The Invisalign® orthodontic system.

What are removable / invisible dental braces?

The Invisalign® system (as well as the similar products ClearCorrect® and Simpli 5®) is a relatively new treatment option for orthodontic patients.

Unlike having traditional dental braces (composed of brackets, wires and elastic bands), Invisalign® straightens your teeth via the use of clear, removable plastic aligners. (Look below for examples and pictures.)

That makes having braces practically invisible. And gives you the big advantage of being able to take them out whenever you need to.

Take the time to learn both the pros and the cons.

Read on and our pages will explain to you how the aligners straighten your teeth. They'll also outline the steps needed to get started with your treatment.

And although this system has a lot of obvious advantages, we'll point out some of the inherent disadvantages and treatment limitations associated with choosing removable braces.

We also cover issues such as:

And then, to wrap things up, our pages also discuss and illustrate:

Costs estimates for both Invisalign® and Invisalign® Express.

Animations demonstrating some of the basic orthodontic principles often utilized with invisible braces.

Pain / treatment side effects associated with wearing removable orthodontic aligners.


What do Invisalign® aligners look like?

Invisalign® tooth aligners are thin, clear custom-molded plastic appliances designed to fit snugly over your teeth.

Related content: » When you're wearing your aligners, just how "invisible" are they?

Aligner comparisons / similar examples.

As a basis for comparison, here're two examples other types of dental appliances that have an appearance that's similar to Invisalign®.

Possibly someone in your household wears one of these items and you've seen it.

  1. Invisalign® aligners look a lot like bleaching trays. Aligners, however, are made out of a thinner, stiffer type of plastic that's more optically clear (medical-grade polyurethane). This makes wearing aligners less obvious than trays.

  2. Invisalign® aligners are very similar, almost precisely so, to clear plastic vacuum-molded (Essix/Vivera®-style) orthodontic retainers. Aligners are, however, made out of plastic that's just a little bit thinner. And the edges of aligners usually have a more scalloped shape.

What do ClearCorrect® and Simpli 5® aligners look like?

For all practical purposes, those aligners worn with the other removable/invisible braces systems ClearCorrect® and Simpli 5® look essentially the same as Invisalign®. (Our next section provides more information about these systems.)

Read more: » How do you get "fitted" for Invisalign®?
                » What's it like to wear Invisalign® aligners?


Invisalign® alternatives. - ClearCorrect®, Simpli 5®

Invisalign® isn't the only invisible/removable braces system. There are other products that your dentist can choose from to use for your treatment. They include:

A) ClearCorrect®

ClearCorrect, Inc., founded in 2006, manufactures an invisible braces product that is, for all practical purposes, the same as Invisalign®. This includes the way that the aligners are made, used, worn and look.

On our pages, we consider these two products to be equivalent and make no distinction between them. Your dentist's choice between Invisalign® and ClearCorrect® is most likely one based on cost and company preference, not the product itself.

B) AOA Orthodontic Laboratory, Inc. and Sybron Dental Specialties, Inc.

AOA Orthodontic Laboratories offers three invisible braces systems (Simpli 5® / Red White & Blue® / RW II®) that are, from the patient's standpoint, essentially identical to Invisalign®.

These systems are not, however, directly comparable in the way they are made or the types of conditions they are used to treat. In most instances, these systems are only used to treat cases that involve the realignment of anterior (front) teeth.

For more information, use this link: Simpli 5® / Red White & Blue® / RW II®.

C) OrthoClear, Inc.

For a time, there was a competing, directly comparable, invisible braces product manufactured and marketed by OrthoClear, Inc. (founded in 2005). This product is no longer available. In 2006, in response to on going litigation, Align Technology, Inc. and OrthoClear, Inc. reached a settlement. As a part of this settlement, OrthoClear, Inc. agreed to stop accepting new cases.

D) Other versions of Invisalign®

Align Technology, Inc. has developed other versions of Invisalign® (Express® and Teen®), so to meet specific patient needs.


Who makes Invisalign®?

A comparison of the appearance of Invisalign® vs. traditional braces.

Align Technology, Inc. invented the Invisalign® orthodontic system. They made it available to dentists in 1998. This was the first invisible/removable braces system to be mass-produced, popularized and adopted into use by main-stream dentistry.

How does a dentist get "certified" to use Invisalign®?

Dentists are required to take some basic coursework.

Align Technology, Inc. requires that all dentists who want to offer the Invisalign® system to their patients must complete a certification course. Initially, this certification training was only offered to orthodontists. Nowadays, enrollment is open to general dentists too.

This training may not be quite as rigorous as you'd expect.

While additional coursework, workshops and seminars are available for those who are interested, the minimum amount of training required before a dentist can participate in the Invisalign® program has been a single one-day course.

Buyers beware - Your dentist's level of training and experience plays an important role in creating treatment success.

For a general dentist, being able to offer removable braces treatment means that they can treat much more complex cases than they would otherwise be able. This may, however, be a good, or bad, thing.

During the case-planning stage, Align Technology, Inc. typically defers to the treating dentist's clinical judgment. That means that a case's successful outcome depends on both the dentist's ability to make a proper diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

When teeth are realigned, their new positioning must remain within certain biologic limits. If not, the teeth will be at greater risk for relapse, or possibly other complications as well. Understanding where in the jawbone teeth can be successfully and predictably positioned is a vital part of developing any treatment plan.

In regards to choosing an Invisalign® provider, it would be expected that an orthodontist, as opposed to a general dentist, would have a greater level of experience and training in regard to making this type of determination.


What's the history of removable braces?

The concept on which Invisalign® is based has been around since the 1940's. In 1945 Dr. H.D. Kessling suggested that a series of "positioners" could be used to produce the types of tooth movements needed for patient treatment.

And while removable appliances of varying construction have been used over the decades, the laboratory steps needed to create them have always been tedious. And it is this difficulty that has historically always dampened the widespread adoption of this technique by the dental community as a whole.

Now, as a result of the pioneering efforts of Align Technology, Inc., and their accomplishment in melding computer technology with custom manufacturing, the picture has changed. Removable braces technique has now become a practical treatment alternative that practitioners have to offer their patients.

Invisalign® Braces
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