The steps of getting Invisalign® -

What it takes to get your Invisalign® case started: The initial consultation, Taking records, The ClinCheck® animation, Having your aligners made. | How long does the whole process take?

This page outlines the Invisalign® process from the first stages of planning until your case is actually begun.

Our coverage is especially focused on those steps that you, the patient, are directly involved with. They include:  1) The initial consultation,  2) Taking "records",  and  3) Approval of the ClinCheck® treatment animation.

The process of getting Invisalign® -

Step #1 - The initial consultation.

Once you've decided that you're interested in the idea of having Invisalign® treatment, there will probably be lots of things that you will want to know before you make the final decision to go ahead with it.

The way you get this information is by scheduling a consultation appointment with an Invisalign® provider. This might either be an orthodontist or a general dentist (possibly even your own).

During the consultation, you'll get to ask the dentist questions, and they'll get to evaluate you.

Actually, this initial appointment serves two purposes:

  • First of all, it's your chance to get some answers about invisible braces that nobody else, except a dentist treating your case, can answer. Things like:  How much will my treatment cost?  and  How long will it take?
  • The exam is also an opportunity for the dentist to confirm that this technique (either standard Invisalign® or possibly even Express or Teen) makes a good choice for treating your case.

All of this is important because systems like Invisalign® are just one, of many ways, to straighten teeth. They aren't right for treating every type of case. And sometimes other methods offer specific advantages. That's what this initial consultation is all about, learning.

Ask if the consultation is complementary (free).

When you call to schedule your appointment, ask if there are any fees involved. You'll probably find that this initial consultation is complementary.

The appointment itself will likely be fairly short. You'll probably be talking with the dentist for about 15 minutes or so.

Step #2 - Taking the "records" for your case.

Before your dentist can plan your Invisalign® treatment, they'll first need to collect some information that documents how your teeth and bite are right now. This is called "taking records."

The types of data they'll need are photographs, x-rays, dental impressions and a bite registration. Here are more details.

Picture of the types of records a dentist needs to start an Invisalign® case.

The records needed to start an Invisalign® case.

  • Dental impressions - A dental impression is simply a copy of your teeth. (Picture A)

    To make one, your dentist will place impression putty in a tray and then squish it over your teeth and gums. Once the putty has set, they'll have the imprint that they need. One impression is taken of each dental arch (upper / lower).

    As an alternative, with the Invisalign® its possible for the dentist to submit digital (optical) impressions, if they have the needed equipment.

    In this case, an optical scanner (camera) is motioned over your teeth as it captures their image. Most patients seem to prefer this experience over having conventional impressions made.

    Beyond that convenience, a significant advantage that optical impressions offer is their greater accuracy (which aids aligner fit). Also, the impression can be transferred electronically, which helps to speed up the amount of time needed for the Invisalign® treatment planning (ClinCheck®) and manufacturing process.


  • Bite registration - Even if your dentist has a perfect copy of your upper and lower teeth, it may not be obvious to them how the two come together. That's why taking a bite registration is important.

    If conventional dental impressions have been taken, your dentist will spread a layer of fast-setting paste on your teeth and then have you close down. Once the paste has set, they'll have a record of your "bite." (Picture B)

    In the case that your impressions have been taken optically, the same scanner will be used to capture the way your teeth come together.

  • Dental x-rays - X-rays allow your dentist to evaluate tooth root and jawbone health as well as current root positioning. Either a full-mouth series or panoramic x-ray (Picture C), or possibly both, will be needed.
  • Photographs - Invisalign® requires a series of 8 patient pictures for every case. This includes front and side full-face photos, front and side close-ups of your teeth closed together, and close-up pictures of each dental arch (upper/lower).


How long does taking records take?

Taking records for an Invisalign® case usually requires about an hour, or maybe an hour and a half, of appointment time. Your dentist may do some of the work, but more likely most of it will be delegated to one of their assistants.

Payment may be due.

Some dentists require a down payment at the completion of this appointment. Rather than be caught off-guard, you should check to see what your dentist's policy is.

Step #3 - The Invisalign® prescription form.

Once your dentist has collected all of the information that they need, they'll fill out an Invisalign® prescription form.

This is just a formal document that specifies details about your current status, the way your dentist wants your case treated, and the type of tooth-alignment changes that are sought.

Your records are sent to Align Technology.

All of the items created during your records appointment will be forwarded to Align Technology, Inc., the people who make Invisalign®. They have the ability to receive the forms, photos and x-rays electronically via the web. The impressions, unless they're digital ones, will have to be shipped.

Step #4 - Invisalign® will transform your impressions into digital information.

Technicians at Align Technology will perform a digital scan of your dental impressions using a CT (computed tomography) scanner. They'll then take this data and create an on-screen 3-D model of your upper and lower teeth.

A representation of an Invisalign ClinCheck® case animation.

Ask to see your case animation played through.

A technician will create your treatment simulation.

Once the virtual modeling of your teeth has been completed and your prescription form has been evaluated, an Invisalign® technician will create an on-screen animation showing a proposed treatment plan for your case (sequence of tooth movements that can give the results that your dentist has requested).

Step #5 - Your dentist will evaluate and OK your treatment animation.

At this point, your treatment simulation will be made available to your dentist (online) via Align Technology's ClinCheck® software.

This software gives your dentist the ability to evaluate your animation from any angle. After viewing it, your dentist can request changes to the proposed treatment plan if they feel they are needed.

Ask if you can see your animation.

Your dentist may want to show your simulation to you, so they can get your input.

You get to see the future.

Even though it's just an animation, getting a chance to see what the alignment of your teeth will be at the completion of your treatment is a unique feature of Invisalign® and not something that's available with other orthodontic techniques.

As an additional benefit, since a proposed treatment plan has been created, your dentist can explain issues to you such as how many sets of aligners you will wear and if attachments or buttons will be needed.

Once everyone's satisfied, the dentist will give their approval and a go-ahead to Align Technology, Inc.

A picture of the set of Invisalign® tooth aligners used to treat one patient's case.

A series of Invisalign® aligners. (4 upper/lower sets.)

Step #6 - Invisalign® will make your sets of aligners.

Once your dentist's approval has been received, Align Technology will take your case's digital information and use it to manufacture a series of upper and lower dental casts.
  • Depending on the complexity of your case, this may involve as few as ten or as many as 30 or more pairs of casts. Malik (2013) [page references] states that the typical course of treatment usually requires around 25.
  • Each cast represents a specific stage that your teeth will need to take at a specific point during your treatment.
  • Individual aligners are then fabricated on each cast.

Once the fabrication process has been completed, your complete series of aligners, all of those needed for your entire course of treatment, will be delivered to your dentist as a single shipment.


After records are taken, how long does it take to have the aligners made?

There are a couple of variables involved with how quickly the records your dentist takes get transformed into your set of aligners.

  • One is simply how quickly your dentist (possibly with you there too) can evaluate and OK your simulation.
  • If any changes are made to the treatment plan, additional days will be required so an Align Technology technician can incorporate them into your case's animation. Your dentist will then need to view and OK the changes.

In some instances, it may be possible for your dentist to receive your aligners in as little as 3 weeks or so. More realistically, it will probably take 4 to 6.

Pictures of Invisalign aligner accessories.

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7) Everything is now set for you to begin your Invisalign® treatment.

Once your dentist has received your set of aligners, they'll schedule you for an appointment so you can get started with your treatment.