintain a good oral hygiene routine
  • Keep your aligners clean by gently brushing them every day with mild toothpaste
  • Soak your aligners once a week
  • Whenever you take out your trays, store them in a hard, plastic case to ensure they are protected if they get dropped and to prevent a pet from getting a hold of them. I always warn my patients that dogs love to use Invisalign trays as a chew toy!

Does Invisalign Hurt?

Overall, my patients tell me that Invisalign is an incredibly comfortable treatment with minimal disruption to their daily lives. The initial consultation, moulding, and fitting stages should not hurt at all.

When you switch to a new set of aligners, you may experience some slight discomfort as your teeth adjust to the new trays. This discomfort should go away within a day or two.

What Happens If I Don’t Care for My Invisalign Retainers?

Whether it is during your Invisalign treatment or after treatment when you are wearing your Invisalign retainers, it is crucial to follow a good oral hygiene routine and care for your aligners.

If you do not care for your Invisalign trays, you are at risk of:

  • Longer Treatment Time — If you do not wear the aligners for enough hours every day, it will take longer to achieve the desired alignment.
  • Discoloured Aligners — If aligners aren’t cleaned properly, they can become discoloured and stained, making them more noticeable.
  • Damage to the Aligners — If your aligners get dropped, scratched, or damaged, their effectiveness may be reduced. If the damage is bad enough, you’ll have to pay for a new set of aligners.
  • Risk of Gum Disease and Cavities — If you do not properly clean your teeth or aligners, you are at a higher risk of decay, cavities, and gum disease. Plaque can easily build up when wearing the trays, allowing bacteria to feed on the plaque and create acids that damage tooth enamel.
  • Teeth Shifting — If you skip wearing your Invisalign retainers after completing treatment, your teeth can slowly begin reverting back to their original position.

Are You a Good Candidate for Invisalign?

Invisalign is an innovative cosmetic dental treatment that offers a discrete alternative to metal braces. I love seeing the boost in a patient’s confidence when they complete Invisalign treatment and see their new, straighter smile!

If you want to find out if Invisalign is right for you, please contact us to book a consultation. I’d be happy to answer all of your questions and evaluate your teeth alignment to see if Invisalign is right for you

Dr. Jack Brazel: Specialising in general dentistry, Invisalign, and cosmetic procedures, Dr. Brazel is committed to delivering exceptional dental care focusing on aesthetic outcomes.