Just how noticeable is Invisalign®? / What's wearing it look like? -

Clear aligners may be hard to see, but they're not totally invisible.   |   Tip offs that you're wearing Invisalign® - 1) Ways it changes your look.  2) Ways it affects your behavior or other's perceptions.  3) Visible buttons, attachments and elastics. / Pictures.

What's wearing
Invisalign® like?

One of the things patients really like about having treatment with the Invisalign® system is that their teeth are straightened using transparent aligners instead of a set of brackets and wires (like with traditional braces).

But even though they're hard to see, they're not invisible. And as this page outlines, there are a number of tip offs (visual and otherwise) that others may pick up on that can hint to them that something is going on with your teeth.

Ways people may be able to tell that you're wearing Invisalign®.

Here's a lists of tip offs that may betray the fact that you're having your teeth straightened.

  • The look of your aligners. - Yes, Invisalign® tooth aligners are made out of clear plastic. But that in itself may be what hints to others that you're wearing them.
  • Not all of the parts of the Invisalign® system are invisible. - It's only the aligners that are see-through clear. Invisalign® attachments, buttons and elastics are not.
  • Your aligners may affect some of your everyday activities. - Wearing Invisalign® may change the way you do certain things. And if something's different about you, other people may notice.

1) Noticeable aspects of Invisalign® tooth aligners.

Although unquestionably less obvious than other types of dental braces, Invisalign® aligners aren't totally undetectable. Here's why.

Signs that you're wearing Invisalign® aligners.

Tip offs that you're wearing Invisalign®.

a) They're made out of shiny plastic.

The slick plastic surface of an Invisalign® aligner can make your teeth look extra shiny.

This shouldn't be much of an issue most of the time. But it may be especially noticeable when you're standing in direct sunlight or in front of really bright lights.

b) The halo effect.

When you have your aligners in, your teeth are essentially plastic-wrapped. And the thickness of this plastic, or any minute spaces that exist between the aligner and your teeth, can create a "halo" affect. (See picture.)

c) The edge of your aligners may show.

If you're lucky, the edges of your aligners will lie hidden under your lips, possibly even when you smile. But this isn't always the case.

If you have a relatively high lip or smile line (a "skin grin"), or if your aligners have a design where they just cover over most but not all of each tooth, other people may be able to see that you're wearing them.

Debris trapped in an Invisalign® aligner.

Debris trapped in an Invisalign® aligner.

d) Debris accumulation.

If you have very large tooth gaps, these wide, empty spans may trap debris or foamy saliva.

e) Of course, distance does matter.

Of course, how obvious each of the factors mentioned above are will simply depend upon how close the person looking at you happens to be.

  • If they're three feet or more away, the fact that you're wearing Invisalign® probably won't be detected.
  • But if you work closely with other people, especially the type that pay close attention to detail, your aligners, and the fact that you're having treatment, may be easily noticed.

2) Not all of the parts of the Invisalign® system are invisible.

It's only the Invisalign® tooth aligners that are see-through clear. Any "attachments" or "buttons" that are used with them are not. And if your case requires them, they may be a tip-off to others that you are having orthodontic treatment.

Invisalign® tooth attachments.

Invisalign® tooth attachments.

  • Attachments - "Attachments" are small lumps of dental bonding that are placed on teeth to help to direct aligner forces. Depending on where they need to be placed, they may be quite visible.

    Related content: Details about Invisalign® Attachments.

  • Buttons - "Buttons" are anchor points for elastic bands. They likely won't be as much of an issue for you as the (quite visible) elastic bands that are hooked on them.

    Related content: Details about Invisalign® Buttons and elastic bands.

This is an important point about the visibility of the Invisalign® system.

Over the past decade, Invisalign® has been used to treat evermore complex cases. And, in general, more complex cases are more likely to require the use of these type of treatment additions.

That means the issue of the visibility of these items, and therefore how noticeable your treatment is, is an ever increasing issue. To give you an idea of how this might affect your experience, consider the findings of the following study.


A study (Feu 2012) [page references] showed 252 test subjects pictures of a model's face that simulated wearing different types of orthodontic appliances and then asked them to rate the "attractiveness" of their smile.

Examples of how much Invisalign® tooth attachments show.

Attachments and bands are visible.

  • As you would expect, the look of wearing clear tooth aligners scored the highest with a rating of 81 vs. 34 for silver braces with grey elastic bands.
  • However, when the clear aligner smile included the use of attachments (on 4 upper front teeth, the cuspids and lateral incisors), its "attractiveness" rating fell to 68.

    A value of 68 lies on par with wearing ceramic braces (which scored 69).

That means if these additions are required (your dentist should be able to confirm this fact even before your treatment has begun), removable aligner treatment may still offer many advantages but invisibility is not entirely one of them.

3) Wearing your aligners may affect your daily activities.

Although others may not be able to actually see your aligners in your mouth, the way they affect some of your normal everyday activities might give a hint, or even make it quite obvious, that they're in there. Here are some examples:

  • Your aligners may affect the way that you talk. - Anything new or foreign in your mouth can affect your speech. This includes tooth aligners.

    Related content: The effects of Invisalign® on speech.

  • People may see you remove your aligners. - Invisalign® should be taken out when you eat and drink. And since treatment usually lasts many months, or longer, it's easy to assume that sooner or later you'll have to remove them in front of other people.

    Related content: Can you drink beverages while wearing Invisalign®?   |   Can you eat with Invisalign®?

5) Choosing Invisalign® helps you to look smarter.

Yes, we agree. That's a pretty stupid heading. But it does have some factual merit.


A study (Jeremiah 2011) was set up where it showed 130 test subjects pictures of a model wearing different types of orthodontic appliances. They then asked the subjects about their impression of the model's appearance in each.

  • The study found that the "intellectual ability" (IA) of the model was perceived as being lower when shown wearing ceramic (a score of 6.65) or conventional silver braces (6.67) vs. clear tooth aligners (7.08) or no appliance (7.56).

From the above, it would be easy enough to conclude that wearing any type of orthodontic appliance, no matter how marginally detectable, tends to lower other people's perception of your IA. And since Invisalign® tends to mimic wearing no appliance at all, it affects others' perception the least.

Yes that does make sense, until we tell you that gold dental braces scored the highest in perceived IA with a score of 7.35.



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