The Invisalign method of moving teeth has actually been around for much longer than many people realize. Clear plastic trays or aligners used to be fabricated by making a series of stone models and resetting the teeth in the lab in small increments. Invisalign redefined the clear plastic tray method of tooth movement about 20 years by incorporating computer scanning technology to create a virtual model of the patient's teeth and then perform the movements on a computer prior to tray fabrication, thus greatly improving accuracy.
While the product was a great advancement 20 years ago, Invisalign continues to evolve and improve as much more experience and data is gathered and analyzed regarding this type of tooth movement. The product of today is far more predictable in achieving a wider range of tooth movements that orthodontists thought were nearly impossible with plastic trays a couple decades previously.
I do not like the tagline "clear braces" because simply put, nothing is more precise in achieving desired tooth movement than the use of braces and wires in the hands of an experienced orthodontist and thus equating Invisalign to that is a bit misleading. That said, I have never felt more confident in the Invisalign product and I am starting to change my mind about the tagline because nearly any type of orthodontic case can be effectively treated with the system now. Invisalign recently made a series of scientifically based treatment protocol changes (called Invisalign G4), which should continue to increase the types of cases with which orthodontists will feel comfortable treating. The protocols have changed the default rates of different types of tooth movement and also the shape and position of attachments that are placed on the teeth to allow better force application.
In addition to the clinical Invisalign G4 changes, Invisalign now offers orthodontists more options to be able to present their patients. The new options are as follows:
Invisalign 5: This low-cost option is for simple cases involving minor crowding (often the result of relapse of previous orthdontic treatment due to not wearing retainers). This is great for people who would like to see their teeth as perfectly straight as they once were but want to avoid a large treatment fee associated with longer, more comprehensive treatment needs. Patients who qualify for Invisalign 5 could be treated with 5 or fewer total aligners (about 3-4 months total treatment time).
Invisalign 10: This is another low-cost option for patients with mild to moderate crowding and whom can be treated with 10 or fewer aligners. This option results in treatment times of about 6 months typically.
Invisalign Full: This is the comprehensive treatment option for any case requiring more than 10 trays and includes a broad range of treatment types. The fee is usually similar to the fee for comprehensive orthodontic treatment with braces and the treatment times vary from about 9 months to up to 2 years. Treatment times depend on the specific case and typical case types Invisalign Full is used for include crowding, deep bite, excess overbite or overjet, class II, class III and even open bites. Essentially patients whose treatment needs are more than just anterior crowding will fall under this category and I would determine the expected length of treatment and if Invisalign is truly an option at the consulatation.
Invisalign Teen: Invisalign Teen is a new category of Invisalign treatment designed with the unique needs of teenagers in mind. It is essentially the same as Invisalign Full or comprehensive Invisalign, yet has a few special features. The special features include compliance indicators (color tabs that tell the orthodontist and parents if the trays are truly being worn for the prescribed period of time), eruption tabs for second molars (a tab that extends at the end of a tray if the second molars are not fully erupted yet), and the ability to replace trays at no extra charge if they are lost. More and more teenagers are desiring the Invisalign method of orthodontic treatment and I always discuss if it is a realistic option during the consultation.