Are your teeth crooked? Does your bite seem slightly off? Are your gums receding? Let me guess, you want to fix a few teeth-related issues, but you aren’t sure about plunking down thousands of dollars for Invisalign. Well I’m here to help. I’ll tell you everything I think you might want to know. This is my honest Invisalign review. It includes the facts and figures I wish I had known when I started my Invisalign journey sixteen months ago.
When I first looked into Invisalign I had a ton of questions. Here are a few of them:
- How does Invisalign work?
- What is the average cost of Invisalign?
- Will my insurance cover Invisalign?
- How long does Invisalign take?
- Does Invisalign hurt?
- What can go wrong with Invisalign?
- How do I clean Invisalign?
- Is Invisalign worth it?
I can now answer these questions and many more. I’ve been an Invisalign patient for over one year now. I haven’t finished the process, but I can provide a whole lot of details from my journey so far. This is my Invisalign review of sorts. The details I wish I had known when I was just beginning.
Choosing an Invisalign Provider
Where’s the best place to start? Well right from the beginning of course. Before we dive too deep into the nitty-gritty details of Invisalign let’s talk about how the whole process works.
First, you will visit your dentist or orthodontist for an evaluation. If you don’t have a trusted relationship with your practitioner now is the time to scour your area for a new one.
Choosing an Invisalign provider you trust is the most important part of this process. You want to feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns.
I visited two dentists and an orthodontist prior to making my decision. In fact, my dentist turned me away for treatment. She said, “If you need extensive tooth movements or bite improvements you may want to seek out an orthodontist.”
Fortunately, my teeth were relatively straight prior to Invisalign. Unfortunately, I needed treatment to fix bite problems that were leading to bone loss and gum recession.
Choosing a Dentist or Orthodontist
My dentist’s words are echoed all across the Internet. Many negative Invisalign reviews point the fingers at dentists who aren’t familiar with moving teeth.
The most common problems appear to be bite related. The patient’s teeth look straight, but the teeth aren’t aligning properly when they chew.
Keep in mind that dentists and orthodontists both attend dental school, but orthodontists undergo additional years of training to learn how to align teeth and improve patient’s bites.
This doesn’t mean orthodontists will perform the work perfectly. It also doesn’t mean you need to choose an orthodontist over a dentist. It just means you should investigate the options thoroughly before choosing.
Invisalign Reviews & Ratings
Before you make your final decision remember that a quick Google search can reveal a wealth of information from prior patients. Simply type in your provider’s name and search for his or her ratings and reviews. Read each Invisalign review carefully.
A provider’s experience is also important. Invisalign categorizes providers by the number of cases they handle.
Here are the current categories and the associated number of cases per year.
- General Provider – 10 Invisalign cases per year
- Elite Provider – 300 cases including a minimum of 50 every 6 months
- Top 1% – 800 cases including 200 cases per year
A more experienced provider will be more familiar with complex cases than a less experienced one. Again, this is just one of many important criteria to consider.
Average Cost of Invisalign?
Before you choose an Invisalign provider there is one more thing to consider: How expensive is Invisalign? Believe it or not each provider sets his or her own prices. There isn’t a standard or set price for all patients.
The average cost of Invisalign is between $3000 and $8000. In my experience the more experienced providers cost a whole lot more.
My local dentist gave me a price quote of just over $4000. A Top 1% provider in a swanky part of town handed me a quote for $7900.
If you are price conscious definitely ask around. There are huge differences in cost, especially between dentists and orthodontists. Just be aware that you may trade quality and experience when you pay less.
Does Insurance Cover Invisalign?
As you stare at those price tags you might begin to wonder, “Does insurance cover Invisalign?” Well, it depends. Some companies provide coverage and some do not. The only way to know for certain is to call your dental insurance program to ask.
Most dental insurance companies have a orthodontic lifetime maximum. Unfortunately, once you exhaust that amount you will be left to pay the rest of the bill.
My lifetime limit was $1500. My insurance provider breaks down reimbursements into quarterly payments received over a twenty-four month period.
I currently receive a $150 check every three months. That’s a whole lot different than getting a check for $1500 up front.
Paying for Invisalign
You can typically pay for Invisalign in one of two ways. You can pay the entire amount up front before treatment begins or you can sign up for a payment plan that will charge you monthly.
When you pay upfront you will typically receive a discount somewhere between 3% and 6%. If you can pay in cash you might receive an additional discount.
If you can wait for Invisalign treatments it might make sense to start saving now. Upfront savings can be as high as $500 to $600.
Most Invisalign providers offer a free consultation. That means you don’t have to use the first provider you meet. Instead you can visit a number of dentists and orthodontists until you find one you are comfortable with.
During that initial visit the orthodontist or dentist will look at your teeth, the shape of your mouth, your bite, (underbite, overbite, open bite, etc), and determine if you are a candidate for Invisalign.
While Invisalign can correct many issues it cannot correct all of them. In extreme cases your provider may recommend jaw surgery or traditional braces as alternatives.
Once you choose a provider and determine that you are a candidate for Invisalign the real fun can begin. During your initial consultation your provider will take photographs of your teeth and face along with a series x-rays.
At this point some providers will take a mold of your teeth while others will use a scanning machine to create a three-dimensional, digital image of your teeth.
How Does Invisalign Work?
Invisalign will use that information to create a step-by-step computer model showing exactly how each aligner will move the teeth over the course of your treatment.
Your provider will review Invisalign’s proposal and make any necessary tweaks before finalizing the plan. Then Invisalign will create the series of aligners that will straighten your teeth.
Now you are probably wondering how does Invisalign work? How do those clear aligners actually move your teeth? Invisalign captures the three-dimensional image of your teeth and creates a plan to subtly move teeth over the course of your treatment.
Each tray moves one, two or many teeth ever so slightly. Those clear aligners slowly shift teeth into their projected places. After a week or two you will switch to the next tray, which will subtly move your teeth again. Your teeth will continue to move ever so slightly with each new tray. Treatment will end when you don’t need any further movements.
In order to get your teeth to move you must be a vigilant Invisalign patient and keep your trays in for roughly twenty-two hours each day. The trays will not work if you don’t keep them in your mouth. Also, your teeth will try to slide back into their old positions if you don’t wear your trays often enough.
How Long Does Invisalign Take?
I’ve spoken to a lot of Invisalign patients over the past twelve months. Their initial Invisalign estimates ranged between nine months and 1.5 years. Though in reality no one I met finished in the projected amount of time.
In fact, everyone I know spent an additional six to nine months wearing them. Invisalign says this occurs when your teeth don’t move as projected.
During the consultation my orthodontist provided a ten month estimate. I wore the first set of trays for slightly less than one year.
Unfortunately, I am now in my second set of aligners, because one of my teeth did not move as expected. That resulted in another four months of Invisalign. I’m now half-way through the second round.
I think each case is completely unique, but for the most part the timeline for Invisalign seems to move forward and not back. I’ve never met anyone who finished treatment earlier than expected. Those people may exist I just haven’t met any of them.
Does Invisalign Hurt?
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Invisalign. The stuff that dentists and orthodontists don’t seem to mention when you sit down for that initial consultation. First, does Invisalign hurt? It sure did for me.
The pain was absolutely horrible for the first few months. Oddly enough the pain isn’t intense when the trays are on your teeth, but pulling them off is incredibly painful and chewing in the first few weeks made me want to cry.
As your teeth move they are incredibly sensitive. In the beginning I think a lot of my teeth must have been moving, because everything seemed to hurt. My front teeth hurt when I chewed on them and my back teeth ached.
As the months wore on I adjusted to the pain. Either that or the movements were more subtle so the pain was less severe. It does get better with time. I’m now in my second set of trays and my teeth haven’t hurt much at all.
In fact, I can pull my trays off and eat something hard and crunchy without giving it another thought.
If you don’t have a lot of movements or attachments than you might not experience much pain.
If you are considering Invisalign check out the Invisalign thread on Reddit. Invisalign reviews vary by patient. Some experience a lot of pain throughout the process while others only experience issues with specific trays.
Unfortunately, there is really no way to know what you will feel until you get them. Just know that pain is a real possibility.
Is Invisalign Noticeable?
Okay, let’s talk about the visibility of Invisalign. If you are choosing Invisalign over standard braces it’s because you don’t want people to see those bright and shiny metal brackets and wires in your mouth, right? You are searching for a subtle tooth moving solution to straighten your smile.
Well I’m going to be honest here. Invisalign is not invisible, especially if you need a lot of attachments, (often referred to as buttons), on your teeth. People will definitely see and notice them.
Think about it this way. In close up photographs they will be visible, but in group shots you can’t really see them.
This isn’t a problem as long as you aren’t under the impression that no one will notice your desire for straighter teeth.
Eating with Invisalign?
Okay, here is another thing you don’t realize about Invisalign until you get them. Eating becomes a real pain. It takes five minutes to brush and floss your teeth after every meal. You will brush your teeth three times a day. That means you will spend at least fifteen minutes in the bathroom each day.
If you spend fifteen minutes going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth you have less than two hours to eat per day. That may seem like a decent amount of time, but think about how long it takes to receive two courses in a restaurant or to wait a few minutes after dinner to eat dessert.
You know what’s really hard about Invisalign? You can’t taste your food while you cook it. Imagine cooking a really delicious meal and not being able to season it appropriately. You can’t figure out if you need more salt because you can’t take your Invisalign out for just a second to taste it and then pop them back in.
You can’t do that because every time you take your aligners out you have to brush your teeth again. And if you taste while you cook you will have to rush to eat to meet the twenty-two hour rule.
Snacking is out of the question. It’s just not worth it to brush and floss for a tiny meal, so in the beginning I only ate two meals a day. My teeth hurt so much in the beginning that it was easier to turn away food, but I was constantly hungry.
Invisalign will radically change the way you eat. You will find yourself hungry at parties, but unwilling to eat. It’s a lot of effort to brush after every meal. When you do eat you will spend the whole time watching the clock so you know exactly how many minutes you can spare before popping them back in.
The Invisalign Diet
That brings me to the Invisalign Diet. If you’ve ever wanted to lose weight and have your teeth look straight than Invisalign might be a good choice for you. I’m only half kidding.
As I mentioned above you will not snack if you have Invisalign. You will not even want to eat three meals a day. When you eat you will eat quickly so you can put your aligners back in.
If you are prone to getting cavities you will most likely get cavities with Invisalign even though you brush and floss rigorously.
I find myself limiting sugar a lot. Two bites of chocolate cake aren’t worth three new fillings!
How to Clean Invisalign?
Having Invisalign is like a glimpse into old age. I can now picture myself taking out my dentures and popping them into a cup of bubbly, green cleaner.
I keep a mug on the counter specifically for my Invisalign trays. Along with an extra large box of Polident three minute cleaner. Any time I eat I drop the clear aligners into that mug and throw in half a Polident.
It helps to keep my Invisalign clean and clear, though it’s important to note that I never drink anything other than clean, pure water when they are in.
I know some folks drink beer or other beverages but I a too prone to cavities to risk that stuff sitting on my teeth while my aligners are on.
If I’m out somewhere I place my aligners in the case and brush them with a soft tooth brush and toothpaste before putting them back in.
To be honest, Invisalign makes me avoid eating away from home. It’s another reason why I feel like I’m on the Invisalign diet. It’s not particularly pleasant to brush your teeth in a public rest room. I don’t want to use the sink water to clean my brush and I don’t want any part of my toothbrush to touch the sink. If I can avoid eating out I do.
Invisalign Black Triangles
Invisalign brochures typically show bright white, perfectly aligned teeth surrounded by pink gums. Unfortunately, this is not always the end result.
More often than not gums can’t form between overlapping teeth. When those crowded teeth are straightened black triangles form between the newly straightened teeth.
If your teeth are triangular in shape black triangles are more likely to form. When teeth are rectangular in shape they can touch each other and sit side-by-side in your mouth without showing any unwanted space. Unfortunately, triangle teeth only touch at the tips. As you traverse to the gum line the teeth no longer touch and black triangles appear. These gaps appear between teeth and between the tooth and the gum.
Treatment may include interproximal reduction (IPR), which involves shaving the sides of your teeth so the teeth can touch again. Dental bonding can also be used to cover up black triangles and papilla injections can fill in the missing space.
While I realized this was a small possibility I wasn’t aware of the extra work or maintenance involved in maintaining these ‘fixes’ over the course of my lifetime.
Invisalign Retainer – The Fun Never Ends
In a perfect world when you finish all of your trays your Invisalign journey will be over, right? Well, kind of. When your treatment plan is complete the orthodontist will make an Invisalign retainer for you. You will wear it for roughly twenty-two hours a day for a few weeks or months. Then you switch to wearing it only at night.
The retainer is important. It ensures that your teeth don’t revert to their original places in your mouth. And after all of the pain and not eating you will never want to go through this experience again.
So you will be more than happy to wear that retainer for the rest of your life!
Is Invisalign Worth It?
When former Invisalign users see my aligners they often share their stories. They tell me how long they had to wear them and how difficult it was to avoid snacking for months and sometimes years on end.
Their stories are all different. Some had gum issues, some bite issues and most had crooked teeth. As we talk I ask them all the same question: “Is Invisalign Worth it?”
So far, all but one, have said most definitely yes. I sure hope I can say the same thing after all of this is over.
I hope to update this post in a few months when my Invisalign journey officially ends.